The Cabanas - the Best Part about TechEd
My favorite aspect of TechEd, by far, are the Cabanas. There are over a dozen Cabanas located in one large room in the Convention Center that intersects two wings of the building where various talks are held. Each Cabana focuses on a different aspect of Microsoft technology - security, mobile devices, developer tools, etc. - and each is staffed by a small group of Microsoft employees that are there to answer questions, give presentations to groups of 10 to 20 folks, and basically interact with their customers. With the large sessions seating hundreds of individuals, it can be hard to ask a question or make a comment. The Cabanas, however, allow for direct interaction between Microsoft and TechEd attendees.
While the Cabanas are staffed by Microsoft folks, they are not a one-way mouthpiece for the company. People can come up to various Microsoftees working at the Cabanas and have a dialog. Ask questions. Bounce ideas around. Socialize. I even got to help someone on an ASP.NET problem. A fellow working at the Cabana was an expert at C#, but not at ASP.NET, and needed to help answer an attendee's question. So he walked around the Cabana area asking people if they knew ASP.NET and if they could help someone.
The Cabanas are also a great place to chill out. I don't care how intelligent and passionate you are about technology - after several hours of tech talks, for days on end, your brain starts to feel like soup. The Cabanas offer bean bag chairs and big ol' comfy couches to kick back at. I've seen a number of folks sleeping, likely having had too much fun in the nearby Gaslamp district the night before. To top it off, the Developer Tools Cabana even has three networked XBoxes (where I sank over an hour at yesterday), which can host up to 12 simultaneous players on Halo. To the right you can see Duncan Mackenzie enjoying the amenities.
I'm not at TechEd today, had training with a client this morning and have my ASP.NET class to teach this evening, but I will be there all day tomorrow... not sure if I'll be able to make it on Friday.