Microsoft Ignite–Day 1

One word: exhaustion! The event is enormous in all respects–the number of participants, the number of sessions, the number of steps it takes to get anywhere…I spent the day glued to Certification Central, where attendees can come take a practice test (or 10), register for and take a test. According to my fellow Ambaassadors, some attendees only come for the certification process. They can not get enough time either at home or at work to study for and take the test, so they come to the Ignite (or Tech Ed) events and take test after test. The record is 15 tests at one show. Mind boggling, but it makes sense.

From a non-scientific observation, most attendees are male; I would say that only about 10% are female. The diversity of attendees is staggering. They eem to come for all over the world (based on languages heard). Their attire runs the gamut from ultra-casual to close-to-suit-and-tie. Of the few women present, I did observe some women in high heels–I can only imagine their feet last night. But maybe they are among those legendary (to me) women who prefer high heels.

As expected, the food is marginal. But the organization to distribute the food is incredible. They have to herd 23,000 people through a selection area for different types of sandwiches, and they do a great job. The event staff is numerous, and repeats instructions over and over both orally, with signage and hand gestures. It starts when you are still out in the main Concourse with staff yelling where the lunch is being served, repeatedly, and at different points in the hall. The result is a clear tidal wave to the right location and some very tired vocal chords. Once you are in the Food Hall, there is a line of T-shirted staff all waving, pointing, and yelling instructions to keep moving to the left. (They don’t all yell at once, so there isn’t cacophony.) Then you are directed past identical rows of tables, with stacks of box lunches, to the table that is currently ‘designated’. In this way, they empty the tables methodically. There is clear elevated signage on each table, so you can see all the options at the beginning for the table. They allowed for enough room for people who can not make up their mind to ruminate, whilst allowing those of us who make quick decisions to exit and make room for others. I detail all of this because having organized events a tiny fraction of this size, I know that months and months of planning go into these event designs, and if they work right, no one notices them!! But I did, and I salute the Microsoft and Georgia World Congress Center for their meticulous attention to detail.

During my four hour stint at the Certification Center, I had a chance to chat with my fellow Ambassadors and learned some very encouraging things. The first is that the Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT) community is a very collegial community. They see each other multiple times a year at a variety of events, refer business to each other, and generally make life more pleasant for their fellow MCTs. I am both reassured and encouraged by how robust the camaraderie is. I am also delighted to learn that there are a lot of options for me of which I was not aware.

I spent my last hour with the folks from Microsoft Office 365 trying to fix my login ids, which were in a tangled mess. While working on this, I had a chance to ask questions about Office 365, questions that lots of my students ask me. I have summarized them below.

1) Should I continue to buy boxed software every couple of years? My answer has been no, that we should all be moving towards software-as-a-service (SaaS). But I wanted to make sure that I was telling people the right thing, and I am. Microsoft will stop delivering new features to the desktop applications that you buy once every couple of years. The SaaS versions on the other hand, will not only get all the new features, they are upgraded in real time. So as the features are developed, they will get rolled out within a couple of months to your Office 365 account.
2) If you buy Office 365, you can install it on up to 5 devices at once. So if you have a laptop and a tablet you can install Excel and Word (and all the Office software included in your subscription) on both of them. If one of your devices breaks, or you lose one, all you have to do is deactivate that device and download to your replacement device.
3)There are variations in the subscription levels for Office 365, so you can buy as much functionality as you need. If you need MS Project or MS Visio, you can even add those on (as a separate subscription). So there are truly options for everyone from the home user, the small business, to a large enterprise.
4) Storage is included with Office 365, and you can buy more.
5) Microsoft ‘pushes’ down the updates for Office 365 the second Tuesday of every month. Your computer actually ‘receives’ the updates when it is powering up, so you really want to turn your computer off on a regular basis. Make it a practice to turn your computer off several times a week; it will give your computer a chance to do some ‘mental housekeeping’ and clean-up.
6) Should I use Office or Google Apps (Docs, Sheets, Slides)? I really liked Microsoft’s answer to this question. For those of us who do not need a lot of feature depth, Google Apps are fine. But to use them, you need to be on the Internet. While most of us are connected most of our day, we may not be at that critical moment. If you need to have access to your applications while you are both on and offline, you should use Office 365.

You can’t come to a show this huge without a plan, and I am happy to say that I completed my Monday objectives. Onward to Tuesday!