For the past week or so I've been at a conference in Redmond, Washington, at the Microsoft campus. My conference was called "VS Live!" and it's the first time the conference has been held at Microsoft's campus. Only 700 people were able to go, so I feel very fortunate. In contrast, more than 15,000 people attended Tech Ed 2010 in New Orleans a few months ago.
Redmond is about 45 minutes from Seattle. The first thing I noticed about both Redmond and especially Seattle is that everything was extremely clean. There was absolutely no trash on the ground, no Styrofoam cups on the side of the road, no litter anywhere at all. I felt so out of place!
My parents live in Lafayette, where they have the option to recycle. I live out in Prairieville, where we do not. There are no recycle bins here, no separate trash pick-up for recyclables... people even routinely burn their own trash out here. I told that to someone in Seattle and thought their head was about to explode.
In the Seattle area, there are three trash cans for every normal trash can down south. Whereas in Louisiana we have a single trash can for "Trash", Seattle has a regular trash can, a trash can for plastic bottles and cans, and a trash can for compost (cardboard, newspaper, etc). At times I was paralyzed when trying to throw away a simple piece of garbage - I didn't know where to put it! Then there's all kinds of rules... if a plastic bottle is empty then it goes in the recyclable trash bin, but if it has any liquid in it then it's trash. There was a slight pain of guilt every time I threw away a cup with leftover coffee into the trash bin instead of the compost bin.
The Microsoft campus was pretty amazing. "Microsoft" was branded on everything, from the buildings to pens, from cars and shuttles to even the coffee cups.
One thing I was really surprised about is how much Microsoft was willing to poke fun at itself. Each conference session was presented by someone with an incredible amount of experience with software - sometimes it was a Microsoft employee, but usually it was an author of several books, a Harvard professor, or a software evangelist who preaches the good news about some new technology. And in almost every session, Microsoft software was used to show what software techniques were good and which ones were bad.
Not only did Microsoft poke fun of itself during the conference, but the Microsoft Store had some funny stuff. Take the clearance section, which had Microsoft's much maligned Windows Vista on sale for $5. This price was still too much for most people to spend on it.
The Microsoft store also had a surprisingly large stockpile of loot for the kids. I bought these two shirts for Anne and Peter.
One of the sessions I attended was called Why Software Sucks by David Platt. It was just the kind of session that I love - less technical and more theory. Here's a short video from the Why Software Sucks session. This three minute clip wasn't recorded at the conference, but it's pretty much verbatim from what was presented.
The Microsoft campus was huge. I don't know how many buildings it actually contains, but it's probably close to 100 or so. Our conference was held in the Convention Center, which not only housed 700 uber-geeks but is also home to a piece of the Berlin Wall. So needless to say, I posed in front of it with a biodegradable plate of pretzels.
I'll write more about my Seattle trip later. But for now, I need to spend some quality with the fam!
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