Tech.Ed AU 08: The Ugly, The Bad, The Good

Bugger it. Despite being ridiculously exhausted, I’m going to write this now because I can’t sleep. I’m also doing it in reverse order to finish up on a vaguely positive incline.

The Ugly

I got rightfully slammed in my presentation evals for ARC402. 44% of the audience were Very Dissatisfied. That placed me with the 6th worst scoring session at the conference.

The general trends were:

  • I represented a knowledge of the subject (42% very satisfied – a positive here!)
  • My presentation skills were satisfactory (47% satisfied – neutral)
  • The information presented was bad (42% dissatisfied with usefulness)
  • The presentation was ineffective (42% dissatisfied with effectiveness)

Armed with an array of comments to analyse, what did I do wrong? Thinking out loud, this is what I’ve come up with:

  • I was put off by the noise from the neighbouring room and the mobile smackdown. I shouldn’t have been affected by this as much as I was.
  • I rushed the content, when I was by no means under time pressure. I generally covered this content as a 20 minute segment at the end of a more holistic ASP.NET MVC presentation. While I had added additional content, and that is generally a rushed 20 minutes, I certainly shouldn’t have been rushing here.
  • I lost the structure. I didn’t introduce myself (which people highlighted in the comments) and somehow I even forgot to ask for Q+A at the end, even though there’s a whole slide that prompts me to do just that.
  • I focused my content too much on the blurb which came from Tech.Ed US instead of thinking myself about the wider architectural considerations. There’s a lot more too it than IoC and some attributes.
  • Despite being crowned the Australian Annual IT Demonstration Champion this same week, my demo crashed and burned. Massive fail here.
  • I’m still not good at dealing with non-developer audiences. This was something that also affected me at Web on the Piste, and is something I need to actively work on. As much as I am a fan of minimal slides + heaps of live code, if the people ask for high level content in an architecture track, it’s what you’ve got to give them.

Summarising:

I failed to identify the key differences between the demands of this session and those demands of previous talks I had done in this technology space. I was over confident in the content and thus failed to properly prepare and update my content for the latest release, the audience and the timing. I’d like to apologize to those who attended and expected more, the content owners who trusted me to be there and the community who supported me in getting there in the first place.

– Tatham Oddie, not-so-demo-champion

The Bad

I’m forever fighting with a balance between helping and helping too much. I was a key person on the Dev.Garten project this year, having done a significant amount of work pre-event including meeting with the client and developing infrastructure. Once the event actually started I began to realise the shear number of things I’d committed to doing throughout the week and that I was being stretched. While there were plenty of great people to keep the project moving, I could have done a better job of documenting the directions I had started and ensuring a smoother handover.

The Good

Despite this post starting on a decidedly (and deservedly) sour note, there were some amazing this that happened during the week.

My other session (TOT352) about Software+Services had a particularly small audience, however came out with 100% of the evals saying the demos were effective and 100% saying the technical content was just right. Ok, so the data is only working off 2 evaluations because there were only about 12 people in the room, but it’s better results than above either way.

I won the national final of the Demos Happen Here comp. Among other things, this means I’m off to Tech.Ed Los Angeles in 2009 and will shortly receive a shiny new Media Centre PC. When I made the original entry video it was an 8 minute demo, however by the national final I had it down to 4 mins 50 seconds which is a real testament to the quality of Windows Server 2008.

I built a Surface application. Amnesia own the only two Surface devices currently outside of the US and were kind enough to let me spend a day and a half playing on it before they took one to the event. It was my first time ever compiling a line of WPF or seeing the Surface SDK but in that 1.5 days I managed to get an application working which would pull session data out of CommNet and display it in response to a conference pass being placed on the table. The Surface team should be really proud of the quality of SDK that they have achieved to make that possible and I look forward to when we finally get to see a widespread public release of the bits.

The table achieved quite a bit of interest throughout the week:

surface5

Photo: Ry Crozier

On Wednesday I had lunch with Amit Mital who is the GM of Windows Live Mesh. Six of us (him, 2x MS, 2x others, me) spent a good 90 minutes discussing some of the longer term visions for Mesh. The original plan was for us to ask questions and him to answer them, but it became more of a discussion between ourselves about scenarios we wanted to see / achieve and him (relatively) quietly taking notes. In the end this was a better approach because it allowed him to walk away with some real world scenarios and didn’t result in us constantly asking him questions he wasn’t allowed to answer yet. PDC sounds set to deliver some exciting changes as we see the release of the Mesh SDK.

