Charles Petzold at the NYC .NET Developers Group

Tonight I went along to the New York City .NET User Group to watch Charles Petzold presenting on Windows Phone 7. It was fun to see Petzold in person and though its obvious he’s more an author than a public speaker he still did a great job. He was very well prepared for the talk and did his best to accommodate the somewhat rowdy crowd. The talk was an introduction to the Windows Phone 7 development experience with a focus on the application lifecycle – specifically tombstoning. This seemed to be at the right level for the crowed as far as I could tell – it seemed the majority of people there knew very little about the new platform.

I’d never been to a NYC .NET Developers Group meeting before. There was a pretty good turnout, well over a hundred people. For me though the event was certainly tarnished by the general lack of organization and some inane questions/observations from the audience.

Firstly the pizzas. Charles did a very polished job of starting his talk with a reflection on how mobile devices have become ubiquitous. He then manoeuvred this into an introduction of Windows Phone 7. He had his talk prepared on a set of notes which he would keep glancing at, but I began not to notice that as I was drawn into the talk. At about 10 minutes in just as he has found his stride and captured the audience the pizzas arrived. Some people didn’t even wait for Charles to stop speaking, they just got up and went to the back of the room to help themselves. Eventually one of the organizers walked up the front and cut Charles off mid-sentence – suggesting now would be a good time for a break. I think his response was something like “ah… err… yeah ok”.

Then there were the questions from the audience. A few people asked questions during the talk. In my mind it wasn’t really appropriate given the size of the audience and the style of presentation – more of a keynote. However, Charles hadn’t asked people to leave questions to the end and I understand that people are probably used to asking questions during a user group presentation. What was really annoying though were some of the questions themselves. Interrupting someone to ask them whether xyz is supported when it should have been clear he was just about to get to that. At the end of the session one guy from the audience went on a completely misinformed rave about the price of phones (including the prices in Pakistan!) , another was asking what video formats were supported, etc. These questions couldn’t be answered by Charles and the organizers (or Microsoft) hadn’t thought to have someone up front with him to answer them. Charles managed to stay very well composed throughout.

One more amusing crowd moment was during the impromptu pizza break. Charles was patiently waiting for us all so a few attendees quite understandably took the opportunity to get a book signed, introduce themselves or ask some questions about the phone or his upcoming book. Charles was actually using his Windows Phone 7 device to run the PowerPoint presentation for his talk. He had the device setup at the front on a stand with a video camera so it could be projected onto the screens. So he’s standing there talking to a few people with the phone next to him on the stand at the current PowerPoint slide. One guy walks up and asks if he can play with the phone. “What now? Err.. . no.”. I’m sure the guy was just eager to get his hands on a real device but imagine someone asking you if they can play with your laptop half way through giving a well scripted talk/demo to a packed room of people? Seriously? Oh well… I got a chuckle out of it.