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Best Training Course/Training Event...

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    One of the reasons I love being self-employed is I can choose my own training, whether it's self teach, courses or events like user group conferences. To me it's a big benefit that I don't have to put up with the "standard" courses from the two corporations that offer "everything", which is often the insistence of some employers because of the deals they've struck up. But it also means I take a much harsher view of training courses or events because I'm not on a "free jolly" someone else has paid for - it's real money off my bottom line and when a week long course can cost almost as much as a new car it's important to get value for money.

    I've been to some truly inspirational courses (a one-day Ted Pattison workshop tacked onto a two-day user group conference particularly comes to mind as it turned on so many lightbulbs in areas I'd previously struggled with). And I've been to some truly dreadful ones (one on Site Server was so bad I sent a two page critque of what was wrong with it and actually got my money back). One of the things that amazed me about the really bad Site Server course is how while people will complain very vocally about how bad a course might be they will then happily fill in a critique sheet that averages 8, 9 or 10 out of 10 because they "don't want to cause a fuss and I'm not paying for it anyway". As someone who spent two years teaching mainframe courses myself I hate this - sometimes you have to deliver a course that you know is utter crap, a one dayer you have to pad out to five days perhaps, or a course that is virtually identical to a pre-req that everyone in the class has already done, but you can't persuade the boss that it's crap because all the critiques are wonderful and it's making the money. There have been times where from the teaching side of the fence it seems that all you have to do is smile, tell lots of jokes and entertain with a few anecdotes that are vaguely relevant to the course material and you can get away with murder!

    I loved TechEd Europe the first time I went and quite enjoyed it the second time, but when I look at what it cost to attend and the real value of all those rushed 90 minute demo slots which can be extremely variable in quality (and the time needed after the event to actually digest a lot of it) I couldn't really justify the cost of going again this year - although I have to admit that I'd probably pay money to hear Don Box read out a phone directory, the guy is THAT good!

    Anyway, forgive the long ramble, but from a purely selfish viewpoint I'm going to attend the Patterns and Practices summit in June (it's cheap, even with three days lost pay), but this time try and put a bit of effort in BEFORE the event to try and get more value out of it. Has anyone here attended a previous Patterns and Practices summit? What did you think? Good? Bad? Indifferent?

    And to broaden the thread out from the specifics What have been your best/worst training experiences? Are there any companies you've found to be consistently good or consistently bad? Courses and training are the one thing that there don't appear to be web site reviews for, despite the high cost - so please comment and share your experiences.

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    In 2000 I attended VSLIVE in New York. Aside from meeting some if the developers I had always admired (Dan Appleman for example). I had the occasion to sit in VB session with Francesco Balena. I can honestly say I would sit through that guy reading a phonebook as well even with his broken English. A number of things came to light for me that session I will never forget it. I have bought any of his books that I have come across.

    I also attended SDEAST some time ago. I found some content there useful but over all the experience left me a bit underwelmed. I was especially put off by the rampant bashing of the software development paradigm that had served me so well to that point. I know that my coding practices were not the greatest at that time but hey I was there to glean information on how to do it right not to be lectured to. Certainly the Birds of a Feather sessions I managed to sit through were just plain BAD. Clearly little or no thought went into them. I did present my opinions at the time in critique but unlike you I did NOT get my money back. I can say that if I get anything from SD I file it in the trash post haste.

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    The best training course I attended by a WIDE margin was DevelopMentor's Guerrilla XML class.  9 AM to 9 PM for 5 days on everything XML.  I came into the class with a rudimentary knowledge of XML and came out of the class feeling very confident about my ability to leverage XML in my development projects.  The guys at DevelopMentor really know their stuff. 

    As a general rule, when I go to a Microsoft event like TechEd or the PDC, I make a point of seeing the sessions that are presented by non-Microsoft employees.  You tend to get more "meat" and less "marketing". 

    One of the worst sessions I attended at a Microsoft session was one where the presenter was supposed discuss advanced topics in C#.  What it ended up being was a "show-off" session for this Windows Media Player visualizer he put together.  The whole thing came off as a "look at what I can do" sesson.  I don't know about you all but in my job, I don't write WMP visualizers.

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    I did the Developmentor Guerilla COM class a few years back, and it was leaps and bounds beyond anything else I've found. No messing about, no padding, and plenty of caffeine.

    And I agree, Don is a great instructor!

    Alas, I'm not sure I could coax that kind of money out of my managers again. I'd definitely do another DM course.

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    It wasn’t training per se, but a seminar with Developmentor and the speaker was Jason Masterman. Hands down one of the best speakers I have seen in my whole career (2 years Tongue Out).

    Was sent to a HOTT Advanced class...... So I get there and on our training PC there is that fat MS VB.NET book (which is a good ref for BTW). Well the entire week we just read through the book and do some samples they came up with. I pretty much could of bought the book on my own and gone through it at home and saved my company money.

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    We had the appdev cds for classic asp and they were great. They (Mgt) decided to get the ones and they were horrible. I know a lot of people love appdev but I am just speaking from my experience  and would not recommend them.

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    I took a DevelopMentor COM class, and I really enjoyed it.  Unfortunately, I didn't learn anything new that I needed or that I hadn't taught myself.  To be fair, the course started at the very rudiments of what COM was built on and stopped at basic intra-process calls, and I was using (D)COM for intra- and inter-process calls and distributed transactions.

    I enjoyed and learned a lot from SunEd's Patterns and EJBs classes.

    I took an utterly forgettable, I think, ASP basics, but I've completely forgotten it.  Really didn't need it at the time-- my (D)HTML/Javascript/ASP.NET days were a long way off.

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    Three thoughts on this

    1. DevelopMentors Bootcamps. The ones that run 10-12 hours a day. Especially if you get somebody like Fritz Onion. HARDCORE!

    2. Nothing teaches you a product like investing your own time in making it do things you want to do. I'm sort of teaching myself InfoPath as an alternative to writing ASP.NET.

    3. Writing a book. You know, you may feel so totally at one with something that you say "oh yeah, I could write a book about that." Go ahead. I dare you. I (breaking the rules of protocol and skipping over the single and double dog dares) TRIPLE DOG DARE you to. You'll learn way more than ever wanted to know.

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