I'm very, very excited to be going to Microsoft's TechEd conference this year with my boss. Now I'm counting down the days - we leave for Boston on June 10, and the conference runs from June 11 - 16. The first conference I was able to talk my way into going to was VBITS 2000, and as I think back upon my years training and consulting for my previous employer, that was among the best.

I got to rub shoulders with some pretty amazing people, and learned many valuable lessons. I'll never forget sheepishly asking Aaron Skonnard what he thought of XML Data Islands in IE 5, or Bill Vaughn's theatrics (and knowledge) of data access.

I think my approach and goals at the conference may be a little different from some people who are looking forward to a week off to fraternize and network. I'm hoping to learn as much as possible since I'm not sure when next I'll get the opportunity to go to a conference on my employer's expense.

The biggest trick is going to be separating the Fire & Motion from the sessions that will give me knowledge and direction for the work I do on a daily basis. Of course it's good to be aware of what's upcoming, but I've always been really reluctant to spend much of an investment in something that is subject to change. Beyond that I usually prefer to wait when adopting something for a little while (let others be the bug testers) so that also pits me against things that are a bit too futuristic.

With that said, here is my schedule for the week. There are a few things I'd like to see this year (list is totally subject to change, like, on a minute by minute basis):

1. More ASP.NET 2.0
Deeper on the new features, Personalization API, Web Parts, Internals

2. XML / XQuery / LINQ
Some ideas on where these are in the pipeline so I can start using them on projects

3. Workflow
I have DVDs of the last TechEd, and this came up a bit. I'm interested again on seeing an angle to take on this tool.

4. Sharepoint and Biztalk
I signed up for a few sessions but this is the part where I get leary; I'm not sure when the 2007 versions will be out and about. I know there are many, many opportunities to use the current versions of these products and would probably benefit from seeing that kind of stuff right away. But I'm hoping to glean and perhaps get a few tidbits to stay ahead of the curve when the new versions are released.

5. Team System
We are using it in house, so I need to understand it - I also want to get an accurate picture of how Team System can be leveraged by small teams. Most descriptions (and the pricing!) seems to put it in the "enterprise" category but most of what I've worked on in the past, and probably for the forseeable future will be software projects with less than 20 people involved.

6. IIS 7
I use IIS every day, and it's been like an old friend since the early versions. I'd like to see where the product is headed, and how its path meets with ASP.NET 2.0 and all the other pieces of web application development.

7. Architecture Talks
I signed up for a few that will hopefully be interesting and useful. I'd also like to get a better handle on SOA, "contracts," and the like. Distributed architecture makes a lot of sense to me, but I'm a bit wary of the architecture astronauts when it comes to enterprise application architectures - I try to translate that stuff into what I do on a daily basis (enterprise app for a publicly traded company of 5000+ employees) and still sometimes miss the mark. Perhaps I'll get a chance to meet some people in this environment as well who I can maintain contact with.

I'm hoping that I'll be able to change sessions as well during the conference. I'm fairly pleased with what I have, but the flexibility would be nice.

As the week progresses I'll hopefully write down some things I'll be hoping to answer, as well as some pre-conference reading.

TechEd 2006, here I come!