Developers, developers, developers: a day in the life

More than 6,000 developers have descended on LA for Microsoft’s 2008 Professional Developers Conference. We reveal what life’s really life at code camp.

7:00am The bunfight begins as scores of shuttle buses begin ferrying weary developers from their hotels to the LA Convention Center. Red-shirted staff (or the “Bus Nazis”, as one cheesed-off coder brands them) ensure that coaches from the outlying hotels are only half-full, to give those a little closer to the Center a sporting chance of clambering aboard. Those left behind are distinctly unamused.

crowds-mike-dunn(pic by Mike Dunn~!)

 

7:45am Breakfast. All 6,000 attendees are fed and watered for free. A hall the size of an aircraft hanger houses the breakfast buffet with 15 rows of hot food and fruit (helpfully labelled ‘vegetarian’) at either end of the hall. It’s a Herculean feat of catering. Scores of waiters refill emptying trays; scores more are on hand to clear the tables; there’s even people employed to wave “available seating” signs next to obviously empty seats. Recession? Don’t believe a word of it.

8:30am Keynote time. Dozens of staff, armed with the illuminated wands normally used to wave 747s off the runway, cajole the masses into the endless rows of seats. Leaving a space is punishable by lethal stare. Select bloggers are marshalled towards comfy armchairs, much to the mutual disgust of paying developers and freeloading journalists.  As thousands of laptop lids flip open, the in-hall Wi-Fi becomes more congested than a pile-up on the M25, with pointers permanently poised on the browser’s Refresh button. Speeches last for two, long hours, and only the keenest attendee resists trips to Gmail, Facebook and Twitter throughout.

keynote-mike-dunn(Pic by Mike Dunn~!)

10:30am Time for a much-needed caffeine hit before heading off to a “session”. You can’t walk 15 yards at the Convention Center without tripping over a table creaking under the weight of coffee urns, cookies, chocolate bars and cakes. A square foot of table space contains enough calories to stun an elephant. Fridges loaded with free cans of Coke, Sprite and Mountain Dew (funny tasting Sprite) line the corridors. Baskets of fruit, meanwhile, lay blissfully untouched. Little wonder the average attendee makes Russell Grant look like he needs a good dinner.

fruit-mike-dunn  (Pic by Mike Dunn~!)

11:00am The crowd disperses into dozens of detailed sessions, covering anything from the The Future of C# to Windows Live Services. Sessions generally comprise a couple of Microsoft staff at the front, shrouded behind a jumble of PCs, Ethernet cables and microphones, whilst laptop-wielding employees attempt to keep up with the code demos on their laptops. Sessions end with an open-mike session which is short on humour, and long on highly-detailed inquiries into whether you’ll need WPF 3.5 or WPF 3.5 SP1 to make your code run on Windows 7.

1:00pm Lunch. The halls are again alive with the sound of munching. Meals consist of various configurations of meat and sauces. If they were feeding this to children, Jamie Oliver would be here with his F words and a film crew.

food-dbegley(Pic by DBegley)

3:00pm If a regular session isn’t enough to intimidate you back to Basic, the “deep dive” sessions will give you the technological bends. Only for those who know their children’s birthdays in Binary, the sessions pass by in a blur of Perl, Ajax and other coding terminology that’s beyond your bemused correspondent, but meets with near-universal approval from those who count.

session-dbegley(Pic by DBegley)

5:00pm The bus battle commences in reverse, amid countless, frantic inquiries as to whether it’s stop 7 or 8 for the Sheraton Hotel. In a cruel twist of scheduling, those who are picked up first at the outlying hotels are also the first to be dropped off. And they call this a democracy.

7:30pm Time to relax as Microsoft hires out the entire Universal Studios theme park for the PDC faithful. Relaxation ends abruptly, as chainsaw wielding maniacs leap amongst the crowd, spooking people in the name of “entertainment”. Given the diet of the victims, it’s a medical miracle that nobody collapses clutching their chest. The spellbinding Simpsons ride, which simulates a rollercoaster with an awesome surround-vision cinema, is spoilt slightly by the geeks in the back of the car debating the refresh rate of the projectors.

universal-dbegley(Pic by DBegley)

 11:00pm 6,000 people leaving a theme park simultaneously and heading for the coaches shouldn’t end well. If this was Britain, they’d still be calling taxis for the stragglers in February. But in a feat of engineering that far surpasses anything in the operating systems, Microsoft somehow empties the park and has people tucked up in their hotels within the hour. Six hours sleep, and it’s back on the buses for tomorrow… 

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