Hey there. As promised, I'm covering the Egyptian Developers Conference 2008 that took place last Sunday/Monday.
WARNING: I have so many sheets of notes that I don't know when to write, so, I'll either stop writing at some point or throw a very big pile of text to you :D.
For the same reason, I'm not sure whether I'll be able to make well-sized sub titles, also, will relay on referencing to related resources when possible.
DISCLAIMER: This is still a very personal perspective thing. Of course I missed parts of the presentations, forgot some parts, and didn't care about other some, and even over and under estimated a lot of topics. This is just to open doors for you to read on, NOT MEANT TO BE REPLACEMENT TO SESSION ATTENDANCE but it should help.
When the session videos are uploaded, I'll sure blog about that as well - God Willing.
Hmm, I find the keynote this year very interesting, especially looking back to MDC 2007's keynote, with so much cheesy talk and kid-TV-shows-like stands!
It started with some sort of making-of videos of the guys who worked on organizing the event. That included few advices like "keep mobiles silent" and "Don't sleep :D" and such in a very friendly funny way. Then was simulating the decision to get a celebrity to the keynote, simulating failing tries with some famous sportsmen and singers :D, and then choosing Michael Koester from Silverlight team instead :).
The Silverlight Guy
Michael is a very interesting guy. You love to talk to such person. He was focusing in his keynote speech on students which was weird because neither the conference nature as we know it, nor the nature of topics this specific year target students, but that clearly Microsoft Egypt guidance. To target students in the keynote and professionals in the sessions!!
He started by telling brief of his prof. story, the companies he shared in creating - the most that survived and the few that didn't go well. He pointed out himself as a sample of the effect of technology in people's life, being from a farmer family, the only one to join univ. in his family actually, and now working for Microsoft.
Afterwards, he turned into what drives technology. That's the "experience" as he identified - referring to the user experience. He pointed it out as the fundamental multiplier of technology. A sample was how Google's new experience and "clean competition" they caused changed Microsoft's thoughts of technology, and the "Dragons" book talking about such kinds of effect. He also highlighted the importance of "connected" "global" natures of experience.
Afterwards, he went to the different mindsets in work, from "getting the task done" to "delivering experience". An example was how many needed to know mechanics when cars first appeared, and how many need to know now to drive them. Another example was demoing (With Ahmed Adel from Microsoft Egypt) the use of XBOX controllers to navigate through Virtual Earth map. It was very fun demo, the 3D features for going to streets in US was very impressive :D.
The he went into the nature of the industry. It's a mix between telecommunication and software that form the "Technology" industry. Somehow that let to the S+S (Software + Service) shine. He focused on the variety of clients existing today (Win, Web, WPF, Silverlight), and tools (VS, Expression). He was also very passionate about PopFly. He thinks it's now just a mash-up tool, but this is as it's still a new baby, that he believes will later become a development enviroment that lives on services. A sample usage of it he mentioned was connecting to concert tickets data source or so, combining that with a map, and putting all that as a mashup in facebook or myspace.
The message he wanted to deliver although he knows sounds little cheesy is to "Never underestimate the power of technology. It changes lives, and nations. "And it starts with you", he added, "Students".
The Egyptian Catalyst
After Sherif El Touny (Microsoft Egypt) introduced the sponsors, he gave the talk to Hanan A. Mageed from LINK.NET. I recall Hanan from the developers conference last year when she talked about developer communities. Although I believed she was underestimating any community effort by any non-profit group or any corporation that doesn't have her company's name in it, she was very convincing and impressive even to a guy like me who would argue all the relations she mentioned in her talk. This time I totally agreed with her in everything she mentioned, so, she was even more impressive.
Hanan went to the local side.She started her presentation with pessimistic phrases about local situations in Egypt that started to appear lately in online communities. Her point was to go against such, as she titled her presentation "iHOPE" (where "i" stands for IT :D). She spoke in numbers first, showing how IT revenue of 40 to 50% increase in hope to reach 1 Billion (starting from 250 Million), It was interesting to see her mention companies that last year have either came to or expanded their work in or recruited from Egypt, like many Indian companies, Microsoft, and Google.
Continuing the talk in number, she mentioned that we have 300K graduates, 17K of which are engineers, including 2400 IT ones - Not all are ready to be hired. Skills are what brings investments. She highlighted communication skills and team collaboration, and professionalism and avoiding dealing in personal way, respecting differences whether in opinions or whole culture (like traditions that might sound very weird to us), adaptation, and willingness to learn new things.
Finally, she spotted, "It 'sounds' very simple, very basic to handle", and ended her presentation with a statement contradicting the main negative statement of the ones she started showing. Very inspiring, Hanan :).
The EDC Logo, "Fodoooly"!
The last part in keynote before demonstrating the day agenda was announcing a new way to win prizes. You tell in the EDC website what sessions had the EDC logo in one of the slides. There's one or more in each track. This reminded me of similar thing in old children magazine called "Maged" where you would look for the face of a cartoon character called "Fodooly" in the drawings of every issue :D :D.
Side Talk: The Registration Process
Before the keynote, I met Mohamed Wahby, one of the guys who carried out the work that made the event possible. We talked about the new registration process they had for the event this year.
The process is as follows:
- You go to the EDC site, get the mobile phone of a contact in a delivery/shipping company you call to get an "invitation". You can use it during normal business days/hours only of course.
- You wait for 3 to 4 days to get the "invitation". Actually the name is very ambiguous. It's like a "ticket". You pay the conference fees to get the "invitation".
- You go back to the EDC site to register for the event using the registration code. without this, you have done nothing (although you paid already).
- The dead line for the process was a week before the event date. The process stared about 10 working days or before the deadline.
- Once you teach the conference, you look for the desk that has the first letter of your first name to get your fancy name tag :).
I told Wahby that so many people thought that it was a weird process, very manual process for the biggest software company in the world!
The reason for this that not many noticed - Wahby said, is that the regular registration process used to require very large lines/queues that were very annoying and remain the same size for hours. This is because the on-site payment, and having to "print" the nametag on-site as well. Both billing and printing took so long, and Microsoft Egypt wanted to take the hassle of those hours to be split over two weeks instead.
Actually, when you think about it, it really makes sense. There were very small waiting lines this year :). Wahby agrees that the big mistake about that is starting the process to last for only two weeks, and that it should take longer than that. I've suffered from this myself as I and my fiancee paid the fees very soon and few days after registration got FREE invitation code that was totally useless by then :D (well, not exactly, I gave it away to a friend who was about to miss the the deadline for registration).