Friday lunchtime I was invited to present with Lawrence Crumpton about open source at Microsoft. We were presenting to a lunch of open source alliance and higher education administrators trying to demonstrate that Microsoft aren’t actually evil. Lawrence’s full time job at Microsoft Australia lies around open source and it was amazing to hear some of the things he’s involved in. I jumped on stage after his talk to demonstrate PHP on IIS7 as a first class citizen and talked about leveraging the platform with functionality like NLB. (This may or may not sound very similar to my DHH demo.)

Tech.Ed week is also a big week for Readify because it’s the only time we get to have almost all of our people in the one place. It’s a strange feeling knowing a whole group of people but then meeting them for the “first” time. It was particularly good meeting our new WA gang (Hadley Willan, Jeremy Thake and Graeme Foster) as well as catching up with the out of towners and management teams again.

Friday night was the Readify Kick-off party followed by a company conference / meeting on Saturday.

Who’d have thought I’d get to see my Principal Consultant gyrating his hips on stage with Kylie? I’ve had a quick look around Flickr and Facebook but I haven’t found any photos of the night online yet. I look forward to our resident photographers catching up on their uploads early this week. Update: Links at end of post.

Rog42 came along as a guest speaker on Saturday and delivered a great presentation about some new approaches for community. In a demonstration of how a little information goes a long way, the pizza thing is now pretty superfluous having seen his presentation but I think we can keep the jokes going for a little bit yet. 😉 It was encouraging to see the level of Readify involvement in Tech.Ed.

Overall it was a great week and another well executed Tech.Ed on Microsoft’s behalf. I was privileged to be invited to participate in lots of different ways, albeit with different qualities of outcome. It’s been an eye opening week which has highlighted needed work on my behalf, but also being rewarding for work I’ve already done. I look forward to the next event, and all of the other things that will need to be tackled between now and then.

Update 7-Sep-08: Photos from Thursday night courtesy of Catherine Eibner:

Update 8-Sep-08:

Personal: Go Forth and Annoy

I don’t have a problem with 200,000 Catholics piling in to our city .

I do have a problem with any event that requires the writing of its own specialist laws to prevent undefined annoyances, and makes our city resemble somewhat more of a police state from one of Cory Doctorow’s novels than the free society it’s meant to be.

It’s the Iemma government who’s at fault here more than anyone else.

“Lord knows World Youth Day is appealing: it’s the chance to take on two decrepit authoritarian institutions for the price of one.” Julian Morrow, July 3rd

Update: Laws revoked in the federal court. Not because they were illegal, but because “[they] could not possibly have been the intention of parliament”.

iiNet, in the tale of "Yet another company which has failed to scale and are now neglecting their customers"

Update 1, 1:20pm: I’m moving to Internode. After consulting with Twitter, @corneliu and @DavidBurela both suggested Internode. @snagy suggested a T1 complain with the communications ombudsman. iiNet – you will be hearing from me soon to start processing my cancellations. Don’t even dare charging me for the last 6 weeks of anti-service.

Update 2, 3:55pm: After emailing this link to the iiNet MD, I rather quickly got a phone call. Lets see how this gets handled … I’ll keep you all posted.

Update 3, 6:05pm: Telstra tech booked to investigate Exchange problem. Target resolution date is tomorrow. Although apparently there’s also a major disruption at the moment that could delay my resolution.

Update 4, 9:24am next morning: Internet resolved. 🙂 Turns out the MD had passed my request to the “Business Improvement Team”. They said that they’ve read the points below and will take them onboard in their next monthly review cycle. I genuinely tried all the proper channels, but when that failed I changed tact. Never underestimate the power of Twitter, a blog and the odd email to an MD.

I’ve been a passionate iiNet customer for 2.5 years now. I’ve paid almost $12,000 across my multiple contracts, and recommended them to countless customers. (I signed another one up just last fortnight.)

Unfortunately, they have quickly become just another character in the tale of organisations that failed to scale. Nobody cares anymore. Nobody listens. This used to be what they were great at.

In the six weeks since I moved in to my apartment I’ve had 1 week of internet.

I acknowledge that ADSL is a flakey technology at the best of times, but the one month rigmarole to get connected could have definitely happened faster. This was a one-off pain though, so that I accepted.

A week after getting up and running I lost line sync at 10:50am on the 17th May. That’s 10 days ago now.

