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Microsoft is now a pink fluffy bunny! (well not really but they aren’t the evil empire anymore either)

Dear Reader,

[Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are mine, go get your own.]

I’ve just returned from my first ever “Microsoft Web Development Summit”. Reflecting back, I think the summit was a success on Microsoft’s part because it did change my perception of the company for the better. I won’t be giving a blow-by-blow accounting of all the sessions, I’m sure other attendees who were paying more attention will be able to do that. Instead I ruminate on a few of the things I picked up.

Microsoft’s self-stated goal of MS WebDev is to engage the PHP community in a conversation. To that end, I believe they succeeded for the most part.

Microsoft is schizophrenic

On the one hand, we were treated like royalty while there. The hotel was beautiful, the alcohol was plentiful and other than the fact that the employee cafeteria had wonderful smells coming from it yet we ate standard buffet fare from Microsoft Catering, the food was good. Each day had at least one really good session in which I felt the presenter was there more to listen than educate.

On the other hand we had presenters that I considered “Trojan Horses”, like the MS Office guy that gave us a history lesson instead of a frank discussion on how to create/edit MS Office documents in PHP.

Microsoft really is reaching out and I do respect them for that but I was upfront with them when I told them that trust will take time. My distrust of Microsoft stems from a long line of events, buying FoxPro to OOXML and I won’t even start on DRM here, there are many things I do not like about Microsoft. I give them props however, for their efforts in reaching out to the PHP community. That takes a lot of guts and I respect at least this little portion of Microsoft for making the right steps.

For the most part the presenters were much more like Laren Cooney’s session in which she first demanded that we close our laptops (so we couldn’t talk about her in the chat room) and then proceeded to host a session interesting enough to keep my laptop closed.

Even though I teased that the MSSQL session was “um…unproductive” After it was all over, the presenter (and I do apologize since I’ve obviously lost his card) came up to me and we had a very productive discussion over a drink. I won’t say we solve world hunger or anything but we agreed on a good first step.

Microsoft is Trying

For all their problems (most of which seem to stem from their legal department) at least the parts of Microsoft we talked to are honestly trying to reach out. They really want to know how they can help. They are severely hampered in what they can do (see aforementioned legal dept.) but within those bounds, they want to help. I was impressed by their sincerity and their willingness to listen, even when it wasn’t what they wanted to hear. (For some reason, telling them what they didn’t want to hear became my job…I’ve got to learn to keep my mouth shut)

The summit was opened and closed by Sam Ramji. The opening set the tone, “We want to listen”; the closing was a great wrap-up, “We heard what you have said”. Sam also crawled up onto a nearby table, sat down, crossed his legs and with his body language, set a very informal tone to the closing. (Note: In the opening session, I found it very funny that he wore a T-shirt that said “Obey Propaganda”, not sure if anyone else notices but I giggled about it)

In the closing he went over some of the things they had heard and then asked up for other ways that they can improve, not improve PHP on Windows but improve Microsoft. I don’t know Sam enough to know whether he was sincere or just stroking us but he did seem to be sincere and time will tell whether he was or not.

Parting thoughts

Overall, I am cautiously optimistic about Microsoft. If they can just get out of their own way, there are some great people there that are trying to change things. Mentally, my default image of Microsoft is slowly changing from “Balmer’s Monkey Dance” to that of Lauren, Sam and Karri, the jury is still out on whether that is a good thing.

So I’ll leave you with a list of memes for the summit. Those of you reading this that were there will smile, those of you who weren’t there, will just be confused. :)

  • StickerBoy
  • Mimosas
  • RockBand2
  • Mac Reboot Sound
  • …and of course…teabag

Thank you Joe for inviting me, I really had a great time.

Until next time,

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