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Make Me Think

By Steve Jones,

2008 SummitAt the PASS Community Summit last week I was offered one of their blogging spots in order to watch the keynotes and blog in real time. I thought it was a great idea and I appreciated the table, power, and space to set up my laptop and make notes during the keynotes. I took advantage of this on Wednesday and Thursday, but missed out on Friday as I had an early flight. I know, I know, shirking my duties, but after being in Seattle for 8 days, I was ready to head home. Next year I'll be sure to stay!

In any case, it appears that I missed the wrong keynote. I blogged about Wednesday's and Thursday's keynotes (as did others, Aaron Bertrand, Andy Leonard, Tony Davis, and others), both by Microsoft executives, and I found myself a bit bored by the content. They felt like marketing pitches, designed to give us reasons and excuses that can be passed on to our management about why an upgrade makes sense. They were to some extent boring, and while they presented information, they didn't make me think.

As I was reading Adam Machanic's blog on the Friday keynote, I found myself a little disappointed I didn't see that one. It seemed that was the one to see, where a good technical speaker made you think about the world, about technology, and about possibilities. It's a great topic as well, parallel scaling, and I look forward to more information on this topic in the future.

Over the years I've seen some great speakers, at a variety of events. Peter Spiro at a PASS Summit years ago, Michael Treacy and Dr. Robert Kaplan at the MS BI Conference, Jim Barksdale years ago, Jim Gray, and more. One of the great things at the Business of Software conference this year was it felt like a succession of keynotes. Almost all of which made me think.

Something that hasn't happened at a Microsoft keynote in quite some time.

At TechEd, PASS, and many other places where Microsoft products are featured, it seems too often the presenters are product focused, trying to give us reasons to upgrade, and to show off some feature. That's OK, but honestly I think many technology people realize these demos are completely contrived and even if they're glitzy, they don't get the creative juices flowing. It's a fine line to walk, one that I think Bill Baker did well, but not many others, and none I saw last week.

A good speech should inspire you, motivate you, and get you excited again about some topic. Perhaps it's just me, but I'd like to see less product centric focus and more inspirational, theoretical, or motivational stories, thoughts, and ideas. There are some amazing people working in this field and I've love to see more of them at events like this.

Steve Jones


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