last week i was a part of something that has become a bit of an annual event -- the 'microsoft technology summit' as we call it...it originated from the group that i am a part of 3 years ago, and has continued since then (with some bumps admittedly). the goal of the summit is quite simple really (from the organizers' perspective) -- gather the not-so-typical-if-any-microsoft crowd (read: not the i hate microsoft crowd, but those that don't frequent our diner so to speak), bring them to redmond, and attempt to gather the brains of microsoft that they may want to a) hear from and b) challenge.
the audience is a mix of community leaders, enterprise customers and academic staff. with this type of a mix of a crowd, i have to admit that it is a challenge to find the right balance of conversation/content/etc. for instance, one of our community guests (primarily community i'd say) suggested a barcamp style. some of the academic guests didn't know what that even was -- then add to the mix an international audience from asia. yeah, it can get pretty dicey and i'm not sure we've found the right formula (more on that later). we missed in some areas, and did better in some that were unexpected. there are a lot of blogs covering the event as it was happening (i'm late to the game this time anand). this was a non-NDA event. i taped everything. personally, i had a great time. as with most events, the better things happen in the hallways and the conversations at night.
i had dinner with some of the guys from ajaxian and we had some really good conversations that were pretty insightful and thought provoking...and not about technology at all! after discussing for about an hour various socio-political topics and deep religious beliefs, ben turned to me and said "so, we've covered politics and religion...lets' see...how much money do you make?" after which dion jumped in with a quip of "what's your favorite sexual position?" um no, we didn't discuss either...but heck we were deep enough in the other taboos it wouldn't have surprised me!
the event brought this community together for a goal from my team (the 'field' -- those not in redmond) to give feedback to the redmonites, to learn a bit in the process, but most importantly for me, to foster relationships for the greater technical good in our respective geographies. no that's not bs -- personally, i really mean that. i really believe that a better technical community makes us all better personally, professionally, financially. i'm not sure everyone who attended learned a lot, if anything, but there were some challenging points to some key microsoft people...and i hope they(we) listened...i took notes for a report card i know.
now, more on the right formula. perhaps one of the challenges in something like this is finding the right mix of people and doing the agenda right. we clearly missed in some areas as to be expected. how do we make that better, if we choose to do the event again? one suggestion, which i'm really going to push for is to get some of the attendees as a part of our planning team -- give them a stake in the agenda. the other is to invite previous attendees -- we heard that repeat customers is good, it deepens understandings and provides a check-and-balance on what we've said the previous year. the barcamp style stuff -- i love it...wondering how it would work with getting people in redmond to commit to three days versus 1-hour (yes, i know we are asking the attendees to commit, so should msft -- trust me, i hear you). NDA -- this was an interesting one. we wanted it to be a non-NDA event so there were no barriers to come...what we are learning is that NDA is okay...especially if they don't have to hear "i can't talk about that right now" -- this is something we are already seriously considering...man oh man there were a few things that i wish we could have talked about given a few people in the attendee list! argh, oh well, live and learn.
anyhow, thanks to those who came...and keep the dialogue open and feedback coming!