Artists in Residence Down Under

Last week Microsoft ran the first Artists in Residence program outside of Redmond. Seven designer and developer pairs from various companies gathered at the Microsoft offices in Melbourne to learn to use Silverlight and related tools like Expression Blend and Visual Studio. Importantly there was also a large focus on designer developer workflows that Silverlight offers in spades.

Microsoft was nice enough ask me to help out and boy did I have fun! With me were Shane Morris and Michael Kordahi – there’s always action going on when you get these two in the same room.

The training was structured differently from a usual boring old course – we kicked off with a day and half of lab based work. Each attendee received a copy of the course material including labs and sample projects, links and a cheat sheet. Each of the labs where stepped through on the big screen by the instructor (that would be me). This was a great way to process the large amount of work and we had some fun with it – I am the worst for getting bored in a course and there was no way in hell that was going to happen on my watch.

Once the attendees had been blasted with a day and a half of hard core Silverlight training they where given half a day to come up with an idea to work on for the rest of the week… during this time they where asked to produce a wire frame and prototype. They then presented their fledgling projects to the group.

The presentations where fantastic and got the group really engaged – the ideas where really flowing now. Ideas, techniques, tool kits and discoveries where shared for all to see. Some groups even altered their plans based on what they saw (e.g. integrating the Silverlight Toolkit and other things).

For the rest of the week they would work on their own projects with the three of us lurking around in the background to provide guidance as needed. I ran a couple of deep dive session on topics like binding, Model-View-ViewModel and some Dependency Injection. A couple of the groups actually went down the path of M-V-VM which was really cool!

On the final day the groups where shepherded in to the meeting room to present their final work. A couple of beers where consumed as the last minute changes where made.

As the presentations where being made I was hit with a huge sense of pride… earlier in the week these guys didn’t know a thing about Silverlight and now they had made some awesome projects! A testament to the Silverlight platform and tools probably more so than my training excellence 🙂

After all said and done some of the feedback from the attendees was that they didn’t realise just what Silverlight had going for it. Before enlightenment it was just another way to make “Flash like content”. However this view dramatically changed once they saw that Silverlight is far more than just another Flash competitor… it’s designer/developer work flows are far superior to anything else available at this time – the attendees where rather impressed with the separation of concerns and clear cut work flows which was great to see. This was evidenced by the projects they where able to produce in under a week (from scratch, with no prior Silverlight knowledge!!!).

I’d like to finish up by sending out a huge thanks to the attendees and also to Shane and Michael – together we all made the week rock!

John and Bronwen from Soul Solutions have a great writeup and some fantastic imagery from the week (including a great DeepZoom composition).


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