Martijn's blog - E-Commerce, EAI, BizTalk and .NET


The Microsoft MVP Summit - day 2

So I was mistaken about the product group meetings, they'll be today and tomorrow...

Having said that, the morning started off with the keynote sessions by people like Steve Balmer, Jim Allchin, Group Vice President of the Platform Group and Kevin Johnson, Co-President Platform products & Services division.
I never saw Steve in person before and I must say, he's a huge presence which can motivate people like you've never seen before (don't let the glasses fool you :p). It was good to see him taking feedback and suggestions for product enhancements, changes to the different products and the likes. Jim Allchin presented a lot of new stuff in Windows Vista which hadn't even been on the PDC yet. After a nice lunch, we went back to Microsoft Campus to have sessions on new technology to come.

I've seen some awesome new enhancements for the post-Vista era, up until 2010. Microsoft is doing a lot to be as customer focused and feedback driven as they can be and the design of Blackcomb will actually be largely based on customer requirements. The experience with giving feedback is improving dramatically over the next year or so, as Ladybug, Betaplace, Microsoft feedback and others will be merged into one feedback system where Microsoft developers are required to let the customer know what happened to their feedback before a raised issue can be closed.
That's a huge step forwards from the current way of fire and forget feedback from a customer standpoint...

Strolling around, I landed in a session by Don Box (charasmatic dude) about Windows Workflow Foundation. It was fun to see how easy integrating workflow into your application has been made by the development team, actually being a metadata engine, you can simply hook up any code you like by deriving from Activity. You then write your application declaratively, in Xaml. You can do parallel and sequential workflows, and much more. Check out WWF ("dub-dub-ef") here.

After the different sessions, I hooked up with some great BizTalk people like Stephen W. Thomas, Allan Smith, Paul Somers, Scott Cairney, Bill Chesnut, Romualdas Stonkus, et al. It was fun to hear from other BizTalk MVPs about their experiences in the field. Joined by some people from the BizTalk product team, they were really interested in hearing from us regarding actual customer scenarios for BizTalk Server.

After the very nice dinner at the Best West cafe on campus, I went to sleep, the jetlag is really starting to kick in, I wonder how it will be going home and ariving 22 hours later... It's gonna be a long first week back at the office I think... :/


The Microsoft MVP Summit - day 1

Ok, so today we had registration on the agenda from 13:00 onward, and thus had the entire morning to explore Seattle. Being the typical tourists we appearantly are, we walked through downtown Seattle to the Spaceneedle. We could have taken the monorail, but decided to get to learn Seattle a bit better from the ground first...

Walking through downtown Seattle, we concluded it's quite a nice, quiet city, where given the cars driving around (Ford FS120, Mercedes E200, BMW 760i, etc) people seem to be 'somewhat wealthy'. Seattle is very clean, has nice big sidewalks and isn't quite as crowded as let's say downtown Manhattan. The spaceneedle was a great experience, although I wish it still was the tallest building in Seattle, it does have a great lookout over the harbor, the city and even the mountains (we had some fog upstairs, so that view was somewhat blocked)

On the way back to our hotel from the Spaceneedle, we rode the Monorail, which was fun (and a lot quicker than walking :)). We had a stroll through Pike Place Market,

, drank a beer on the waterfront in the harbor and then took the bus to register for the event. We arrived at the Microsoft Campus. which seems like a complete city on it's own, within beautiful surroundings I must say, forrest every way you look :)

After registration, we went to get my coupon for the Microsoft store filled. Appearantly, a few more people felt like doing the same, as the store was literally packed full with other MVPs. They really have great stuff in the store, so I ended up using my entire coupon's worth, mostly on gifts for others (Martin, I thought of you and have your request in my bag ;O).

So we registered and shopped, it was time to start the party! We dropped the stuff I bought at the hotel and went to the Hyatt hotel in Bellevue, just outside of Seattle, were we had a nice dinner, met a lot of other MVPs, connected to some EMEA MVPs we already knew and generally had a great time the rest of the evening. Around 10:30 I got tired and went back to the hotel to get some sleep.

All in all, this was a good and relaxed start of the real summit. Tomorrow, we have meetings with the award product groups, so I finally get to meet some of the great minds behind the BizTalk Server product (and Windows Workflow Foundation, which looks very promising too, ofcourse) :-D


The Microsoft MVP Summit - day 0

We've flown to Seattle with SAS a few hours ago. From Amsterdam, we first headed to Copenhagen where we waited a gruesome 4 hours for our connection, an Airbus heading to the US. A cool thing to note about SAS is the fact they have WiFi internet access onboard. It's slow as can be, but at least you can e-mail (and blog) from an altitude of 10km flying 900+ kilometers an hour... :-D (see the picture we took here)

After the dreadful 9 hour flight (on which there were 4 different movies to see, but they weren't streaming them, so hooking up the touchscreen too late means missing a chunk of the movie) where you learn to appreciate a repulsion caddle might have from being transported on a boat, we landed on SeaTac (Seattle / Tacoma) airport.

We ofcourse had to fill out quite some paperwork, one for the US Customs Service stating we had nothing to declare, and one for Visa Waiver countries stating your personal information. On top of the paperwork, we had both our index fingers digitalized and a mugshot taken by the border patrol.

After this exercise of patience, we moved on to get our luggage. We had to take it of the belt, haul it to another room, where we placed it on another bagage belt, were the security checks the European custom services performed were executed again...

Picking up our luggage from the secondary belt, we headed to Seattle by cab (the shuttle was nowhere to be found, or we didn't look hard enough :-))

Frans is staying at the W hotel, for a review of the hotel by another MVP, Sahil Malik, see this page. I'm staying in a hotel two blocks away, on 6th Avenue, called the Crown Plaza. My sentiments regarding this hotel are quite similar to Sahil's, except at least he has what appears to be a minibar and I'm stuck drinking chlorized water from the tap... :/

After walking around down-town Seattle and obviously missing all the cool restaurants (there don't appear to be a lot in the area??) we finally stumbled upon a restaurant worth mentioning. It's and Italian restaurant located next to hotel "Vintage Park" on 5th Avenue and they serve a great red wine (Cabernet Sauvignon) called "Washington" I believe and the Roasted Chicken with Risotto is great :-D

Anyways, I'm not normally in the habit of blogging about non-business stuff, but I thought it would be fun to write up my experiences in Seattle, the summit and being in Redmond... More non-NDA info to follow!