Today, I attended the Microsoft Energize IT Conference at the Convention Centre in Toronto. Having been to many Microsoft conferences in the past, I was reluctant to attend since most of them were a biased propaganda show for sales people and managers.
Energize IT was a typical Microsoft conference: lots of money, free food and swank. When the keynote presentations started, it looked promising. The first few speakers emphasized the need for feedback from the audience such that Microsoft can adapt to the changing needs of their customers, as well as the need for a sense of “community” amongst us. And to make things even better, there were power bars at each table in the auditorium for laptop use as well as free wireless access (I brought my laptop and was able to check my emails during the boring parts of the presentation). From people’s facial expressions and body language, everyone seemed engaged.
However, when Andre Mintz took the stage to talk about Microsoft Security, the tone of the audience changed dramatically. Andre had a few good jokes (e.g. If your network is running smoothly, the bad guys are probably keeping it up for you.), but he was clearly a Microsoft “evangelist” and firmly talked down to the audience. The key turning point for the audience was when he brought up a PowerPoint slide that compared the number of vulnerabilities in Microsoft operating systems compared to Red Hat Linux, Ubuntu Linux and Mac OS X. Guess which OS had the lowest on the chart? Yup, Windows was far lower than the others. Andre firmly told the audience, “We are all in agreement then, Windows has the least vulnerabilities”. An eerie silence followed this falsity until someone behind us yelled “Yeah, only the ones you recognize!”. Andre quickly moved on to other slides in the same tone with similar Microsoft-slanted security statistics.
Following this, the audience was very quiet. The occasional cheers and rants were absent and people slowly left to the foyer to prepare for the free lunch. By the time we left at noon, several chairs behind us were empty (at the beginning of the session, I could see no free chairs). Our mood was destroyed by dishonesty, and as we roamed from room to room during the breakout sessions during the afternoon, the presenters (including Andre) were always alone in the foyer - I never saw a single person approach them to talk. The workshop sessions were not much better than the presentations. Poor presenters (especially the XNA people), evangelists and tons of useless PowerPoint slides filled the workshop rooms. We left early. We were not “energized”.
If you are reading this and work for Microsoft, this blog entry contains the feedback you asked for at the onset of the meeting. Had the presentation focused less on evangelism and more on productivity, I have no doubt that the audience would have enjoyed it more.
Was it a waste of time? No, not really. After all, it was a networking opportunity…..and free lunch. But I don’t think I will go to another one anytime soon. I wonder what a Linux conference would be like…