TechDays 2010: Edmonton

This year Microsoft finally brought TechDays, its Canadian technical training conference, to Edmonton. Some of us had been asking Microsoft to add our city to the cross-Canada tour for a while, and when enough people spoke up, they listened. And it paid off too. Initially Microsoft was expecting 250-300 people to register for the Edmonton event, but we blew that out of the water! Nearly 500 people registered! And judging by the large crowds, I’d say that most of those people attended too (it’s probably quite uncommon pay the registration fee and then not attend).

There is always criticism of the sessions offered at TechDays, but I think they had a decent mix this time around. Lots of introductory stuff I suppose, but that seemed to match the makeup of the audience. The addition of the Local Flavours track was a good start toward including some more diverse content as well. I was the track host for the “Optimizing the Development Process” track, and I did two presentations of my own.

TechDays 2010

My first presentation was Top 10 Mistakes in Unit Testing, adapted from a similar talk that was done at TechEd. The goal of the session was really to get people thinking about the little things that can help them be more successful with unit testing. I included three demos: a simple MS Test demo, a more involved demo using Ninject and Moq, and finally a demo showing JavaScript unit testing. Here are some resources for the session:

For my second presentation, I teamed up with Devin Serink to present A More Programmable World with OData. We talked about open data in general, about the work the City of Edmonton is doing, and then showed how easy it is to create and consume OData services. We spiced things up by using some PHP and Google Charts in the demos! Here are some resources for the session:

I thought both talks went well, and I hope people found them useful!

TechDays 2010

Given the success of the inaugural TechDays in Edmonton, I’m sure they’ll be back again next year. You can follow along as TechDays continues to travel across the country using #techdays_ca on Twitter.

Joey wrote about Day 1 here, and you can see the rest of my photos here.

Recap: CloudCamp Edmonton

Tonight was the first-ever CloudCamp here in Edmonton, an unconference focused on cloud computing. Held at the Shaw Conference Centre, kind of in conjunction with Microsoft’s Tech Days (happening tomorrow and Wednesday), around 60 people attended. Here’s the brief overview:

CloudCamp is an unconference where early adopters of Cloud Computing technologies exchange ideas. With the rapid change occurring in the industry, we need a place where we can meet to share our experiences, challenges and solutions. At CloudCamp, you are encouraged to share your thoughts in several open discussions, as we strive for the advancement of Cloud Computing. End users, IT professionals and vendors are all encouraged to participate.

The format was similar to other unconference events. Moderated by Larry Carvalho, we started with six lightning talks:

  • Barnaby Jeans went first and gave an overview of Microsoft’s cloud computing strategy and offerings.
  • Associate Professor Paul Lu from the University of Alberta was up next and talked about the university’s proposed adoption of Gmail, its experimentation with Google’s Fusion Tables, and its research work on virtualized RAM.
  • Third was Rob Bissett from 6fusion. He talked more about infrastructure-as-a-service as well as the need for consistent price-per-compute units across the industry.
  • Li-Yan Yuan, a Professor at the University of Alberta, talked about LogicSQL, which is basically a grid architecture for a DBMS.
  • Fifth was Sean Ouimet, who dared to be different and used a flipchart instead of slides to talk about how to design your applications for the cloud so that they scale.
  • Last but not least was Timothy Dalby, winner of Make Web Not War, who discussed his application Find-A-Home.

CloudCamp Edmonton

After the lightning talks, Larry asked everyone in the audience to raise their hands if they thought they were an expert in cloud computing. The four guys that raised their hands become the panelists on the “unpanel” (and it was guys…I think there was maybe one woman in the whole audience). Everyone in the audience then had the opportunity to ask questions, which the panel fielded. Larry took notes, and the questions eventually formed the basis for the breakout sessions.

Some of the topics that came up included: geography (where is your data located), multi-tenancy, cost, building a cloud application, and startup opportunities. We ended up breaking into just two separate groups though, one more focused on the business side and one focused more on the technical side.

I decided to join the business group, and for an hour or so we had a really great (not to mention really broad) discussion about the impacts of cloud computing. I had to leave before the two groups came together again, but that was to be the final part of CloudCamp.

One of the more basic questions that arose throughout the evening was the difference between the various “as-a-service” offerings:

  1. Software-as-a-Service
  2. Platform-as-a-Service
  3. Infrastructure-as-a-Service

I think the Wikipedia articles do a good job of explaining each one, so I won’t expand on that here. I tend to think of it like this: SaaS is something like hosted Exchange, PaaS is something like Azure (which hosted Exchange runs on), and IaaS is something like Amazon S3 (which could host the Azure data).

