Microsoft Tech Days Canada 2008

microsoft tech days If you’re a Canadian developer using Microsoft technologies, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the upcoming Tech Days training conferences taking place in 7 different cities across the country. Tech Days is Microsoft Canada’s first attempt to move beyond the marketing tour-style events they usually do and into something more substantial. This is immediately obvious from the price – these are not free events. Some cities are one-day events, and cost $249.99 (or $129.99 before October 15th). Others are two-day events, and cost $499.99 (or $249.99 before October 15th).

What do you get for your money? Your choice of sessions from five tracks, plus a fairly impressive learning kit worth about $1000. Quite honestly the learning kit alone is almost worth the price of admission – you get a full copy of Visual Studio 2008 Professional, a full copy of Expression Web 2, the complete TechEd 2008 DVD Set, and a 6-month subscription to TechNet Plus. Do the math…$249.99 isn’t bad at all.

What about the sessions? I’m going to be honest, my first impression is they aren’t much different than the marketing tour. Here are a few examples:

  • Building Killer Line-of-Business Applications with WPF
  • Goin’ Up to the Data in the Sky: ADO.NET Data Services for Web Developers
  • Mastering Your Samurai Skills of Silverlight
  • Beyond Relational SQL Server 2008: Managing Unstructured and Semi-Structured Data

Notice anything? WPF, ADO.NET Data Services, Silverlight, SQL Server 2008 – these are all the latest and greatest from Microsoft. I wonder how many developers are using these things right now. I know I’m not. How much will developers be able to take back to their jobs? Especially considering each session is just an hour and a half?

There are some sessions that aren’t so focused on the new stuff, and the IT Professional sessions seem even less marketing-like. There are also some sessions that are likely to have a much bigger impact even if they are focused on beta bits, such as the one on ASP.NET MVC. Still, I’m left wondering where the WCF sessions are, or even sessions on Workflow! What about something from Patterns & Practices? And if Microsoft really wanted to make it interesting, why not a session or two on some commonly used open source technologies like NHibernate or SubSonic or something?

David Crow wrote about this today too, and he says the website is a bit misleading. You should definitely read his post on the event. David points out that the primary innovation here is that 90% of the content is being delivered by non-Microsoft employees:

Once you scroll past the usual suspects, you’ll find a group of Microsoft friendly people from other companies. Consultancies. Big corporations. Smaller companies. Client side. It includes MVPs like Colin Bowern, Mark Arteaga, Laurent Duveau, and Barry Gervin. And others like Robert Burke and Ken Cox. Sure lots of these speakers are MVPs, it means that they are “exceptional technical community leaders”. They are experts. They write books. They blog. They consult. They build things in the real world.

He makes a good point – but simply having non-Microsoft speakers doesn’t guarantee quality, of course. It remains to be seen how effective this format is.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t comment on the cities in which Tech Days is happening. Developers in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Winnipeg, Calgary, Halifax, and Vancouver don’t have to go anywhere. Everyone else needs to get to one of those cities to attend. I don’t know how Microsoft Canada came up with that list, but I’m once again disappointed to find that Edmonton is missing. We’ve got an amazing developer community here, one of the most successful user groups in the country, and yet we’re passed over for Calgary. That sucks. I know it’s expensive to get everywhere, but why not force the Calgarians to come up to Edmonton for once?

I encourage you to check out the Tech Days website for yourself. Read the session abstracts and figure out which ones would be useful. If you want to attend, you’ve got until October 15th to get the early bird price. Finally, check out John’s funny post on the Canadian Developer blog. You’ll laugh!

13 thoughts on “Microsoft Tech Days Canada 2008

  1. I was given the opportunity to present at one of the locations and it involved using the TechEd materials, so you are not wrong why you talk about it not being new.

  2. Hi Mack,

    Thanks for your thoughtful post on Techdays and I really appreciate you taking the time to share your perspective. I agree we need to go where the developers and IT professionals are and in turn deliver the sessions which that community needs. What David doesn’t get across in his post is this is a pilot and we had to take a guess at the cities and content based upon feedback from the community, analysis from a broad developer survey on what technologies developer were using and our past attendance data. When you start with something new you have to put some constraints in order to deliver beta 1. We may not have included all the features we needed and gotten all the customer input we could, yet as this is still a pilot and in beta. Perhaps together we can make this much better in the coming year for version 1.0. But we need your help to try this out and make it better. We know we need to get more community input and while we’ve been able to move MS internally with this approach…given the timeframe in which we had to deliver it, we decided to constrain ourselves to a common content format across the cities, for good or bad. Our hope is to build out a shared value model which gives a predicable approach for this type of event so it could go to any city and support the local technical professionals. When we have that completed and proved the business value with this pilot, my hopes are that we will be able to engage the community even deeper on on a city to city basis get a working group together that ensure the event location, logistics, sessions/content delivered in that city are relevant to them….. as it’s not the same everywhere. While you might not be developing with WPF or silverlight in Edmonton, it is a common skill needed in Montreal. I’ve had many conversation across the community on what could be possible. This is the first step and one that together we can build from. From ensuring the content is relevant, integration with the community, ensuring we are going to the right places and connect the right people…I’m open to all possibilities. I feel that together we can re-invigorate technical professionals across this country, connect them with their peers, provide skill training, give them the tools so they can do what they do best…enable people by creating seamless experiences that combine the magic of software with the power of the internet delivering services across a world of devices.

    I know it’s not perfect and as above…. I’m open to any ideas, getting more involvement and need everyone’s help to make it better.

    So please, try it out, give us feedback, get involved and reach out to us.

    As well….You got me thinking…in the four big cites as the day one ends at 5:00..perhaps we could add a session for each room and let the community fill the session with whatever they felt they needed, more of a barcamp approach….that would give about 5 hours of community content,what do you think? I’ll have to check with the venues to see if it is even possible, is it something that would interest you…. it doesn’t matter the topic, you could even show some commonly used open source technologies like NHibernate or SubSonic. I can’t promise anything but I will follow up to see it it is possible.

    Thanks….and thoughts,


    John Oxley
    Director Audience Marketing and Community Evangelism
    Microsoft Canada | Direct (905) 363- 8589|Messenger

  3. Hi John, thanks for your reply. I fully appreciate that this is just a start, and that it will improve over time. I’m happy to do what I can to help that happen!

    I think that might be a cool idea, a sort of open spaces or unconference kind of time at the end of the normal sessions.

    Also another thing I just thought of – are the sessions being recorded and made available?

  4. Actually all the sessions will be recorded and put online at the end of Jan…..As well, I think we can do the open sessions…are you up for doing something or helping Bristowe co-ordinate this?

  5. Hello,

    I am trying to register for the Early bird special for the first day only. I don’t see an option for the one day only. Could you please contact me or point me to link.

    Thank you


    647 588 5414 or email me

  6. I’d gone for the promo.

    I’d say see you there but we are in different cities.

    There is a lot of re-hash of TechEd in this but I’ve tried to go for sessions where I’m the least familiar with the technology.

  7. I am not sure why you are sounding so smug and self-assured. I sat through tow of you demonstrations and both of the demos I saw you application didn’t run. Not impressed with that!

  8. I’ve spend some time talking with people in John’s team at Energize IT including the presenters workshop with included a (recorded) passionate discussion about the content of Tech Days – that is was low-level marketing vs. in-depth.

    In truth, some of the sessions were quire in-depth.

    In talking with one of the MS guys in Ottawa recently we were discussing the idea of highlighting the levels (100/200/etc) on the next agenda so that people could chart an intensive course through the day if possible.

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