So I'm a couple days late in writing this, but it's ok, I took notes :). Overall this was a good SIG, would have been better if I actually cared about BizTalk though.
First off let me explain for a second why I feel like I need to write a review of these events. Personally I think I get two things out of writing these. First is the chance to tell others that didn't attend about all the cool stuff they missed out on. I think this is a great way to advertise future events by talking up past ones. The second thing gained is that by analyzing the past, we can learn things about the future (can you tell I was a history major at one time?). In this case, by looking at what went right and what didn't, we can come up with ways to improve in the meeting next month. Or someone from Kalamazoo or Austin or Sacramento might get ideas for their own use group.
The venue was the Cleveland Microsoft office in Independence (notice, not actually in Cleveland) and we had both Developer Evangelist Jeff Blankenburg and Architect Evangelist Brian Prince. This was Brian's first SIG/UG trip to Cleveland since becoming a softie. The usual pizza and Coke was present as was the worlds worst collection of giveaways in the history of SIGs, but more on that later. The only venue related issue was the A/C needed a kick in the pants which Brian was happy to provide.
This month Richard Broida gave a talk titled "The Intelligent Programmers Guide to BizTalk" and if you remember last month's review he talked about tying to get the crowd more involved. First on the crowd involvement. I will give Richard credit, he definitely tried to mix it up and for the most part I would say it worked. Nothing is going to change completely overnight but this was a good first start. Some of the things he tried were being more conversational, walking among the crowd a bit and joking around. Also he didn't jump straight into the talk, he started by introducing the MS guys and asking for announcements, which of course I had one. I got up and spoke for a few minutes about Cleveland Day of .NET trying to get people to register, speak or sponsor. Jeff even got up to encourage people to speak. Overall between the numerous people talking at the beginning, Richard joking around and his walking around, it really did get people more involved. Personally I think there is more to do in that arena but this was a very good step in the right direction.
Another step in that direction of course is the after-party. This month we had 14-15 people, not bad. We had a few people that were new to the bar and had no previous connection to anyone in the group, which indicates it isn't becoming a 'click' but that others do feel welcome. Once again I left way too late but enjoyed every minute of it. Poor Brian had to drive all the way to Columbus after the bar, which we didn't leave until 11:00PM.
Honestly I can't really judge the quality of the presentation as I'm not a BizTalk person. At all. Don't want to be one either. One thing that I think came up at the bar was bullet points. If you've read Beyond Bullet Points, well, it says to basically not use them. I counted 27 bullet points on one of the BizTalk slides. Now I'm not going to say that's bad since that is the norm for presentations today. Two things about the presentation that I didn't like: 1) it felt like too much information for one presentation 2) there wasn't a break in the middle. Any talk that long needs a break to let people stretch and socialize in the middle. As I said, I can't really speak to the content but judging from the questions presented, Richard does know his stuff and showed numerous features that interested people. I did learn one cool thing: functoids. Not exactly sure what they do but it just sounds cool, Functoids.
I said earlier that the giveaways were well, bad. Not all of them but overall, it lacked. There was a backpack I thought was kinda cool, a couple copies of Halo 3 and, get this, two Windows Mobile Berets. That's right, a beret with a MS Windows Mobile logo. Wow. The drawings started as you would expect, first a copy of Halo 3, then the backpack. Next was something I don't think I've seen before, the next person 'passed'. He didn't want anything that was left (Halo or Beret). The next couple people also passed. Finally someone took Halo, then the first beret went. Then a couple more passed until finally Jeff just gave the remaining beret to the first person that would take it. That person happened to be Joe Fiorini and he wore it all night at the bar. Jeff took a picture of Joe in the beret, he's probably going to pull it out at an opportune moment.
Overall it was another good SIG and a good after-party. Less than two weeks until I talk at one of these, hopefully I'll be ready :).