I have been trying to interview Ted for a year or so now and finally I've caught up with him so ... Ted would you like to say "hello" and tell us a little bit about what you are doing here at TechEd?
Hello... thank you for interviewing me, I feel very welcome. ... it shouldn't have taken you a year! Anyway, what I’m doing at Tech Ed is spreading the good word of Sharepoint to the .NET developer crowd, so for I guess the last four and a half years of my life, it's all about Sharepoint. I kind of worked through the nineties as a consultant and trainer and started with COM and .NET, C# and ASP.NET. Then back around the turn of the millennium when I was leaving one training company and not wanting to just get into generic training of C# and ASP.NET, I was looking for an edge and Sharepoint 2003 was about 6 months out. And I was doing a seminar for a couple of months pushing Windows Server 2003 and there was one lecture on this new thing called Sharepoint and the more I looked at it, the more I thought it's something that's getting more and more popular.
It's pretty hard to figure out. You have to be a .NET developer to even understand how this thing works and no one at Microsoft could explain what the heck it was, so I kind of saw a niche as a person who educates, does writing, does research, does training. Yet the more I saw of Sharepoint the more attractive it was, and that was the 2003 platform!
How did you find the switch to Sharepoint from all the COM stuff ? There’s quite a difference ...
It is different. It's something where, to get good at Sharepoint and I’d imagine the same thing if I did Biztalk or Team System, with Sharepoint you can only have one mistress! If you try to do Sharepoint and Web Services and SOA or SQL... it's like you can't! You got to concentrate just on Sharepoint and that has to be your area of passion. There's plenty of places where you can't just get a book and get up to speed, you got to be Google-ing and finding blogs and you got to get connections on the Sharepoint team to find out this thing works and some things you just can't find the answer. Even though you know all the programme managers, there's just ... whoever wrote the code has died ... and no one knows why it works that way and that's the kind of mystery with Sharepoint and is what kind of makes it rather exciting.
What is the attraction for people who are coming into Sharepoint? What makes it a good development platform?
Well as far as what makes it a good development platform, it gives you so much in terms of business productivity whether, you know, you want to work with simple list based data or you want to work with documents, and you want versioning or you want some kind of check in and check out system.
If you're creating stuff from ASP.NET you have to do so much work just to get to the point that Sharepoint gives you out of the box and the other thing probably not to motivate as a development platform, but to me the motivation is look how popular it's getting!. Look at the business opportunity as a developer for you to jump in here at a place where there are so many .NET developers that have been in denial that Sharepoint is a development platform! And with 2003 it was probably a good choice to wait till 2007 came out, but it's really the talented .NET developers that are going to change the direction of Sharepoint.
We've done a lot with the out of the box, we've done a lot with the Sharepoint designer, but the real potential is to see Sharepoint as a development platform. And taking all your ASP.NET skills whether it's creating authentication providers, or navigation providers, or web parts and taking those skills and putting them into the context of a Sharepoint site to me is a huge business opportunity and not that many talented .NET developers have made the switch yet. So those who get in early and get a year or two of understanding the Sharepoint platform under their belt ... those guys aren't going to be looking for work, they're going to be turning down work left and right!
That's what we're doing so I’m glad you've said that! On the converse what are the main challenges facing guys who come to Sharepoint from .NET development?
The big challenge is that there are no productivity tools that are authored in yet. So you find yourself writing and installing .bat files, writing batch files to talk to command line utilities, creating visual studio projects that are class library projects. Basically working for twenty minutes to get to the point where there should be a project template that gives you all the stuff from scratch. There's a lot of tedious stuff and if you've been going through this world where ASP.NET and the development tools just keep getting better and better, you come into Sharepoint and you fall off the edge of a cliff because there's nothing there for you!
You mentioned the 3 phases of Sharepoint...
Yeah, the 3 phases of Sharepoint are denial then anger then acceptance. And so ... there are all these guys who have been in the denial phase basically saying that Sharepoint is not for developers it's for end users. So when a guy comes in and there's no productivity tools and there's no wizards and you want to add some new component and you've got to manually go and update 5 different files inside your project by hand and you've got to keep them all in sync, it's just tedious! And that's kind of the state where Sharepoint is now and probably will be for the next three or four years, until not 2008 but the next version of Visual Studio will we get all the productivity tools that we need. Unless a third party vendor steps up before then, or the Sharepoint community kind of converges on a set of add-ins for visual studio, everyone is kind of doing by hand these days.
I saw you speaking way back at VS live at the beginning of the millennium when you were doing COM+ and such like ... I made a decision to start doing some speaking and, without any hint of flattery hopefully, you were my main inspiration in terms of speaking, so what got YOU into speaking ? How did you start out doing presentations ?
Well I liked... my beginnings were very humble, I was a Physics Major at school, so obviously I took my degree and did nothing with it! ...Snap! ...
...I worked in the music industry as a production engineer for a while, went back to business school. When I got out of business school I liked computing and so I kinda joined a small training company, Quickstart back in Los Angeles. And while I liked the computer, I wasn't a coder, I had no computer science background, so my first job was to go to the Rand Corporation and teach basic windows skills, basic Macintosh skills and then intro to Powerpoint, intro to Word.