We have agreed that it’s not my modem – I’ve tried two. We have agreed that it’s not a problem between my wall socket and my MDF – that was inspected during the first internet hiatus. We have agreed that it’s not a problem between my MDF and the exchange – through a combination of Vision Stream and Telstra we also resolved this during the first internet hiatus. Finally, we agreed that the problem is my with DSLAM port at the exchange.

You’d think with all this information they could have fixed this by now.

Their engineers did go out an investigate the problem, and fixed something. They then closed the fault. Did anybody call me to check if it was actually resolved? No. Was it actually resolved? No.

My fault has now been lodged four unique times. I have four different fault reference numbers. I have had to explain my problem eight times now to eight different CSRs (Customer Service Reps).

From an organisational perspective, this could be solved relatively easily:

  1. Introduce a new state of “Complete – Awaiting Verification”. This does not mean “Closed”.
  2. Send customers and SMS when their fault enters the “Complete – Awaiting Verification” state. A message like, “Your fault, 44564172 is now complete but waiting verification. Please call 13 22 58 within 24 hours if your problem continues.”
  3. Introduce a new state of “Reopened – Resolution Denied”.
  4. If a customer responds to the SMS to say that they are still experiencing the problem, move the fault to “Reopened – Resolution Denied” instead of opening a brand new fault.
  5. If customers do not reply within 24 hours, allow the fault to automatically progress from “Complete – Awaiting Verification” to “Closed”.
  6. Prioritise the fault resolution queue by lodgment date. This means that if a fault is reopened 5 days after it was lodged, it is still considered to be 5 days old. The current processes consider it as a new fault and prioritise it accordingly (ie. not at all).

If my fourth fault is once again closed without actually being fixed, it will be time for me to say goodbye to iiNet. So long, and thanks for all the fish.

‘Twas a cold autumn night …

It was the day after April Fools, and I awoke in the morning eager to iron my shirt and get to work.

I was however distracted by the email waiting on my screen.

From: support@mvpaward.com [mailto:support@mvpaward.com]
Sent: Wednesday, 2 April 2008 1:26 AM
To: tatham@oddie.com.au
Subject: [MVP] Congratulations! You have received the Microsoft MVP Award

Dear Tatham Oddie,

Congratulations! We are pleased to present you with the 2008 Microsoft® MVP Award! The MVP Award is our way to say thank you for promoting the spirit of community and improving people’s lives and the industry’s success every day. We appreciate your extraordinary efforts in Windows Live Platform technical communities during the past year. Microsoft will soon send your MVP Award gift package. It is our way to say “thank you for making a difference.” You will receive an e-mail message in the next 10 business days that contains your MVP Award gift package shipping information and your tracking number.

On behalf of everyone at Microsoft, thank you for your contributions to technical communities.

Sincerely,

Roseanne Stamell, your MVP Lead

Yay. 🙂

Thanks to all the guys in Microsoft DPE who’ve continued to support me over the years. Frank, Coatesy, Fin, Kordahi and their peers. 🙂

The move to Readify

As you may have gathered from my last two posts, I’ve now joined the world of Readify. As of last Monday, I am a Senior Consultant with the organisation.

I’ll be working with them 80% of my time (41 weeks out of 52), and using the remaining time to work on my startups like www.tixi.com.au (also only a fortnight old).

I’m looking forward to my time at Readify as an opportunity to get some more corporate experience under my belt, and get access to larger projects that I wouldn’t have been able to before as an independent. It’ll also give me some more opportunities to present and engage with the community, as well as being part of a great group of consultants who I can call on for help at 3am. 🙂

It’s a Tough Life…

With maleorderonly.com now ticking over in San Fran, and Tech.Ed ’06 done and dusted, it felt like time for a decent break.

After a 6 hour drive under splendid blue skies, in the 1970 MG Midget (4 cylinder, 2 seater sportscar) with the top down, to the sound of everything from Oasis to the New Radicals, Tom and I arrived in Macksville. Along with Toby and Fran, we’ve subsequently cooked up an Asian storm, polished off a bottle of Pinot Noir, baked and eaten a Flour-less Middle Eastern Orange Cake, and finally polished off a bottle of port that I still had hanging arround since Code Camp in April. I’m now blogging from bed to the sound of waking birds.

Geez it’s a tough life here in Australia…

If you want something done, I suggest you email me and wait. Ok ok … I’m going to open my email and do some work now.