PDC Proceedings: The Book of the Conference

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m sitting back-stage in the huge keynote room here at the PDC in Los Angeles. Watching some great demo rehearsals; things are shaping up well for the “software experiences” keynote which is my area of responsibility, and it’s going to be an exciting week.

I wanted to take a moment to tell folk about one of the innovations we’re introducing this year at the PDC. One of the big challenges with a large conference like PDC is figuring out how on earth you can attend all the breakout sessions you want. Wherever you are, you have a nagging doubt that you’re missing some really crucial, interesting information that’s being imparted somewhere else. Sure, we’re recording sessions for later viewing, but frankly, who has time to sit and watch 400 hours of content? It’s a great way to catch one or two extra sessions, but no more. And many of us are so attention-challenged that the idea of sitting passively for even ten minutes is a challenge!

Early this spring, I was thinking about whether we could tackle this problem in a different way. I’m a huge fan of getAbstract – an offering that provides 1-2 page abstracts of thousands of business books. Heck, almost all books in this category have just a few ideas padded into 300+ pages so that they can be sold in book form – you can get 80% of the value this way!

So - what would it look like if for every session we produced a succinct one-page abstract that distils the key information from that session in an easily accessible form? We’d provide a way for attendees to get more out of the conference and find out about technologies and solutions they might never have otherwise spent the time on; we’d create a valuable repository of searchable information that would supplement the video recordings and help viewers choose what to watch, and lastly, we’d provide a useful digest of the conference that would offer a lasting record of the event.

And that’s exactly what we’ve done. We have a team of volunteers from around Microsoft and beyond who have stepped up to be our “stenographers”. We aim to capture the core pieces of knowledge you’d learn from every breakout session; after a quick editing pass, we’ll make these available both in text form on the PDC website and after the event as a free e-book that you can download or have printed for you.

If you’re at the PDC, and you promised your colleagues that you’d send them comprehensive notes on the sessions you attended, you’ll be pleased to know that we’ve done most of the work for you! If you were unable to attend the event, you won’t miss out on the knowledge either – just download the e-book or receive it in printed form through an on-demand printer.

This is a bit of an experiment – it’s no small undertaking to write and collate abstracts from so many sessions. We hope it’s a worthwhile investment that you’ll find valuable, and we’re eager to hear your feedback, both about the concept and the implementation.