It was great to see so many people interested in discussing cloud computing! You can see a few more photos from the evening here.

Help bring Tech Days Canada to Edmonton!

Microsoft is planning the 2010 edition of Tech Days Canada, and they’re considering a stop here in Edmonton. In previous years, local developers have had to make the trip down to Calgary. If you’ve never heard of Tech Days, here’s what it’s all about:

With forty 200+ level sessions, Tech Days is the learning conference on both current technologies and new products like Windows 7, Exchange 2010 and much more.

The idea is to bring technical training content from TechEd, Mix, PDC, and other Microsoft conferences to Canadian developers and IT pros. There are sessions on Silverlight, test driven development, virtualization, IIS7, SharePoint, refactoring, Visual Studio, and more. I have led three sessions at Tech Days Calgary in past years, on ADO.NET Data Services, Internet Explorer 8, and REST Services with WCF.

When Microsoft was planning Tech Days 2009, they considered stopping here, but we lost out to Halifax. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to see that happen again.

I think there are definitely enough local developers and IT professionals to host Tech Days here, so let’s make the decision for Microsoft an easy one! If you want to see Tech Days come to Edmonton this year, email, or tweet your interest!

Great Marketing: Techie Crunch

For the most part, I’d say that Tech Days 08 went as expected this week (in Calgary). Lots of people showed up, some were more interested and enthusiastic than others, and there was a mix of great content and average content. Another thing you can typically count on at a Microsoft event is a bag full of swag. Tech Days attendees did in fact receive swag, but it didn’t come in a bag!

I can’t tell you how many bags I’ve collected at Microsoft events over the years. It’s the same thing, over and over – a bag (sometimes paper, sometimes fabric) filled with marketing materials, a pen, trial software, and sometimes a book or full version of an application. The contents were similar at Tech Days, but the packaging was quite unique:

Techie Crunch Tech Days 2008

Maybe a little over-the-top, but I love it!

Techie Crunch is “Brain Food for a Healthy Mind” and comes complete with a “Free Brain Warming Toque”. It looks just like a cereal box, with all the graphics and marketing you’d expect, a fake UPC code, and my favorite – Nutrition Facts and Ingredients! As you can see they did some work with the contents too, including the toque and a plastic spoon (actually a pen).

This must have a been a fun project for the marketing team to work on. It might seem like a small thing, but it’s details like this that turn an average experience into something more memorable. Well done!

You can see a few more photos of the box with my other Tech Days photos here.

Tech Days Canada 2008 Instructors on Twitter

tech days My list of CanUX 2008 Attendees on Twitter was well-received (and I found it useful myself), so I thought I’d do something similar for Tech Days. Instead of attendees however (not possible given that thousands of people across the country have attended), I’ve started a list of instructors on Twitter (there are about 70 instructors listed at the official site). The people on this list are leaders in the Developer and IT Pro communities in Canada, so follow them and I’m sure you’ll learn something new!

Here is everyone I’ve found so far:

Christian Beauclair –
Damir Bersinic –
John Bristowe –
Rodney Buike –
Miguel Carrasco –
Kelly Cassidy –
Rick Claus –
Joey deVilla –
Stephen Giles –
Barnaby Jeans –
Adam Kahtava –
James Kovacs –
Paul Laberge –
Mack Male –
Jason Miller –
Daniel Nerenberg –
John Oxley –
Steve Porter –
Pierre Roman –
Bil Simser –

If you should be on the list or know of someone else who should be, please let me know and I’ll update it!

You might want to follow the official Tech Days Canada account too!

My Tech Days Sessions: ADO.NET Data Services and Internet Explorer 8

I’m in Calgary right now at Microsoft’s new paid conference, Tech Days. Despite being a little critical of the event when I first heard about it, I was asked to speak in Calgary. I figured it would be a great opportunity to get a first-hand look at the event so that I can offer more constructive feedback for future editions of Tech Days, and besides, I love sharing what I know with others!

I did the first two presentations in the Web Developer track – a session on ADO.NET Data Services followed by an introduction to Internet Explorer 8 for developers. I think my presentations went well for the most part, despite a few glitches with the demos. Initial feedback from people in the audience was positive anyway! Here are a few resources.

Goin’ Up to the Data in the Sky: ADO.NET Data Services for Web Developers

Internet Explorer 8 for Developers: What You Need to Know

Thanks to everyone who came to the sessions – feel free to contact me if you have additional questions.

Also, thanks to John Bristowe and the team at Microsoft for the opportunity to be involved with Tech Days. I’m looking forward to the rest of the sessions!

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!