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Darren Lewis

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Published: September 20, 2011

I attended a Windows Phone Camp training course on Saturday and wanted to give some feedback on how I think the day went. 

This was a free Microsoft UK Tech Days course that I came across by following @ukmsdn (I highly recommend you put them in your followed list).  Although free it was on a Saturday and I was paying for the train ticket myself so I wasn’t just turning up for a “free lunch”.  There were no course prerequisites beyond .NET development experience and a laptop with the latest SDK installed.  I therefore wasn’t expecting a deep dive and that’s fine but the SDK requirement made me think there was going to be a lot of hands on labs and that’s also fine.  My current appreciation of the platform is pretty weak which was the main premise for attending.  If I could take away from it a better appreciation of where the platform currently is and where it’s going I’d be happy.

Now just to throw a little spanner in the works the week prior was the Microsoft Build Event. Here they announced Windows 8 but more significantly introduced the new Metro Style UI and the developer experience that surrounds it.  This throws a major question for me over the future direction of Win Phone 7 and I knew there was no way we’d get any clarification on that from an unrelated event so soon after.  My assumption was correct but that didn’t stop us asking the questions! :)

Back to the event.  Overall it felt a little too free form with all the sessions being optional and the area outside to be used for collaboration and cracking on with writing our apps.  Hang on, I don’t have one to write yet!  But if I had, none of the organisers were easily available for feedback.  There’s a balance to be struck between sitting attendees in a room and talking them to death all day and allowing them to get hands on.  I think this event went a little too far in the opposite direction without a clear objective.  Realistically the prerequisite should have been - Already have an app in development.  Overall it felt much more like a user group event rather than targeted sessions with a clear objective.  The former is fine and has a definite place in the community but I’d like to have been made more aware of the format up front because if I’m honest I probably wouldn’t have attended.

The sessions themselves with the exception of the first (which started earlier so we missed the intro) were sub par at best with too much time being spent explaining fundamentals that any competent developer could pickup.  For example, did we really need 20 minutes of discussion on the Silverlight control Toolkit and each control therein?  How about just a pointer to it’s existence on Codeplex?  Let’s get into the best practices of using these controls and the real world challenges the presenters have faced in their use.  These are the kinds of things you get real benefit from at these types of event.

My minimum requirement of any offsite event needs to be that I’ve gained more from the day than I would have by spending that time sat watching video content from my Pluralsight subscription or Channel 9.  Unfortunately on this occasion I can’t say I did.

I’ve also signed up for the Windows Azure Bootcamp training on the 30th September so let’s hope that one provides a little more tangible content.

TLDR: Not what I was expecting as there was little structure to the day.  I would have liked to see more hands on labs offered for those of us that don’t have an existing app in development.  The quality of the presentations was below that which I’ve come to expect from Microsoft.  I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with a couple of other delegates about Windows 8 and the overall future of the platform.