TechEd NZ 2013

With TechEd 2013 having just finished here in New Zealand I thought I’d take the opportunity to summarize my thoughts on the conference this year.

I’ve been to TechEd NZ 3 or 4 times (though I skipped last year) so the general format and layout was familiar. I do think they are struggling with capacity though as it was too crowded around the Expo and when lunching etc. We’ve held our annual conference in the same location for the past 2 years and have about a quarter of the number of attendees and even that can feel snug at times. Having said that, the sessions themselves were generally well catered for in terms of space; I can only recall one session where a few people had to stand. An NFC bracelet was used for tagging into sessions and various stands. This was also part of a competition though it was pretty dumb, I’d like to see a hackathon or similar for things like that.

Having the keynote on the Tuesday afternoon was a welcome change as it afforded me the opportunity of taking a leisurely flight up on Tuesday morning and I’m sure the presenters were glad of a later start. It also flowed nicely into the welcome drinks which gave me my first look around the Expo; pretty standard fare though it was fun getting to have a play (and winning) on the XBox One. The keynote itself was a tad underwhelming, Paul Ego was good as master of ceremonies and all the speakers were fine though with limited time it was very much a case of whetting peoples appetites. I also found the talk by Sean Gourley equal parts interesting, confusing and irrelevant. He is undoubtedly a smart guy but his story seemed to lack direction towards the end and I didn’t really see how it tied into the Microsoft brand.

I found my sessions were broadly split between the Azure and development streams starting with a double header by the Gu on building real world cloud apps with Windows Azure. If the keynote was the taster then this really served up a veritable buffet of information and both sessions whizzed by in no time. It was fantastic to see such a high profile figure being secured to present in New Zealand and he really set a standard that was closely matched throughout the conference in terms of style and quality. Of all the sessions I attended just 2 were disappointing, partly due to content and partly due to the speaker(s). That may sound a bit harsh but after being spoiled with some highly entertaining talks the flat ones really stood out. Back on a positive note, 2 of my favourite sessions were Real-time Clouds: SignalR & Windows Azure by Brady Gaster and 10 F# Features Every C# Developer Should Crave by Ivan Towlson. Both speakers had me laughing more than once and both had packed uber amounts of goodness into their sessions, top job.

Overall, there were no massive surprises though it was good to get some exposure to things that I’ve heard of but not had a proper dive into yet such as node, reactive extensions, the Windows Azure CLI and F#. Whilst also gaining more insight into things such as Azure, async and TFS 2013. It’s always good to be on the lookout for things to add to my development toolbox and these are things that are sure to come in useful.

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