~mkw

Average guy, above average luck...the blog of M. Keith Warren

Is PDC 2005 worth it?

For Joe Schmo working at some big bank whose IT group gets saddled with a nice training budget the question of PDC attendance takes on a more colloquail form of begging the boss to send you away for a week. For a group of developers in a software shop like SourceGear, PDC takes on a unique position in that their success is tied closely to that of MSFT and their customers are the type of people who will be at PDC. 

For independent consultants and micro ISV types it is a bit different. I would love to go but must consider other factors than just another guy at an ISV or corporation, things Joe Schmo probably doesn't even care about. i.e., is it worth the money and what will my customers think? 

From a monetary perspective it is a bit more than meets the eye, first there is the registration which comes just short of 2K, I know there are early bird deals but I cannot be sure at this point that I will even own my time this September so I must wait closer to the date. I am going to spend most of my time at the conf so a cheap hotel will be fine and I will take the shuttle from the airport because driving to LA is not really an option from Louisville KY. I know at these things that some meals are covered so lets say I need one meal a day from a fast food restaurant. I will fly out the day before (time zone considerations) and fly back the day PDC ends. This puts me in the hotel for 4 nights. Lets see where we stand… 

  • Registration: $1,995
  • Flight: $350
  • Meals: $50
  • Hotel: $650

At this point we have looked at hard costs of doing PDC “on the cheap” and we are talking about 3 grand. 

Consider soft costs and lets say I am a lackey consultant who only bills 40 hours a week, I don’t work weekends and only bill a modest $50 an hour. That puts the week at around 2K, money I will not be able to bill whereas I could if I stayed home. This does not consider lost business opportunities either, what would I miss that week and how much would that be worth. That kind of intangible is hard to monetize but setting that aside the hard and soft costs are north of 5K. 

Is PDC really worth 5,000 bucks…?

 Let me look at this some other ways:

             PDC versus XBOX 360 and new 42” High Def Plasma TV.

             PDC versus 10 day cruse to the Panama Canal for me and my wife

             PDC versus Incredibly fast new development machine with dual 24” LCD monitors

Topping all of this off is the fact that almost everyone who will be at PDC will be blogging all the good stuff and Microsoft will surely offer another DVD with the content, everything said and done will be written into articles within weeks and I will be able to download any new Longhorn or VS builds from MSDN Subscriber downloads.

So I ask again, is it really worth it?

Comments

Alex Papadimoulis said:

Probably not.

But consider, PDC is tax deductable (instant 25% discount right there). Plus, it's pretty fun. All the free after-hours stuff is great.

I'd think of it as more of a vacation than anything else. A very geeky vacation.
# June 1, 2005 11:23 AM

Don Demsak said:

You only get out of it what you put into it. If all you do is drop the cash and attend the sessions, then no, it isn't worth it. But, if you "network" (hangout out and talk with others just like you), then it can be worth it. If your an indie, then you know how important network is, and you obviously know that it is something you have to do. So, what is it? Spend $5k on some sort of local advertising, or send yourself to the PDC, learn something and advertise your services to the folks that will need them most.

Don
# June 1, 2005 12:20 PM

Guy Barrett said:

Does you current work depends on knowing what Microsoft technologies will come out in the next 12-18 months? If you answer yes then you must attend PDC.
# June 1, 2005 12:53 PM

Dave Bost said:

I agree with DomXML. It's the networking opportunities that make's it worth it for me. Also, going to conference always lifts my motivation and curiosity levels that carry me through the year.

# June 1, 2005 1:19 PM

JE said:

I think the networking aspect is blown out to be more than what it is. If you're a coder in the field or the cube, what does it really matter if you know someone from across the country? I meet more people in online communities than at events. And as for tax deductions, if you're running any kind of home business, the PC with dual monitors is tax deductible.

And as for technologies that will be coming out in the next 12-18 months, well let's see ASP.NET 2.0, Longhorn, and every other technology we know just from surfing the Web. You don't need to go to a conference to find out about that.

Conferences are waste of time and money.
# June 1, 2005 1:22 PM

Ian Smith said:

I think you treat it as a geek vacation, as a way of re-enthusing yourself (assuming you need re-enthusing), or you give it a miss. As you say, most of the information is available online anyway these days and as each year goes by more and more of what used to be "for attendees only" is made generally available via MSDN or 'mimimal cost' DVDs.

The other problem I have with these events is that to make the most of what you get given (before you forget) you need at least another week of unpaid work to get to grips with what you've been given and actually learn something useful. If you don't do that what you've learnt soon fades and is of little practical use.

I always find the networking argument specious. If you're a convention speaker looking for more work (conventions), then OK. But if you're a developer you're just going to find yourself talking to other developers also looking for the same opportunities. Go to a free user group in the evenings if networking is what you're after.
# June 1, 2005 2:51 PM

Robert Scoble said:

The PDC team is definitely watching this blog.

There certainly is some value to doing face-to-face stuff. I learn a lot from the conferences I attend (and speak at too).

I found that at the conferences I attend I get a lot more business right after the conference because people can get a feel for what type of person you are.
# June 1, 2005 5:40 PM

M. Keith Warren said:

Alex - Lots of other stuff is tax deductible

Guy - Exactly which technology will they be talking about that will be kept quiet except for at PDC, some secret new OS for PDC only? My point was that anything worth talking about or seeing will most certainly be written about.