So I started teaching receptionists, and like research engineers how to use them and to me the presentation skills and the technical things are both important but they're so ... different. And you can be great at one and not great at the other, but to me I kinda thought it was nice that for the first couple of years I didn't have to be very technical, but I just worried about the presentation.
So, presentation is, your trying to teach someone something. So really distil things and get rid of anything that doesn’t build understanding. So some speakers that I don't think do well, don't really think about the story and how to build the understanding. You see like a lot of new speakers ... they just jump right to the hard esoteric stuff as opposed to doing the building blocks. So do that. There's also something about presenting whether it's in a training class or in front... entertainment is huge.
So if you want to teach something, but if two guys teach you the exact same thing and one is more entertaining, he is far more valuable. And then the other thing about speaking I’ve always found is ... you see some guys that are really technical but they need to feel smarter than everyone and everyone feels that they are stand-offish? So there is something about likeability.
So really worry about likeability, one of the things is make fun of yourself, so your not projecting this idea that I’m so much smarter than everyone else in the room, if you have a training class have other people add their insight and you know, basically acknowledge others as experts, so don't need to be the only expert in the room.
I think it's very important here at TechEd because there are a lot of very smart guys in the audience, definitely a lot smarter than I am. So, what was your worst experience at speaking?
My worst experience speaking, errm can't remember ...Something that maybe changed the way you approached thing?
Gosh I'm trying to think of it, you know ... when was my biggest 'tanked' demo? .... I always kind of fear, I have dreams that it's a huge presentation I have 5,000 people in the audience and I forgot my speaker badge and some cop is not letting me inside the door. So I think I have more of anxiety and dreams of the very worst one. But there's always the one where you have 40 slides and your afraid that your not going to have enough material, so you go long winded then you find you've got 5 minutes left and you've gone through ten slides!
I've had experiences where I don't do my timing right so people will see that you’re taking seven seconds per slide at the end of the deck. So then you feel as though you didn't do it well. The other problem is if your a trainer. You've got say four days to get through all the material, so timing isn't a big deal and if you don't think about this is a conference and you've got sixty minutes or seventy five minutes to do your stuff and get off you got no time you know and they're gonns tank you, so I mostly worry about timing.
On the converse was there a time or a point when you thought "Hey, I’m pretty good at this? Maybe I should do more of this, maybe do the bigger conferences?"
Back in the early Developmentor days, I started doing training, but I think Don Box was known in Microsoft and somehow ... TechEd 97 ... they wanted a VB COM guy and Don threw me a bone saying "You got to use Ted" and they used me. And I went and spoke there and I really liked getting beyond the ten person training class into the hundreds of people in the audience and I guess there was just a click the first time I did it. So I didn't really have the fear of getting up there in front of people and just talking straight to people. So don't talk differently than you would to someone in a bar.
I noticed that about your style you're very personable. You get up there and you're chatting away, you seem very relaxed. Today for instance you've just done a workflow session ... there was a slight problem on one of the demo's but there was never a hint of any panic. You just carried on chatting away. It just seemed to flow so well and you were just yourself on the stage. You are Ted Pattison, not Ted Pattison the presenter and then someone else off stage.
There's something about being a trainer by trade that you get to practise all the time. And so in a conference you're being evaluated against the Microsoft programme managers who speak once a year and it's not really fair. Because this guy gets to speak one hundred days a year to people, so being a trainer definitely helps. Knowing the technology well enough that you have confidence helps, the fact the you've trained and you've told this lecture thirty times before you have to present in front of all these people definitely helps build a level of confidence.
Some guys trying to start out just maybe thinking of doing it what would you say to them?
Definitely User Groups are a great starting place for people to get up and put together a presentation. In the US we have a thing called code camps, code camps are when they put together a Saturday and someone at Microsoft will sponsor it
We have a similar sort of thing in the UK
yeah, that works well, and when they have smaller events when Microsoft launch a product so sucking up to people at Microsoft, if you want to talk in a Microsoft space Finding people there and once again being likeable. Being likeable but showing that your technical and you have technical merit and that you've worked hard to do a coding sample, so being likeable and having credibility, work towards those two things.
Do you have a site? Do you have a blog?
I have a site at tedpattison.net
, I have a new blog. I’ve always been afraid of blogs you go to my friends Mike Fitzmorris and you go to his blog and his last blog was like March of 1977 !! So I almost afraid that I would have a blog and that I just would not post there and then people would make fun of me like we make fun of Mike. But I have a bunch of trainers that work for the Ted Pattison group, Andrew Connell and Shane Young and those guys just blog all the time, we've now seen the value of blogs and getting traffic back and picking up things. So I’m starting now to blog at blog.tedpattison.net
now has my blog, so I’ve done maybe one every two weeks or something like that.
That's better than just 1974
Blogs are kind of hard for me because I can't just be the kind of guy that says someone else has a cool thing here's a pointer. So to me it's like I can't have sex, I have to make love !! I have to do something meaningful and everything I’ve done is very Sharepoint specific, so if I created a new way to do a code sample or something like that so, I want every blog to be something I think about and it takes me several hours to get the right screen captures and stuff like that
Excellent, fantastic, Ted Pattison thank you very much
Thank you for interviewing me, I appreciate it