Saturday, March 19, 2011

SharePoint Cincy

Yesterday was my first conference related to .NET, SharePoint Cincy. It was a relatively small conference and was put together in just a few months. Being involved in organizing conferences in the past I can appreciate all the work to be done. Putting on together in 3 months is pretty impressive and I have to say congratulations to everyone involved in putting it together.

Most of my SharePoint knowledge to date has come from a small amount of integration work I did with SharePoint at my previous employeer, PluralSight (which by they way is phenomenal), and some of my hands on with the code/setup we have at Heritage. I had high hopes to learn some good tid bits at the conference. Quite honestly my hopes fell a bit short. The conference started with 2 Keynotes, one from Microsoft and one from my previous employer, Kroger. Microsoft showed a really compelling story of how SharePoint, with very little customization (code wise), can provide a company with an awesome collaboration platform. They demo'd SharePoint across delivery platforms including desktop, mobile, and tablets. In contrast Kroger showed how they are leveraging(?) SharePoint to host their external facing websites for all of their banners. The Kroger presentation spent equal amounts of time discussing challenges of large scale internet facing sites as they did covering SharePoint usage. Where they have an entirely customized Admin console for the SharePoint sites so I question how much they are really leveraging SharePoint. Nevertheless, the presentation was well put together and enjoyable. The first topic of the day was a complete waste of my time, it was supposed to be about using SharePoint as an application platform but it was more about the guy presenting and what I found to be very obvious points; source control is important.
Lunch followed which was possibly one of the best parts of the conference, not that the conference was bad, but lunch was 1.5 hours long and it gave me ample time to network. I talked with old co-workers from Kroger, where I got some of the real scoop on SharePoint at Kroger* I also talked with some other folks I had never met before and learned how they leveraged SharePoint in their organization. I found SP 2010 has pretty low adoption in Cincinnati and that right now it is a huge pain point for many organizations (moving from SP 2007 to SP 2010).

The next topic, coupled with Microsoft's keynote, made the conference worth while. Matt Tallman presented "How to Develop and Deploy SharePoint Applications and Solutions." It was chalk full of useful tid bits and had plenty of demo action to help a newb like me get acquainted to Visual Studio 2010 and SharePoint 2010. Had I not taken some of the Plural Sight courses this would have been even better. Having taken some of the online training I found this to be an awesome refresher and there is always something nice about live demos. Matt could have had his timing down a bit better. He skimped on one of the parts I was really interested in, deployments, but overall the content was spot on and the time flew by.

The day was a roller coaster of quality, the next session I left 40 minutes in, I wanted to leave much sooner but stuck it out as long as I could. I probably never should have gone to it but I wanted to learn more about design in SharePoint. Our templates are pretty 1990's and I was hoping to get a good primer on do's and don'ts of SharePoint design. What I got was 30 minutes of 2 dudes that knew very little about SharePoint (or weren't talking about it) and showing off their portfolio. Horrid presentation, I lost respect for that company, and the individuals that wasted 50+ people's time with their gibberish.

Jonathan Mast, a previous consultant at Heritage and Kroger, capped off the day with a presentation on Business Connectivity Services. I had high hopes, probably too high, for this presentation and Jonathan delivered in some area's not so much in others. It seemed to me Jonathan has not presented very much and seemed uneasy and this really affected the presentation's quality, maybe he was hungover ;). The content overall was good but fell short in his demo's sometimes. They were mostly well thought out but not quite deep enough for me. He skipped key parts in the demo's and that really detracted from the overall quality, likely someone more experienced in SharePoint would completely disagree. That being said I now have a fairly solid foundation of what BCS is and where we could leverage it in Heritage. Mission accomplished, thanks Jonathan.

Overall I have to say the conference was worth the price but I don't feel like I got a great return on investment, more like broke even. I will evaluate the schedule and the presenters closely next year to make a determination of going again. The conference has great potential and next year could be a big success, or a big flop, depending on which way it teeters.

*It's interesting that I worked at Kroger for 6 and a half years and the entire time I was dedicated to CF and Java. Coming into this conference "on the other side" provided a new perspective into what was done at Kroger.

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