Microsoft Web Developer Summit 2009 RecapSubmitted by Keith Casey on Wed, 12/09/2009 - 15:36
Last week I had the opportunity to visit a little company in Redmond and hear about what they're doing in the PHP world, what they're doing in Open Source, and generally share some feedback. This was my seond year being invited but my first year to attend.
First of all, the entire event was well-run and executed. OSS Dev Strategy Lead Karri Dunn and the event manager Tanya Young both did a fantastic job of putting the whole thing together and lining up numerous great presenters and events in a great location. The Developer and Platform Evangelists (DPE in MSese) - namely Peter Laudati, Will Coleman, and Josh Holmes - were great hosts and kept things moving.
Next, most of the sessions were fantastic. It's one thing to see a presentation on (choose one: SQL Server, IIS, Web Platform Installer), but it's something else entirely to hear from the people who actually built the tools. Each of the teams offered perspective and asked questions that only they can ask. It was fascinating. The best part of this one is that a number of key members spent a significant part of the week with us and actively shared ideas and sought out feedback. Garrett Serack of the Open Source Technology Center, Mark Brown of the Web Platform Installer team, and Ruslan Yakushev of the IIS team are three that stood out to me.
Next, Garrett and a few others did something great for us. I'm working to get web2project functional on IIS and eventually SQL Server and eventually included in the Web Platform Installer, but I don't have the skills and knowledge to properly configure everything. They've set us up with fully configured WISP (Windows-IIS-SQL Server-PHP) VM's to get us rolling. And based on where the Web Platform Installer is and the ideas we discussed, it has a huge amount of potential. For WordCamp NYC, I used it to configure a functional Windows-IIS-Mysql-PHP stack in about 30 minutes and 25 of those minutes were downloading.
Finally, we had the chance to hear from David Strauss of the Pressflow Drupal distribution, Sam Moffatt of Joomla, and Chris Scott and Michael Pretty two of the lead guys behind WordCamp Orlando. To much of the PHP crowd, it was a surprise to find out about the division between the various communities but it's something I've seen at WordCamps and DrupalCon... as odd as it sounds. Regardless, each of these guys was good enough to spend some time telling us about their communities, giving us background on the projects, and generally sharing some of the ideas that make them unique. It was enlightening.
Honestly, I had hoped the first session of the week would be "here's what we learned last year and here's what we did with it" but that session never happened. Admittedly, I have no clue what happened last year but I also don't know how much - if any - of the feedback was acted upon. It leaves me with the question of "will any of our feedback be considered?" which I believe is the opposite of the goal here.
Next, Microsoft needs to figure out how to name things. Did you know that the ASP.NET Ajax library has nothing to do with ASP.NET? I didn't know that until just recently. In fact, when Stephan Walther - their project manager - got up to speak, that's the first thing we told him. No PHP (or Python or Rails or Java or Perl) developer will think to check out something called "ASP.NET Ajax" despite that it can work as a plugin for jQuery.
Finally, Microsoft needs to figure out how to name things. Did you know that CodePlex.com is a Project hosting site (think Sourceforge or Google Code) while CodePlex.org is a Foundation for open source (think Apache or Mozilla)... but they have nothing to do with one another. One is owned and run by entirely by Microsoft while the other is independent but run almost entirely by Microsoft employees. One is a place to host code while the other is a group that will own the code for you.
And one will give your Open Source project credibility. Wait... what?
And this is when the whole thing got ugly.
During the afternoon of the first day, we had a session from Director of Platform Strategy Robert Duffner on the CodePlex Foundation. I raised the above questions and a few others to understand what was going on. That was when [redacted] stepped in. She started an infomercial (her words) on how wonderful the Foundation was and how it will be great. I politely raised my hand to ask a question and she continued, After a few more minutes, I politely raised my hand and she continued. Then she said the fateful line that ticked me off:
By joining the Foundation, companies will know that your Open Source project is more than five guys in the basement.
At that point, I raised my hand again and stood up. She asked me to sit down and she'd get to my question after her infomercial (her words) was done. I responded with something along the lines of "No, because you're being incredibly insulting and I am personally offended."
And then things got ugly. Well, uglier...
In a "heated discussion" that filled the rest of the session, the hallway for the next hour, came up at an event that evening, and again at a lunch event the next day, I expressed my opinion and challenged some of basic assumptions. Without going into gory detail, here's a brief summary of my points:
Open Source software existed in spite of Microsoft for many years, they're the ones that are late to the party. We [in the PHP community] don't need Microsoft's credibility. Microsoft needs our credibility in this space as evidenced by our invitation here this week. The Foundation solves a problem Microsoft created. Microsoft-centric developers have been told for years that Open Source is "evil" or "communist" or "will steal your IP" or "will steal your jobs" and Microsoft is the only organization that can reverse this FUD.
All of that said, all big organizations are made up of dozens of little organizations which are sometimes in disagreement and sometimes in open war with one another. Microsoft is no exception. Giving them the benefit of the doubt, I spoke with Robert Duffner at length that evening and have a better idea of the goals and priorities.
Am I sold? No, but I have promised Josh Holmes and Peter Laudati to do my own research to figure out what the CodePlex Foundation is and isn't. There's a lot of angst on both sides but once I draw some conclusions, I'll share the results of that research in this space.
Was I offended? Yes.
Do I believe that this is the a common mindset within Microsoft? Possibly.
Do I believe that the Microsoft people I work with have this mindset? Definitely not.
In summary, would I do the trip again? Yes. But the primary thing I want to see next year is how/if our feedback was taken. Even if it wasn't taken or is just lower on the priority list, tell us. We give a significant amount of our time, energy, billable hours, and brain juice to give feedback, please use it.
Disclosure: Microsoft is a customer of Blue Parabola, we are members of the Website Spark program to test our code on IIS and SQL Server, and Microsoft paid most of my expenses to be there for the week.