There has been a lot of talk about the Microsoft Professional Developers Conference (PDC) and its cost.  Robert Scoble has two posts: one describing the cost of putting on a conference, and one on the value of attending.  It is time that I added my 2 cents worth.

I have been attending the PDC since 1996.  Some have been good, one had its outdoor party washed out by a Pacific hurricane, and one was barely fair.  I also attended Microsoft’s TechEd 2001 conference as well.  The best conference that I have attended:  the Visual C Developers Conference (VCDC) in 2000 which Robert and a lot of other people from Fawcette put on.  Thanks, Robert.

What made this conference great?

1) A great pre-conference tutorial put on by Richard Hale Shaw on XML and the DOM.  It required a laptop with VS 6.0 and MSXML because it was hands-on.  The assignment we worked on during the tutorial – write your own XML Notepad.

2) The conference was small; I think around 1200 attendees.  This gave you the opportunity to actually have time talk with the MS program managers.  I remember one evening in the hotel where a number of MS program managers and other big name industry speakers were gathered in the lobby lounge before they headed off to dinner.  I got to spend an hour just talking with them about things in general, and it was not about computers or software.

3) Because the conference was small, you had the opportunity to spend time with the other attendees.  I still see them today posting to newsgroups, and web logs.

So now that I have waxed rhapsodic about the VCDC, rather than complain about the cost of the PDC, I believe that I should add some value by making recommendations on what can be done to make the PDC an even greater value.

1)      Add the capability to take MS certification exams, with some at a reduce price, just like at TechEd.  Since the PDC starts with a pre-conference on Sunday and ends on Thursday, besides having the exams available during the conference, add Saturday, and the following Friday to take exams.  Expand the hours that the exams are too.  I don’t want to miss a couple of great breakouts because I am taking an exam.  The result – I arrived at the TechEd 2001 not having ever taken an exam, and left an MCSD.

2)      Improve the pre-conference tutorials.  Make them more hands-on.  Get the material for the pre-conference tutorials to the signed up attendees before the conference starts. Robert did this for me at the VCDC 2000.  Since Friday is a free day, add some hands-on post-conference tutorials where you can spend time working with new stuff and get some of your questions answered before you head back home.  At a minimum get the hands-on lab stuff to the attendees when they arrive.  I liked the fact that at the PDC 2001 you got your conference CDs/DVDs at the start.  It took me a day to unload the PDC version of VS.NET and then to load Beta 1, but I got to play with the stuff through the whole conference.

3)      Have more of the program managers and presenters stay for the Ask the Experts night rather than jumping on a plane back to Redmond, and require them to attend.  It is no fun when there are like 15-30 attendees per expert.   If you can not get them all to stay for the one session, then have an Ask the Experts session every night.

4)      Robert Scoble talked about playing Xbox with Don Box at a conference.  Maybe there should be an Xbox game room where attendees can play games against each other.

5)      I know that many MS people do not like giving out their business cards because their e-mail address suddenly ends up on a porn list.  What each product/program group who has a representative attending the conference should do is set up an email alias where after conference questions can be sent to.  When new e-mails come in, those e-mails can be directed to the person best able to answer, and replies sent back from the alias.

6)      Robert has talked about community.  I like the Terrarium example at the PDC 2001.  Something like this should be done again for the PDC.  And add public and personal conference web logs to it.

This is just a few of my thoughts on how to make the PDC a better value.


[Now Playing: Black Box - Dreamland - Strike It Up (05:16)]


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