Microsoft TechEd on the Gold Coast

Microsoft TechEd is the premier Microsoft hosted event held in various locations around the world each year. Last week I attended the Australian slice of this over-inflated pie at the Gold Coast Convention and Exhibition Centre. As long as you stayed clear of the blatant product placement and product-advertising-disguised-as-industry-briefing seminars, the convention is well worth the price.

The first surprise was how well run it was: for a week, more than 3000 nerds where herded successfully between seminars, workshops, product displays and food. I guess I should have known that it would work smoothly since both Microsoft and the GCCEC have been hosting various events for years. I could almost see a set of quite subtle rules of crowd dymani8cs being manipulated and enhanced by the convention. Rather than feeling herded from place to place, it felt like walking from one end of the centre to the other was all your own idea. I need to investigate this further.

For the most part, I sat in on the case study seminars in which some business representative explained how they solved a particular problem faced by his or her organisation. Many of these problems are the same as those faced by places I’ve worked. On the whole, these were brilliant. The best included how the QLD Department of Communities IT transformed into a service-oriented function and the changes to the retail industry made by the emergence of social networking and the “always connected” community.

The other seminars pretended to be generic industry investigations into various matters. Without exception, these were nothing of the sort – they were bald-faced advertising for Microsoft products. Advertising is fine: that’s one of the purposes of the conference. I just wish they’d be honest and say that up front. For instance, one seminar titled “Scalability Standouts – They Biggest in the World and How They Did It.” What it should have been called is Microsoft SQL Server Book of Records. It was nothing more than a list of stats, eg: the size of the biggest active database in the world, the greatest number of transactions processed per second, etc. There was absolutely nothing about scalability or how they did it.

The second surprise was how many women were at the event. I expected it to be filled with hydro-cephalic smelly nerds but, while there was plenty of them, the changing face of the IT industry was on displace. Many lads were in suits and looked more like marketing guys than techies. The women were mainly int he “softer” parts of IT such as web development rather than the more nuts-and-bolts areas. I’m not raising that as a problem but just to sho the changing nature of the IT industry.

All-in-all, it was a very worthwhile event. I’m not sure I’d pay for it myself but I wouldn’t refuse a ticket if it was given to me.