Sunday, October 25, 2009

Leaving Las Vegas… Day 4 of SharePoint Conference 2009

“You meet people who forget you. You forget people you meet. But sometimes you meet those people you can't forget. Those are your 'friends.'” - Anonymous

Day 4 was October 22, the last day of the conference for most people, me included, and, by no mere coincidence I’m sure, the launch date for Windows 7, the newest version of the desktop operating system.

Clued in by a tweet, I flipped on the TV in my room at the Luxor to see Steve Ballmer, who on Monday had been the keynote speaker at the conference, in New York with Matt Lauer on the Today show, demo’ing some amazing new devices running Windows 7. I’m not running Windows 7 yet, but I’m due for a new computer soon… hmmm… :-)

Before shutting down my laptop one last time, out of curiosity, I checked my blog statistics, and discovered that (thanks to people like you!) traffic had increased more than 600% during the conference, and I had added over 100 new Twitter followers. I updated my personal Facebook status about this, noting how grateful I was that so many people had begun following my posts.

Then, I checked out at the Luxor, left my suitcase with the front desk, and headed to the convention center area of Mandalay Bay, intending to go to the partner sessions that were being held in parallel to the standard breakout sessions that day.

That morning, AT&T’s @BizSolutions feed tweeted that anyone at the conference interested in hearing about our Enterprise Hosting services for SharePoint could tweet me and find me at the show.

Ironically, the first person who contacted me was @sunnyjx, who works on the team that supports an internal deployment of SharePoint for AT&T’s international teams. I had never met him, but we connected on Twitter by way of the MySPC Community area. We sat down and had a fantastic conversation about our respective interests in SharePoint and our roles in the company. Before parting, we agreed to try to meet up with other AT&T’ers who were also at the show, if time permitted, later in the day.

I had a little time to kill before the next session would start, so I clicked around on my Blackberry, and discovered that a bunch of people had ReTweeted the notes I had posted live during sessions the previous couple of days, which for Twitter people is validation that the posts were well-received and found to be of value.

I also saw that a Facebook friend I had gone to high school with had seen my Facebook status update about being at the conference from earlier in the day and mentioned that he had a good friend that was at the show, too. I said I’d like to meet him, and within minutes, @alghourabi had tweeted me about meeting. Ironically, I was already following his Twitter feed, but had not met him before. Next thing I knew, he and I were introducing ourselves by the registration desk. Gotta love the power of Social Media. I can’t imagine this conference being what it was without Twitter, especially.

After these great conversations, I headed down to the partner sessions I had originally intended to go to this morning. I checked with some of the organizers and they said the slides from the partner sessions I had missed would be posted to MySPC, which was good to hear, because I definitely do want to see that content.

I stayed for the last of the sessions, which was about how partners could get involved in selling solutions built with the FAST Search capabilities that Microsoft acquired last year and that are part of SharePoint Server 2010.

Key points I took from this session were:

  • The paradigm the Enterprise Search team operates under is one that says Search experiences should be Visual, Conversational and Actionable.
    • Visual – Search doesn’t need to be merely text. The more immersive the experience, the better, and that can include images, graphics, Silverlight, et al to make the visual component of the search process more engaging.
    • Conversational – Search doesn’t need to be a single query followed by a result. It should be more like a conversation, meaning you ask something you get a response, you ask a more refined question, you get a more specific answer, etc.
    • Actionable – Search should not be separated from the action you take with the results returned. Thus, the results should be provided in a form that permits the user to take logical action. The classic example would be having a product returned in search results that you can easily add to your shopping cart, but obviously, the term “Actionable” can apply much more broadly than that.
  • The reason you go to certain sites EVERY day is because the site adapts as you use it. Making sites built on the Microsoft platform more easily adaptable in these ways is a key priority, and FAST technology is a big piece of that puzzle.
  • The richest sites on the web today bring in social content to make promotions feel seamless, not like ads, but like something a friend might tell you you should be looking at.
  • Partners should focus their efforts on SharePoint itself, on FAST Search for SharePoint and on FAST Search for Internet.
  • Learning FAST Search is challenging, and partners should be prepared for that going in.
  • Search partners should contact searchptnr@microsoft.com for more info

@ThunderLizard and I met up, took a few minutes to say hello to some familiar faces from Twitter, including @sharepointcomic Dan Lewis and @gvaro. (@ThunderLizard might have inadvertently spilled a glass of water on @sharepointcomic, but I think that’s just a rumor. )

After that, as planned earlier, @ThunderLizard and I spent a few brief moments with @sunnyjx and a few other AT&T people we’d never met before who are involved in internal SharePoint deployments in various ways, and then we got our bags and headed to the taxi stand for a ride to the airport, where I looked forward to reading and/or sleeping the whole way home.

The SharePoint Conference experience was over, or so I thought. On the way to the gate, however, I got a chance to say a quick hello to @joeloleson, whose session on the first day was a highlight of the conference for me, and whom I had corresponded with only on Twitter, LinkedIn, TripIt and Facebook (maybe “only” isn’t the right word), but had never met in person.

After a quick bite to eat, @ThunderLizard and I wished each other safe travels and I boarded my Southwest flight back home to BWI. I had waited too long to check in online the previous day, so I had a boarding priority of C (which, on a full flight, pretty much means, no window, no aisle). So, I grabbed a middle seat near the front, and sure enough, the two guys next to me had gone to the show as well. As had just about everyone I met all week, they turned out to be very friendly.

We ended up having some terrific conversations about what each of us had seen at the show, and what we liked most, how it applied to our distinct business situations, etc. It was such good conversation that I never actually went to sleep on the flight home.

One of them told me a fascinating rumor, too, that apparently comes from a well-placed source. On Tuesday, the beach party had featured Huey Lewis & the News. The rumor (which I have gone to zero effort to confirm) goes that Microsoft had initially approached U2 about doing the gig (This isn’t completely outside the realm of possibility -- U2 was already scheduled to play in Las Vegas Friday night) and U2 had agreed to play for no pay (!) on one condition – that Microsoft make a sizeable, anonymous donation to the charity of U2’s choice. This rumor had it that the amount was $1.5 million. Presumably, because the donation would have been anonymous, or maybe because it would look too extravagant right now?, it didn’t actually happen. Now, this story may or may not be true, and may or may not be accurate even if part of it is true, but I had already heard that Roger Daltrey AND Aerosmith, among several others, had played the Oracle Open World conference the previous week, so U2 playing the SharePoint conference is plausible enough to make a good story regardless.

And there you have it. The last of my SharePoint Conference daily summaries. I’ll be writing some blog posts that will expand on some SharePoint topics of interest to myself and my customers over the next several weeks, and posting updates on Twitter regularly as well. Please keep in touch.

Take care,
Jeff

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