SharePoint Connections 2011 Preview: Creating the Ideal Learning Agenda

If it's Halloween, it must be Connections. Which means three to four thousand IT admins, developers, and IT managers will be in Las Vegas October 31 through November 3, trying to pack in as much learning and training as they can.

Called Dev Connections (or, depending on what subject area you're mainly interested in, SharePoint Connections, Windows Connections, Visual Studio Connections, HTML5 Connections and Almost-Every-Microsoft-Product-You-Administer-or-Develop-For Connections), the conference provides a way to get more than the Microsoft word on Microsoft products. And it provides a very nice roundup of what you need to know in SharePoint land these days.

I've already planned my ideal Connections agenda. Let's see how it matches up to yours. What are you most interested in learning? What is your employer most interested in you learning? (And do the two match?)

First, I'd go to Dan Holme's guaranteed-to-be-interesting lessons learned session on SharePoint: "HAD08: Managing the SharePoint Disruption." I think it potentially offers a good, big-picture look at SharePoint that you tend to lose in day-to-day operations in the trenches. The summary says I will "take away a framework within which to understand and communicate the role of SharePoint in your organization, a punch list of issues to consider in your architecture and governance design, and an understanding of the technical, cultural and procedural components of a successful SharePoint implementation." Sounds like a good start.

I'd then go to Ram Yadav's "HMS07: Migrating from SharePoint 2007 to SharePoint 2010." Yes, I know SharePoint 2010's been around for (relatively speaking) a while now, but a surprising number of companies still have yet to make the leap. (Then I'd go to the expo hall and see what the vendors have to say.)

Because you can never get too much background in troubleshooting, and because they acknowledge that admins can get a little tired of the lack of work-life balance, I'd go to this one: "HAD13: SharePoint Logging & Debugging: The Troubleshooter's Best Friend." Jason Himmelstein and Cornelius van Dyk promise to "lift the veil on the new and exciting features in SharePoint 2010, providing the roadmap to save you a ton of time every time you troubleshoot or debug an issue in SharePoint. Reclaim your evenings and weekends once and for all by taming the SharePoint debugging beast!" I'm guessing the exclamation mark is justified.

And because he has a nice voice, and Office 365 is such a hot topic, I wouldn't miss Asif Rehmani's "HOF03: Office 365: Customize SharePoint Online with SharePoint Designer 2010."

Then, just because I have a secret yearning to be a SharePoint developer, or at least play one on TV, I'd see a session by Ted Pattison and one by Andrew Connell. I like Ted's Accelerated Introduction duo-one session on JavaScript and one on jQuery, and Andrew's Introduction to Creating Silverlight Applications using the MVVM Design Pattern. I would be prepared to be lost, but I figure just hearing it would be a start.

I'd also go see Paul Stubbs speak. Probably, again, I'd pick one related to Office 365: "HMS03: Building Your First Mobile Application for Office 365 (Part 1)."

And then, because I'd feel so overconfident thinking I'd understood all that dev talk, I'd go see Dr. James McCaffrey from Microsoft Research present on bees. Yes, bees. In "Simulated Bee Colony Algorithms: Solve the Impossible!" McCaffrey will "describe exactly what SBCs are, demonstrate some examples of SBCs implemented in C# setting world records for benchmark challenges including the Traveling Salesman Problem, and explain how SBCs are related to other AI techniques such as Genetic Algorithms and Particle Swarm Optimization."

They had me at Particle Swarm Optimization.

Finally, for desert, so to speak, I'd relax and watch three of the tech industry's favorite gurus at their panel session titled "PANEL04: Hello, Windows 8? This is iPad. You Win. Maybe... ." Seriously, you could give these guys any topic and they'd run with it, but all three-Paul Thurrott, Mark Minasi, and Sean Deuby-have been immersed in Windows 8 this year. And, as the session blurb says, they "undoubtedly will not be shy about sharing their views."

If I were going to Connections next week.

Depending on how agile your manager is at requesting training dollars, you might still have a chance to go to Connections. If you go, I'd like to hear what your favorite sessions were.

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