Monday, February 12, 2007

European SharePoint Conference, Day 1

Today was the first day of the European (EMEA) SharePoint Conference in Berlin, Germany. As we have recently expanded into the UK, we are now officially a 'global' company (there's a scary thought for you) so we took this opportunity to join our mates from jolly ol' England on a jaunt across the Old Country. I have to say that I am quite impressed by the overall experience - if there were any doubts that SharePoint is a serious application around the world, let them be dispelled here and now. With more than 2,300 attendees (that's nearly twice as many as we managed to cobble together in the States last year) from 40 countries and 90 partners and vendors, it was quite a show. Read on for a summary of the day's events.

BTW, Southwest could learn a few things from SN Brussels Airlines. Like, how about some free chocolates on each trip instead of crappy peanuts, eh Mr. Kelleher?


The Microsoft team kicked off the conference with a five-minute introduction in German (to the delight of the local audience, I might add) which left most of us scratching our heads and saying 'Was is das?'. The 'Wow is Now' video has long since jumped the shark, but the first speakers were energetic enough to make up for it. The catchphrase of the day was 'Ich bin ein SharePointer'. Say that a few times after a couple of Hefeweizen!

Derek Burney

There were quite a few Redmondites around - especially on stage and in the ubiquitous orange speaker shirts - and Derek Burney was first up (with an able assist from Mike Fitzmaurice). He laid some good numbers on us, like license count now exceeding 80 million worldwide and the official size of the internal Microsoft SharePoint deployment: 325,000 portals, sites and subsites comprising more than 12TB of data (who gets to back that up, I wonder?). It was interesting to note that on his slide promoting 'major' companies who had adopted SharePoint, three of the ten are based in Dallas :-)

Mike revealed publicly what had heretofore been confidential, so I can now tell you that sometime next month MS will unveil the official SharePoint Community Portal. Lawrence Liu gave us a rundown of this last week at the UK SharePoint User Group meeting (what, you weren't there?) and it's plenty slick. Just a beta right now but it will be live soon.

They closed with the most ridiculous commercial I've ever seen - a takeoff on those Total cereal ads where they claim that everything and the kitchen sink is in 'just one bowl'. It came complete with a corny jingle and sleazy used-car-salesman actor. Ok, I get the message, but was this really a good use of marketing dollars? Really?

Patrick Tisseghem, Part Eins

I always enjoying listening to Patrick as 1) he knows his stuff, and 2) he's a good presenter. And you just gotta like a guy whose every demo has something to do with beer. Patrick gave the standard rundown on using the object model, talked about garbage collection and good coding practices, and highlighted a bit about working with web services. He covered impersonation pretty well, which I think was lost on most everyone present, and even talked a bit about CAML and SPSiteDataQuery. Although he gave an explicit warning about using the DataQuery object to collect list data instead of looping through the SPListCollection, he did not voice similar concerns about using the object model to loop through SPWeb objects. In fact, he showed us how to do it (albeit briefly) and moved quickly past it.

I suppose I'm destined to be the lone voice in the wilderness on this issue, so let me state it once again in case anyone missed it the first thousand times - DON'T DO THIS! EVER! Unless you know for a fact that you'll never have more than a hundred or so sites in a site collection, this is bad, bad, bad. The overhead of GetSubwebsForCurrentUser and its equivalent(s) is tremendous and should be avoided like the plague. I know that's how it's shown in the SDK but you don't believe everything you read, do you?

Multilingual Working Group

Aside from the bizarre evening entertainment (see below) this was the highlight of the day. We don't think much about it in the States but this is a real pain point for many customers, especially throughout Europe where they often have to support three, four, five or a half-dozen languages at once. Hats off to Microsoft for realizing the severity of the issue and soliciting feedback and advice from partners and users. A couple of partners and myself gave 'em an earful for an hour (I also harped on Lawrence about this last week, so if you're reading this Al, that one's for you!). We came out with some good ideas and even a few suggestions for the workgroup sponsors to take back to Microsoft. We also agreed that since C# seems to be a universal language we are all now adding it to our resumes (CV's) immediately. And no, in case you're wondering, there is no Redneck Language Pack forthcoming in this or any future release, so y'all will have to just go on scratchin' yer heads at my vocabillary.

Content Types and Metadata

Good topic, wrong audience. This was supposed to be on the developer track and although Dustin Friesenhahn gave a good presentation it was all foam and no beer. There were only a couple of slides that even showed a smattering of code - the rest was all point and click. Nice for the IT guys but not what we hardcore OM types were looking for. General disappointment was expressed by all.

Patrick Tisseghem, Part Zwei

After that letdown, we needed some real code to perk us up, and Patrick didn't let us down. Some genius assigned him the topic of Templates, Definitions and Solution Deployment and only gave him an hour - now that's just plain wrong. I could talk for an entire day on any one of those subjects and I don't have all of Patrick's demos and SmartArt. He did an admirable job walking the group through custom site definitions and deployment - not an easy topic even for intermediate coders. Lots of great code samples and the ever-present Beer Team site.

Dinner and Entertainment

The Hotel Estrel Convention Center is reminiscent of Vegas-style auditoriums - lots of multimedia and light shows. After Patrick's final presentation a swarm of worker bees descended upon the room and cleared more chairs in five minutes than were on the entire deck of the Titanic. There's something to be said for German efficiency. While we all wandered off for a beer or two (konnte ich Schofferhofer bitte?) they turned out the 'rounds and we piled back in for some free victuals. I can't say much for the food - it was typical bland conference style fare meant not to offend anyone - but when the lights went down after the meal things go interesting.

Turns out the Estrel is the home of a popular Vegas-style musical review called Stars on Stage. Before we knew what was happening, a pre-Bobby Brown Whitney Houston was belting 'em out on stage, complete with scenes form her music videos and the requisite clips from Bodyguard during 'I Will Always Love You' on the big screens. Without a chance to catch our breath (or keep from falling over with laughter) were were hit in succession with Madonna, Boy George, Louis Armstrong, Tina Turner (who looked awfully like Whitney in a different wig) and finally, as you would expect, Elvis himself. I'll give 'em this - they were pretty damn good, especially considering they didn't have the best acoustics to work with and a stage with no Vegas flair (but some might fine-looking backup dancers). Louis Armstrong was simply amazing - right down to his facial expressions and the gap in his front teeth, this guy has it down, you dig? And all of this with a gigantic Office SharePoint Server 2007 sign in the background. Now don't that beat all?

So that's a wrap for day one. I'll post pictures as soon as I can get a reliable WiFi connection (don't even get me started on Internet access over here). And before I collapse for the night, a hearty "Salut!" to my new friends from Romania, Reka and Marius, and "Moien" to David and Razvan from Luxembourg.

Gute Nacht!