PDC2008: A Day in the Life #7

The first full week of PDC2008 dry-runs is complete! If you're not familiar with our dry-run process, take a look at PDC2008: A Day in the Life #6. The on-campus dry-runs continue through this Thursday. After that, we have a little over a week to make final edits before the big event in Los Angeles. The photo to the right is one of the sessions we ran yesterday morning.

I was sitting in a dry-run of Larry Osterman's session, Windows 7: Building Great Audio Communications Applications , and it hit me. I've been so heads-down focused on producing content for the event, that I had completely forgotten that this is the %&@# PDC, man! There I was...sitting in a session...listening to Larry Osterman, a guy who's been at Microsoft for a long time. At prior PDCs when I was an attendee, I probably would have run up to the stage after Larry's talk to gape in amazement at his knowledge and expertise. How fortunate am I to actually work on the content for such an amazing event!? Wow. Sometimes, you just have to slow down, step back, and appreciate your situation. Thank you, world!

On another topic, I've mentioned session recordings in a few prior posts, but I've never really explained what we do with them. The amazingly talented Brian Keller, one of my Developer & Platform Evangelism (DPE) colleagues, is responsible for recording every single session at PDC2008 (except for the pre-conference sessions) and publishing them for your viewing pleasure. Watch the recent This Week on Channel 9 episode (or is it?) for the details in under 10 minutes.

So you can view the content as quickly as possible, we publish each session within 24 hours of its completion. The recording includes the PowerPoint presentation, any demos that were shown, audio, and video of the speaker. I grabbed a screen shot from our MIX08 recordings to give you an idea of what they look like.

This year, each recording will be hosted on Channel 9 along with a bunch of related links and a discussion thread. You can use the thread to suggest topics or questions that the speaker may incorporate into their talk or discuss the session after the video is published. Oh yeah...the recordings are completely free to anyone and available in a variety of formats. No login required.

Next, we made a decision earlier in the week that I hope you'll notice at the conference. At the Los Angeles Convention Center (affectionately known as the LACC), we have 15 primary session rooms that are available during 18 time slots (15 "normal" time slots + 3 over lunch). When we plan the master agenda (which was locked-down just yesterday), we traditionally try to predict expected attendance for each session and match it to an appropriately sized room.

Below is a diagram that shows the 15 rooms (whose relative sizing is correct) across three representative time slots. You'll notice that for time slot 1, only 9 of the 15 rooms have been scheduled. Time slot 2 has 11 sessions, and time slot 3 has 10. Notice, though, that there are rooms that remain empty.


The challenge is that it's very difficult to accurately predict attendance. This year, we're using the My Sessions data that over 55% of you have provided, and that helps a lot (thank you!). Still, there are products and technologies that won't be announced until the keynotes, and there's no way to confidently gauge interest in them until we see people filling up the rooms. By then, it can be too late.

At the event, when we get close to filling a room, we route the audio and video of the presentation to one of six dedicated overflow rooms. The overflow rooms are even smaller than the 15 primary rooms, but they allow us to quickly "add more seats" so that you don't miss the session. Overflow situations are never ideal, and if the overflow room fills up, we then have to decide if we want to repeat the session later in the week.

Attendee surveys tell us that sitting in an overflow room is never as ideal as sitting in the primary room (there's still something about being in the same room as the presenter). We also get feedback that packed rooms are less comfortable to sit in. From my experience, I prefer to have an open chair next to me for my backpack or laptop, and frankly, sometimes you just need a little more personal space. You know what I mean. :-)

This year, we're going to try an experiment. Instead of leaving rooms empty and risking more overflows and repeats, we decided to "slide everything to the left" so that we use all of our biggest rooms.

This configuration should help us accommodate as many people as possible in each session while minimizing overflows and repeats. I sincerely hope that this improves your overall PDC2008 experience.

The downside is that some of the sessions that would normally be in smaller rooms will be in bigger rooms. In some cases, the larger room may cause the session to appear relatively empty...even with hundreds of people present. I know this can affect speakers, and I'm sure that many of them will be worried about filling-up their session (my apologies). Fortunately, to my knowledge, we've never received negative feedback that "the room was too big, and I didn't have enough space to stretch out."

So, if you attend PDC2008 and don't like the larger rooms, please let us know. We always listen to your feedback and are willing to adjust for our next event (which is MIX09, by the way).

Only 15 more days!