TechEd 2009 Thoughts

These are the things I think as I wing my way out of LA fresh from this year's TechEd 2009 conference:

  • I think I owe the attendees at DTL309 ("Busy .NET Developer's Guide to F#") an explanation. It's always embarrassing when your brain freezes during a presentation, and that's precisely what happened during the F# talk—I completely spaced on the syntax for implementing an interface on a class in F#. (To the attendees who commented "consider preparing a bit better so you dont forget the sintax :)" and "Not remembering the language syntax sorta comes across bad doesn't it?", you're absolutely right, which prompts this next sentence.) I apologize profusely to those who were there—I just blew it. For the record, the missing syntax looks like this:
    #light

    type IStudy =
    abstract Study: string -> unit

    type Person(firstName : string, lastName : string, age : int) =
    member p.FirstName = firstName
    member p.LastName = lastName
    member p.Age = age
    override p.ToString() =
    System.String.Format("[Person: firstName={0}, lastName={1}, age={2}]",
    p.FirstName, p.LastName, p.Age);

    type Student(firstName : string, lastName : string, age : int, subject : string) =
    inherit Person(firstName, lastName, age)
    interface IStudy with
    member s.Study(sub : string) =
    System.Console.WriteLine("Hey, Ma, I'm studying {0}!", sub)
    member s.Subject = subject
    override s.ToString() =
    System.String.Format("[Student: " + base.ToString() + " subject={0}]", s.Subject);

    Truth is, though, right now not a lot of people (myself included) are writing types that formally implement a given interface—the current common practice appears to be an object expression instead, something along these lines:
    let monkey =
    { new IStudy with
    member p.Study(subject : string) =
    System.Console.WriteLine("Oook eeek aah aah {0}!", subject) }
    monkey.Study("Visual Basic")

    In this way, the object handed back still implements the interface type that the client wants to call through, but the defined type remains anonymous (and thus provides an extra layer of encapsulation against implementation details leaking out). The most frustrating part about that particular snafu? I had a Notepad window open with some prepared code snippets waiting for me (a fully-defined Person type, a fully-defined Student type inheriting from Person, and so on) if I needed to grab that code because typing it out was taking too long. Why didn't I use it? I just forgot. Oy.....
  • Clearly Microsoft is thinking big things about Azure. There were a lot of sessions around Azure and cloud computing, far more than I'd honestly expected, given how new (and unreleased) the Azure bits are. This is a subject I would have expected to see covered this deeply at PDC, not TechEd.
  • TechEd Speaker Idol is a definite win, to me. I watched the final round of Speaker Idol on Thursday night (before catching the redeye out to Atlanta for the NFJS show there this weekend), and quite honestly, I was blown away by the quality of the presentations—they were all of them better than some of the TechEd speakers I'd seen, and it was great to hear that not only will the winner, who did a great presentation on legacy application support in Windows7 (and whose name I didn't catch, sorry) be guaranteed a slot at TechEd, but I overheard that the runner-up, a Polish security expert who demoed how to break Process Explorer (in front of Mark Russinovich, no less!), will also be speaking at TechEd Berlin this year.
  • As always, the parties at TechEd were where the real value lay. This may seem like an odd statement to those whose heads are a bit full right now from five days' worth of material (six, if you attended a pre-con), but remember that I'm a speaker, so the sessions aren't always as useful as they are to people who've not seen this content before (or have the kind of easy access to the people building it and/or presenting it that I'm fortunate and privileged to have). Any future attendees should take serious note, though: networking is a serious part of this business, and if you're not going out to the parties (or creating a few of your own while you're there) and handing out business cards left and right, you're missing a valuable opportunity.
  • I'm looking forward to TechEd 2010. Particularly because, thanks to a few technical snafus, I had the chance to sit down with the folks who organize and run TechEd and vent for a little bit about everything I found annoying (as a speaker). Not only were my comments not blown off, but it started a really productive discussion about how to make the behind-the-scenes experience for the TechEd speakers a more pleasant and streamlined one. What's more, we're planning to revisit some of these discussions in the months to come as they start their preparations for TechEd 2010 (in New Orleans). I'm looking forward to those conversations and (hopefully) helping them eliminate some of the awkwardness that I've seethed over in the past.

New Orleans in the summer will not be an entirely wonderful experience (I'm told it gets monstrously humid there in the summers, but it can't be any worse than Orlando is/was), but I'm honestly very curious to get back there to see what post-Katrina New Orleans looks and feels like, and to maybe do my (very little) part to help the area claw its way back by maybe staying an extra day or two and taking in some of the sights. (I'm hoping that Sara Ford will be willing to act as tour guide.....)

In the meantime, thanks to all of you who came, and remember—if you attended a talk and you want to say "thanks" to the speaker who gave it, the best way is to take the five minutes to fill out the evals for that talk. (Speaking personally, I don't even care so much about the scores you give me, but the comments are absolutely invaluable.)

See y'all next year!