Mighty Vivid People - MVPs at the Summit
I've been on the run since the wee hours of the morning (7am MVP summit meeting) but I felt the need to blog about the MVP Summit.
First of all, the summit's more intimate than PDC was. It's partly occurring on the Microsoft Redmond campus and also in downtown Seattle at the convention center (ie, a turf I know), and it's one-tenth the number of people that were at PDC. Not that I consider a party of 1,500 a small group of friends, but the size was more manageable. It had the excitement of the PDC, but in a very different way. I think because MVPs and other community stars in the Microsoft world give off a different light. They come at us empowered by the customer feedback they receive and their native smarts and they say tough things to Steve Ballmer to his face that he has to deal with. I loved that. It was also my first time seeing SteveB live and electrically charging up the room, clapping the room like a hyper basketball coach - it made me believe that the fellow said “Developers” 27 times at the PDC one year. He has the stamina! :D
But that was later in the day.
The morning began with the chance to hear MVPs - about 30-35 or so, from around the world - talk about community features and what they'd like to see change on Microsoft.com. That was seriously awesome. I typed notes like a fiend (actually, like an ex-reporter who never quite learned to touch type, it makes a lot of noise). It was heartening to hear people suggest ideas and be able to say: we're working on that. a few more months. no, we aren't kidding. It was also good to have people voice complaints that you hear people talk about in meetings but actually have no examples to give of why the customer “won't like it.“ Well, now we know what they don't like.
Then, I got to sit with a bunch of student ambassadors at lunch which was extremely cool. This was quite by accident, in that I was supposed to be at a Visual Studio table, got back late from Redmond (yes, there are still parts of my day job I need to heed) found the MSDN people all sitting in a clump at the MSDN tables, the VS people full, and having been told there weren't enough table hosts (employees) to go around, I decided to seek my fortune and be the only MS person at a table in a technology I was not scheduled for.
Since I did Java/Interop at PDC in this exact predicament, I opted for Windows Servers, only to find that I'd settled down among juniors and seniors in college who had only sat there because there were 3 Windows Servers tables empty and they were hungry. We had an admittedly beige meal together (stale churros) and joked about cafeteria food. All their colleges run Unix, so we talked about that a bit. And the Spoke.net (ahem). My personal policy is not to blog about feedback I haven't talked with the product team about, so details will have to wait. But they even liked Gotdotnet.com/student (!) better in some ways, which floored me. (I've been angsting over server uptime and other stresses in Gotdotnetland, so it's hard to remember sometimes that people really dig Dear Dot. ;-) ).
But what these students liked was that students were part of the main site, not segemented off into a place where they couldn't network for jobs or mentors or even help from real devs making it in the real world. They love MSDN - they can't get that content in their classes (although they ribbed me about search functionality) and really want the inclusion feeling. And did I mention jobs? These fellows want jobs.
Another complete pleasure after lunch was getting to meet Marcie Robillard, aka “DatagridGirl.“ She was kind enough (perhaps because I have this new, flamingo pink handbag with a 'b' on it) to give me the flamingo pink Datagridgirl.com button, straight off her purse! I felt so lucky!
Also, finally, meeting a girl dev! the MVP Summit was as bad as PDC in that guys are still outnumbering the girls in every venue. Laura John took a photo of the pink button with her phone, which I hope to get up on Gotdotnet in my team area. You go, Datagrid Girl!
After that was the SteveB session where he answered questions from MVPs. It began with a spoof video I had heard they showed at the company picnic (one I missed bc I was at PDC) that involves SteveB as Neo and Bill Gates as Morpheus. They apparently used the actual Matrix dojo set. It was hilarious and also, seriously wrong. In that wrong way that makes me kick my heels up and laugh. I felt energized going back to work, which was good, because the pages I keep trying to build kept breaking on the test server. It's fixed now but it was one of those things where I hacked the XML out of impatience and then went back and figured out why the internal site management tool wasn't giving me the love and then overwrote my hack and it worked!
I just got back from another meeting with MVPs, this time about MSDN-specific community features. There were 10 guys who just gave it to us and to each other - it was one of the coolest, tightest dialogues I've see in a focus group venue in a while. They confirmed for me anecdotally that different technology MVPs like to use different mediums to answer questions (the old forums vs. newsgroup/newsreader issue. We walked back from that conference room where 80s karaoke blared out of the conference center and there was great food and drink. Hua Ai (MSDN program manager) and I got to swap stories with another student, Ian, and then our own Korby Parnell .
I think I'd had enough wine that I started to say halfway profound things and one idea I really liked that fell out of my mouth unexpectedly was in talking to Korby and Hua about the effect blogging will have on society and the world. I said that bloggging reminded me of the day traders and the stock exchange - the stock exchange functions according to certain economic rules. And it largely still does, even after the influx of so many day traders during the '90s.
Yet, analysts were not ready for the long term and short term shifts that having such a volatile group of investors - each person thinking for himself and perhaps not entirely with the “official“ approach straight in thier minds. The pressure of those individual investors has skewed market reactions and our ability to predict the stock market. The same is true for the bloggers. It's hard to predict exactly how the intellectual capital exchange (as Korby put it) will be affected - we don't have a tidy Dow Jones average for the technosphere - but I firmly believe that this brain-to-brain communication enabled by blogs will show the skewing and eventful effects of so many individuals, thinking for themselves, connecting peer-to-peer --- the human race is at an exciting intellectual tipping point into something very new.
It's hard to come down from that and realize I've got early morning meetings to go to again, and stats reports to write, and so forth. But onward! I will report more tomorrow from the land of MVPs.