The first full day of the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) swings into play this morning with the normal menu of an opening non-technical keynote followed by a technical keynote. The difference of course is that the first is for marketing personnel, who will be forced to leave the room for the second. Only kidding people! The real meat of the day will then commence as engineers from the Exchange development group reveal details about Exchange 2013. At least, that’s the plan.
Last night’s welcome reception was quite nice. Like most other technical conferences it consisted of food and beverage stations scattered amongst islands of technology companies, each eager to sell their wares and engage with the conference attendees. Apparently around 1,500 have signed up for the event so there was a nice amount of room to circulate between the different stands, a welcome change from the norm of grappling with crowds to be even able to see what’s happening.
At first look, 1,500 seems a low number to attend MEC. However, I know that the organizers are well aware of some of the handicaps that they had to contend with to get the event up and running, not least the inability to announce a full agenda due to the constraint on talking about Exchange 2013 before its formal announcement in August. That, plus the lack of information about speakers and the sessions on Exchange 2010 and Office 365, probably stopped some who might have come to the event from signing up. I think that more will come to MEC next year, especially if Microsoft announces the location well in advance and do a better job overall of communicating the value that people can gain from coming to MEC.
I liked the approach taken by eNow on their stand. Giveaways are ten a penny at technical conferences and most giveaways rapidly decline in attractiveness and value immediately after you get then. Enow took a different tack by offering a t-shirt to people with the challenge to have the back of the shirt signed by at least three MVPs or MCMs (Microsoft Certified Masters) attending MEC. Those who get their shirts signed will qualify to enter a draw for a Microsoft Surface.
Speaking of MVPs, the nice people from the MVP program are at MEC to answer questions about how to become an MVP and to encourage awareness of the program. Be nice to them by dropping by. Apparently they’ll be the only ones serving beer at specific times, which should be enough to drive some traffic. The MVP stand has a “Hall of Fame” featuring Exchange MVPs. My photo is dreadfully old, taken in 2001 when Compaq (remember them?) made a series of VHS-videos (what’s VHS?) about Exchange 2000 at Compaq’s European Technical Center in the South of France. I have fond memories of the filming, but the photo is truly horrible. I should have signed my autograph over my face as that would have at least obscured the awfulness.
On the fashion front, MEC has decided that speakers will wear different colors of t-shirts. This decision gave me some problems. First, I don’t like t-shirts and wish that they had chosen the normal polo-type shirt instead. Some of us look better in collared shirts. Second, some of the chosen colors are garish. I know that I am color-blind (browns and greens give me problems) but the shade of luminous green selected to identify MVPs will cause a form of snow-blindness to those unhappy individuals who bump into the MVPs. I regard the purplish color assigned to me as someone who’s leading an interactive session as the least offending of the set. MEC will have to do better in its fashion choices in future. MEC will also have to pay attention to personal hygiene by giving a shirt for each day that someone is presenting. I don’t care to wear the same shirt for two consecutive days and I anticipate that those close to me won’t either.
One of the joys of events like MEC is the chance to catch up with people. Yesterday, I discovered that Nicolas Blank (an MVP from South Africa) and Nathan Winters (from Microsoft UK) have signed up (with Sybex) to write an Exchange 2013 book. Apparently they’ll be taking a business process approach to the book, which should make it a little difference from the normal. This is the first book for Nicolas (Nathan’s latest covers Lync 2010) so there was an amount of gentle bantering (aka advice) on the topics of word counts, the horrors of editors, the difference between “it’s” and “its” and why you should always use “it is” anyway, and so on. I await the result of their work with interest.
One book that I’ll be avoiding is the recently announced “Exchange 2013 Unleashed”, brought to you with equal care to detail by the same folks who have ruined similar books on Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2007. My problem is that they are rushing into publication based on software that isn’t fully-baked yet. Sure, they will be the first on the market with an Exchange 2013 book and there’s some value in that, but if you buy this book, I can almost guarantee that you will be forced to buy another to learn about Exchange 2013. Save your money and wait for books based on real-life experience of Exchange 2013 deployment. You’ll learn a lot more.
The real action begins in about an hour. Stay tuned for reports.
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