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!