Don - The networking argument doesnt hold much water, I need clients close to home not other developers in Redmond who think Im cool

Scoble - You should talk that PDC team into sending me to PDC as an investigative blogger so I can follow up on this post!
# June 1, 2005 5:53 PM

Don Demsak said:

"The networking argument doesnt hold much water, I need clients close to home not other developers in Redmond who think Im cool".

I don't know about you, but a consultant is only as good as their contacts. That is one of the big difference between a consultant and a contract programmer. When you run into an architectual problem, or an "issue" with .Net, who do you turn to for help? Networking helps me add to my IM and email list. A consultant with a decent network can build better apps in shorter times thanks to their network, and it is built into their hourly rate.

Don
# June 1, 2005 9:24 PM

M. Keith Warren said:

Don,

I will buy that... I like adding geeks to my IM roll, I just feel bad msging some guy out of the blue and asking a question. Kinda like, 'Hey I know I have not talked to you in 6 months but let me pester you for a few minutes while you work'

Personally I dont mind it one bit but I have to think guys like RobH or ScottGu get really tired of it.
# June 1, 2005 9:29 PM

Scott said:

Rob, If I want to go to Napa, I go to Napa. I don't need an excuse.

Networking doesn't mean much to me because:
a) I live in one of the biggest tech communities in the US. If I'm looking for tech connection, I just have to drive across Lake Washington. If I'm looking for new business, I'm not going to find it at a tech conference. A Chamber of Commerce event is a better bet.
b) I can most often find the answer I'm looking for in Google or by asking a question on my blog.

My biggest peeve with PDC, this year in particular and all of them in general, is that they really don't give you a big heads up on the upcoming tech because the tech changes so much between PDC and "gold" that you spend as much time keeping track of the deltas as you would learning it from scratch. That and the sessions don't deal with real world situations. They always use the drag-and-drop solution rather than starting with a real problem. How many demos of the DataGrid did you watch or read where they enable paging by just binding a dataset to the Datagrid and setting 'paging=true". Now how many times did you see a demo where they tried to bind a 1000 or 10,000 row dataset to a DataGrid and try to use the default paging? So it just ends up being one long PR session. "Buy Microsoft products". With parties, If you want to pay $5K to go to a party with a bunch of geeks I'll throw you one at my house and invite my friends over. Most of them are, or have been, Softies. Heck, I'll even provide fresh planked salmon. You won't get THAT at PDC. ;)
# June 1, 2005 10:28 PM

Douglas Reilly said:

One other thing about expenses:

For a number of conferences, I have either stayed at the least expensive of the conference hotels, or perhaps at a totally unrelated hotel, saving a great deal of money. For instance, at the recent MEDC in Las Vegas, the host hotel, Mandalay Bay, wanted $200.00 per night. I stayed at the relatively convenient Tropicana for about $70.00 per night. The walk to and from the conference was good for me (though I often took the monorail across the street) and I saved about 2/3 the cost. It can make the difference between being able to justify the conference and not.
# June 2, 2005 9:18 AM

Don Demsak said:

I think that you have answered your own question, it isn't worth it, to you. You are not in a situation that requires something the level of a PDC. It isn't a yearly conference, and is only something that comes along when MS has some new technology that they are ready to roll out in a pre-beta phase. Almost sounds like you are confusing the PDC with TechEd. They serve totally different purposes. Now, there was a time when TechEd was geared towards the ITPro side (Exchange server, network admin stuff), and there was no real MS conference dedicated to developers. But that has changed over the last few years, and more developer stuff has shown up in TechEd.

Oh, when I was talking about networking, I really wasn't thinking about RobH or ScottGu. I was talking about guys like Doug Reilly, Scott Watermasysk, Kirk Allen Evans, Steve Maine, Kent Tegels, Miguel Castro, WallyM, Christoph Schittko, Jeff Julian, etc. Those are guys just like you and me (some work for MS, some don't), and unless you are lucky (like Scott at LazyCoder), guys like this aren't local. But that is expected. As you specialize, you reduce the total number of your peers.
# June 2, 2005 9:26 AM

M. Keith Warren said:

Does anyone know what else is included; meals, materials, parties?
# June 2, 2005 9:28 AM

Roger said:

Whether or not it is "worth it" is indeed a very individual question. For me, the answer is most definitely yes. And for several reasons.

For one... I am extremely busy at work, and usually just don't have a lot of time to consume enough detail about what is coming next from Microsoft. So this time away which is dedicated to this is very important. Next up - although much of this information may be available online - not all of it is. The PDC has some of the best presenters available. You not only get the whats, but a whole lotta whys... which really help me make decisions about our technology road map. I heard some outstanding discussions at the last PDC.

Likewise... I like the buzz and energy of the event. These are valuable take aways. Not only do I need to stay motivated in my job, but I need to motivate my team as well.

It's a great place and time to step back and say "Oh, that's right. This is why I do what I do. I actually *like* technology!"
# June 2, 2005 5:05 PM

Scott said:

Lots of swag from the show-hos man. I've still got 2 frisbies from PDC 2000 and a really nice sling backpack.

Oh and I think I've got a NGWS whitepaper and an ASP+ book. hehehe
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