Archives / 2008 / November
  • Looking Back at PDC 2008

    20081102_PDC_SuitcaseThe PDC 2008 is history, I've crossed the Atlantic and slept the first night back at home. Before the memory of PDC 2008 begins to fade, I'd like to take a look back.

    The PDC started for me with an amazing pre-conference session with Charles Petzold on WPF. I don't know how people without any WPF knowledge at all may have experienced it, but for somebody like me, who has looked into WPF again and again, just to be stopped each time by more urgent things to be done, the session was really great.

    For the precon Petzold chose an approach different from his WPF book (or "the phonebook" as some call it because of the lack of images), which was definitely a good thing, starting immediately with XAML (instead of code) to explain the concepts. The amount of preparation that went into these 6 hours was impressive: A script almost an inch thick, perfectly timed segments of 20min each and literally hundreds of samples shown in a custom-written viewer which highlighted the small steps from sample to sample.

    In a good mood I visited the keynote on Monday, just to be severely disappointed. As PDC traditionally is about the future, i.e. upcoming technologies that developers should be motivated to take a look at, it was hard to understand that the keynote started without a video pumping up the crowd. The keynote on Tuesday was better in that respect, as it started with a video showing a number of WPF applications, giving me a first "oh wow, WPF really seems to take off" feeling.

    Unfortunately, both keynotes sadly lacked excitement. It wasn't the content - that at least made me go "hmmm.... what I just heard somehow sounds important". Instead, it was more the speakers and the way the content was presented that failed to reach and motivate me. The joke among me and my colleagues was "hey, go and motivate yourself".

    Speaking of keynotes, the Microsoft Research keynote definitely lacked a review cycle in the days before the PDC, where fluff could have been separated from the (mostly pretty cool) content. When I sat through the first half hour in which I was told over and over again how great Microsoft Research is, I was reminded of the movie "Spiderman 2" where an equal amount of time was spent on how sad the life of a super hero can be. Both in the movie and the keynote the point where I'd think "ok, I'm not dumb, I get the point, now PLEASE move on" was reached soon enough.

    The sensors stuff in the MR keynote left me wondering what's so special about it, but the other parts (e.g. programming for kids using a joypad or the World Wide Telescope) where really interesting. I just got angry when the audience was told "oh, we've got to hurry now because we're running late". Yeah, that's because you spent all the time on telling us how great Microsoft Research is.

    But the PDC is not (only) about the keynotes. It's the sessions. And I must say that the sessions - at least those that I chose - where of high quality. There's a noticeable difference between talks by (certain) members of the "conference circus" (you know, those guys that do nothing else but travelling from conference to conference, but please, I don't mean all of them) and somebody from (or very close to) the development team. For me, the most memorable example for this is the difference between the sessions of the WPF team at PDC05 and virtually any other talk I have heard about WPF since then - which I could rant about again and again, but that's a topic for another blog post.

    In general, I'd say that the sessions (again, this applies only to those I attended) on average were of slightly higher quality than those of PDC05. I judge this by how fast time seemed to fly by, but my memory may serve me wrong, so don't pinpoint me on that.

    To come to a close:

    • Did I enjoy PDC 2008? Yes!
    • Do I think PDC 2008 was worth the expenses paid by my company (Comma Soft AG, we're hiring by the way)? Yes!
      Honestly, if I didn't think so, I simply would have left out the question ;-)
    • Would I choose to endure the grueling long flights in Economy class again to attend PDC 2009? Um... Yes!

    So let's hope I get the opportunity in 2009, maybe we'll see us there!

    P.S. Visual Studio 2010 seems to become a seriously cool release, finally allowing things like this or this (and even more)...