TechEd 2009: Day Four

Friday, May 15, 2009

I'm not quite sure what to write about today.

The sessions were great, as usual. I started the day at Mark Minasi's excellent and entertaining talk about Windows UAC, followed by Mark Russinovich's session on improvements to Hyper-V V2 in Windows Server 2008 R2. I also saw two sessions on Exchange 2010 and got to sit in a chalk talk with Evan Douds of the Exchange Management Shell Team.

Thursday evening is traditionally the famous Microsoft Attendee Party. This usually entails a fun-filled evening at a venue such as Universal Studios or Sea World, where the park is open solely to TechEd attendees. Attendees are free to wander the park and partake of free food and drink throughout the evening. It's a great way to unwind after an intense week of training sessions and hands on labs. Attendees also have the option of purchasing additional passes for family members, so they can enjoy the same experience.

This year Microsoft decided to scale back the attendee party and did so in a huge way. The Jam On IT "social gathering" was held in the same venue we've been in all week, the LA Convention Center. Attendees were limited to two drink tickets each and were not allowed the option of buying passes for guests. There was no entertainment, other than a DJ playing music and the "jam sessions" where anyone who wanted to can try to play instruments on stage. The general consensus I heard from attendees was that this was an epic failure.

Now, I can understand why Microsoft did this. Attendance is way down - estimates are more than 40% of last year - and it's really hard to justify spending the same amount of money for that fewer number of people. But the attendee party was cancelled more than two months after registration opened for TechEd 2009, leaving those who already booked their tickets and travel with a sour taste. Microsoft didn't offer any refund or reduced cost because of the cancellation. People have an expectation based on the events that happened in years past, and to replace the traditional attendee party with a DJ and two drink tickets is terrible.

When you got a good thing going, keep doing it. Don't mess with tradition.