Sonja Sohn at Bouchon

While dining at upscale Bouchon restaurant in the Venetian, TB noticed a woman she thought she recognized seated behind me enjoying dinner with a white guy with dreadlocks. She leaned toward me and asked if the woman over my right shoulder looked familiar. I turned my head casually and saw a face I had grown accustomed to seeing on a weekly basis around this time of year during the last four-odd years. It was indeed Sonja Sohn. I would later learn, through my incomparable Wikipedia referencing skills, the gentleman with her was her husband, Australian musician Adam Plack.

Fans of the hit HBO series, The Wire, know her as the inimitable Shakima “Kima” Greggs. In fact, that is who TB and I remembered her as until we consulted with Sister Char via a quick telephone call—TB actually knew her first name but couldn’t recall her surname. Char replied with her government name instantly: She has been a Sonja Sohn fan since her role as Lauren Bell in Slam. Regrettably, I had forgotten all about Slam but I remember vividly TB and I having our first introduction to Ms. Sohn and The Wire during a marathon DVD-watching session while on our honeymoon in 2004. We literally sat in the bed for hours, under mosquito netting on Benguerra Island, Mozambique, captivated by the characters and storyline unfolding in front of our eyes on the laptop screen.

Benguerra Island is in the Indian ocean off the coast of Mozambique and Marlin Lodge, where we stayed, was powered by generator. As a result, the little bit of electricity available was used for cooking, AC and basic lighting. There wasn’t much to do (“no TVs, no telephones, no snacks, no stores, very little ice and minimal refrigeration”) once the sun went down except relax and hang out together. It was perfect.

Ms. Sohn and her husband were just finishing their meal as we prepared to leave. TB and I ambled up to their table, determined not to miss an opportunity to express our appreciation of her work which has provided us hours of entertainment since Mozambique. Both were very warm and down-to-earth and she seemed genuinely appreciative to receive TB’s kind words. I remained in the background nodding and smiling. Ms. Sohn caught both TB and me by surprise when she asked our names and reached out to shake our hands. She asked if we enjoyed our dinner and told us to be sure we watch tomorrow night. We bid them a good evening and were off.

The timing of our meeting could not have been more appropriate. The Wire comes to an end with the final episode airing tomorrow night. If you aren’t already a fan, go grab the DVDs from Netflix or Blockbuster. It really is a quality show composed of quality people like Ms. Sohn.

(Bouchon is excellent. I’ve dined there twice now. The food is exquisite, the service impeccable, the vibe divine. Try the monkfish and French green lentils entree if it is on the dinner specials menu. Have their signature pomme frites as an appetizer. Make a reservation.)

MIX 08 is a Wrap

Microsoft MIX: The Next Web Now It has been an eventful and, by all accounts, successful week for Team Microsoft here in Las Vegas.

The UX Summit went more smoothly than the previous three—several participants commented my involvement helped considerably. MIX was an amazing experience for customers, partners, trade press, industry analysts and employees alike. We stepped up and delivered a compelling story that has resulted in some very favorable reporting on top tech news sites and blogs.

My team pulled off the Expression 2 MIX communications plan, which we have been working on since January with our internal PR team and our agency account executives at Waggener Edstrom. You would be amazed how much work goes into a press release, press kit, and an executive blog post (penned by yours truly). I am especially proud of that last item since Soma is a newly-minted Senior Vice President at Microsoft and he keeps a tight rein on what gets published on his blog.

The following list of articles include quotes attributed to me from a subset of press interviews and analyst briefings at MIX:

All in all, I could not feel more pleased with the results of this week. It is onward and upward from here as we head into fiscal year 2009 planning, the MIX Essentials events happening around the world, Tech-Ed US and PDC this fall.

Playing to Wynn

I have a few minutes to check in before my next activity. I was up at 5 AM yesterday and didn’t turn in until 2 AM today. This is going to be a long week. The UX Summit went from 8 AM to 6:30 PM and we dined as a group in the private dining room of the upscale Daniel Boulud restaurant inside the Wynn hotel. There were 50 of us and, as co-host, I made the rounds throughout the evening and was in the last group to leave. The four-course dinner didn’t wrap up until 11 PM(!) but the evening still didn’t end.

A smaller group of us walked back to the Venetian and watched a colleague play roulette for about 30 minutes. We then went to the V Bar (also in the Venetian) and talked over drinks. I finally called it a night and headed to my room just after 1 AM to prepare for Day 2.

Day 1 of the Summit was great based on attendee participation and feedback. My presentation went smoothly and I successfully rolled out the marketing strategy for the duration of the fiscal year and ahead into FY2009. We started on time, ended on time and kept everyone engaged, which is an accomplishment for such a long day holed up in a hotel conference room.

Today I was up at 6 AM and we just wrapped up again at 6:30 PM. I am double-booked for dinner tonight with the Summit attendees dinner and an invitation-only event with key partners & press from Japan. (You may recall they love me over in Tokyo after Remix last fall…Keith-san Ichiban is back!)

Day 2 of the Summit was another long haul but it’s done and the event was a resounding success. Tomorrow is the big event, MIX, and I have a day/evening full of press briefings and press events following the 3-hour keynote. I’d better get some sleep. Perhaps after watching the presidential primary coverage while the results from Ohio and Texas are analyzed.

MIXing it up in Las Vegas

Microsoft MIX LogoWow, have things been busy!

If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know it is that time of the year again. The 3rd annual Microsoft MIX conference kicks off this week (Wednesday) at the same location, the Venetian in Las Vegas. I arrived in Vegas just before 11 PM tonight in preparation for the User Experience (UX) Summit I am co-hosting on Monday and Tuesday prior to MIX. This week is going to be packed. As with previous events, there are some major announcements planned for MIX and lots to discuss with our fellow UX Summit attendees.

This is the fourth UX Summit which, twice a year, brings together roughly 60 Microsoft employees from around the world to plan strategy and tactics for advancing Microsoft’s platform and tools products for the Web, Windows and devices. Attendees include Microsoft Expression product managers, designer audience marketing managers and user experience evangelists for the US, the UK, Canada, France, Germany, India, Korea, Japan, China, etc. I have been involved with MIX since the inaugural show (ahh, the early days) and I have participated in every UX Summit (including the one last fall in Madrid). However, this is my first time officially co-hosting the event with one of my colleagues in the Developer & Platform Evangelism group. It is one of the new duties I have since completing a massive re-org within my parent organization which began before Thanksgiving and was officially rolled out in mid-January.

My friends and family always ask exactly what it is I do at Microsoft. It is now actually quite simple to articulate: I lead the team of product managers for Microsoft’s designer audience and tools. Our responsibilities include inbound/outbound marketing of Microsoft Expression Studio, a suite of tools for professional designers, and designer audience marketing. If you are a designer or developer using or considering Microsoft products to create Web or Windows applications, chances are high you have already come across our work. If not, click here or here or here to visit the marketing and community sites created and managed by my team. We have been very busy, indeed.

I will capture this week’s activities on my blog as time permits. I need to get some sleep since we’ll be going from 7 AM to ~11 PM tomorrow. I won’t be getting much sleep between now and when I return to Seattle on Friday. The good news is TB is coming down on Wednesday night so we can celebrate her birthday together in Vegas.