New Digs

I have been on the Blogger platform for years, but have decided to move over to Orchard so that I can further integrate code samples, pick and choose modules and widgets appropriate to my style and take advantage of (and hopefully contribute to) the already mature community around the Orchard engine.

I’m going to ride the default theme for a while as I get my bearings, and I don’t think I’m going to make much effort to port my old posts over to this site.

If you’re looking for the old Mister James site, you can find it at http://theycallmemrjames.blogspot.com.

Thanks for joining me!

MIX11: The Decompression Session

I am back from MIX11 in the sunny state of Nevada, an annual event hosted by Microsoft. This year’s conference was located at Mandalay Bay at the south end of the strip in Las Vegas.  MIX gave me a much needed energy refresh with some great speakers, some great content and wonderful conversation with folks in the industry.

As a result of the recharge I am moving my blog to this site and returning to working in and with the community to help other developers move their skillsets forward and get excited about what we’re able to do with the tools and resources available to us as software developers.

Want to know what it’s like to be at MIX?

Registration

This was actually one of my only complaints about the event.  I arrived in Las Vegas a day early and made my way to the registration area of the conference.  Security would have none of that (they were, in fact, quite rude and condescending) and told me to come back Monday at 9AM. 

Luckily I didn’t listen to them. Here’s what I saw when I arrived at 8AM.

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And when I got through the line, a 40 minute adventure, the line extended out past the lounge areas, the “Commons”, around the corner and out to the escalators.  It was nuts. At the onset, it seemed as though there were only 4 lines moving, with over 35 people in each line and hundreds more moving in by the hour.

Registration staff were friendly and once they got their groove on, they seemed to chew through the line rather quickly.

Boot Camps

While there was added cost to the conference when attending the boot camps, I think that this was some of the most valuable learning at the show.  In particular, there were some great tandem presentations where you were able to gain some great insight into the workflow between designers and developers. This was especially handy for those of us who wear both roles.

Keynotes

On Tuesday and Wednesday the day began with a packed house event in the main ballroom at the conference center. Tuesday was the IE9 and HTML5 show, focusing on native-like applications on Windows and reinforcing the speed of IE9 versus the competition with some live demos.  While some of the content was impressive, the presenters were a little scattered and seemed to flip in and out of semi-random topics (for example, the Samsung laptop mention).

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Wednesday’s keynote was nuts.  We saw IE9 running on Windows Phone 7 and it destroyed the iPhone 4.  I’m talking about hardware accelerated rendering support that took HTML5 samples and trounced Safari by a performance factor of 15 to 1. We got treated to a ton of information on the new APIs for WP7 and some interesting, exciting and at times hilarious demos of some of the tech available to us and coming in the near future. We should all have our hands on the new WP7 bits within weeks, as well as the SDK for the Kinect.

Which is why they gave every attendee a free Kinect.  Sweet!

Sessions

I was able to maximize my learning in the sessions, especially around web development tooling updates and the UX discussions. Some of the speakers are worth the price of admission for the entire event, and while I’ve seen some epic videos of these guys in the past, you really need to be there to see what happens before and after the taping!

The only thing I didn’t care for about the sessions was the organization, presentation and planning materials available to attendees.  There were no topical streams, and any particular room could vary greatly in topic from one time slot to the next. The map and session info (printed materials) were not well laid out and lots of folks were wondering trying to find the next session they wanted to attend.

Extra Perks

I was pleased to be invited by Microsoft Canada to the Tao VIP room at the Venetian hotel. Wowsers. Free-flowing bar, very classy appetizers and samples all night, hands-on tech demos, great conversation and face-to-face time with other Canadian developers and Microsoft folks. This was probably the most energizing event for me because of some of the connections I was able to make and the chance to catch up with some folks I hadn’t seen in a while.

The Grub

I have never eaten at any conference or training event like I did at MIX11. The food was incredible. It was professional prepared, presented and served.  Though it was buffet style self-service, the staff ushered attendees through the line and you got to the food quickly while temperature was still excellent. There was fish, chicken, beef and vegetarian options (as well as some other specialized menus) and all kinds of fresh fruit, salad, dressings, fixings, sides and the like.  I cannot stress enough that most of the food had no business being on a buffet line!

The Haul

Conferences aren’t just about the learning. At MIX this year I learned just how much we geeks love us some free shirts. I literally saw grown men standing on chairs shouting “Me! Me!”.  So, yes, of course there was loot! You could get lanyards, t-shirts, hoodies, photo-booth photos, goofy Windows Phone 7 desktop mascots, pens, mouse pads and more. But the real thrill was getting a free Kinect after the keynote on Wednesday.

And, Yes, The Strip

What would a trip to Las Vegas be without a trip down the strip? Here are some of the sights we were able to take in.

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New York, New York, Excalibur, and a couple shots of the Bellagio.

Final Thoughts

I was so fortunate that my wife was able to join me for this event. We’ve been together for over 15 years, but she’s still such a great sport when, environmentally, I have no choice but to geek out. She was able to enjoy herself through the shops and hotels along the strip while I was in conference, but we also got some great nights in together and took advantage of our first trip away from kids since we were married over a decade ago (at least, without the kids!).

While this post tried to get you into what MIX was like to attend I haven’t really covered the tech side of what I took in. I am looking forward to development in the weeks ahead and will be writing about some of the great resources that have advanced, been released or will be soon.

This conference had a wide enough spectrum to bring in a great cross section of the development community as well as some great minds in design.  If you are involved in the UI, UX or supporting backend bits this is a great chance to catch up on the new tech, take a deep dive into the existing tools, see a little more clearly the road ahead and to interact with a great community.

Hope to see you there next year!