ConnectED: Lowering the bar

I’ve seen a lot of folks who have written up their thoughts on ConnectED, and most are fairly positive.  Me, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong, there were some good things, and I’ll get to those in another post, but my thoughts can be summed up in something I said all week.

“I came in and set the bar low, and IBM limboed right under it.”

Let’s do this as a list as well shall we?

  • Having one hotel at $299 a night, with no official alternatives and no shuttles sucked for those who might not be able to spring for $299 for a hotel.
  • Getting drink tickets with my badge was the first huge red flag that this was cost cutting in the highest degree.  They relented, only after so many people, including myself, decried the choice all over social media.
  • No pen or notepad in the bag.
  • The Sunday night reception was pathetic. They packed everyone into a small space to give the illusion of a packed house.  All we got was long lines, crappy food, and claustrophobia.  And they couldn’t spring for some standup heaters outside… ugh.
  • Having excellent technical sessions in the smallest rooms, and then turning away people once those rooms were full with no overflow and few repeats sucked. Especially when there were IBM sessions in big rooms with little to no audience.
  • There was no ConnectED signage on the speaker podiums which just seemed weird.
  • Going to an IBM presentation on the “future” of Domino only to have the first 50 minutes be rehashing what we already know doesn’t bode well for any actual future of the product.  Hell, put a bullet in the head of the Notes client for all I care, but you should really keep Domino.
  • While the OGS was better than some, there was still really no mention of the core products at all.  Sure Verse runs on an NSF and they briefly showed Connections Next, but once again I want to know more about the core.  They’ve been so bullish on Connections in the past, and now that we finally run it in house, it disappears.
  • The Tuesday night party.  I can see not being able to afford a park, and while that sucks, I thought having it at the beach might have been nice.  Winds forced it into the Dolphin N. Hemisphere Ballrooms (where lunch was held) and as a good friend of mine tweeted “It was lunch with bad lighting.”  The tables meant that people splintered into groups instead of mingling, the band was so loud when they were playing that it was hard to talk, and the food choices were minimal.  I thought the Sunday night party was bad until I went to this.
  • Scheduling still wasn’t great.  I know that’s hard to do, but there were several slots where I wanted to see multiple things, and others where there was absolutely nothing of interest.  In the past, more repeats made this an easier thing to deal with.
  • Showing up to an 8AM session where the room was still configured as a lunch room with round tables.  It had to be torn down and reconfigured, which meant a crowd standing around outside twiddling our thumbs for 15 minutes.  Then once getting in, the AV guy had a hard time getting things on the screen.  So another 15 minutes goes by.  It was brutal.  Did they not know the schedule?  I mean, it was printed on my conference guide.
  • And by the way, I missed the old conference guide that fit in the old badge holder.
  • Oh, and the snacks one afternoon were M&M’s and gummy bears in large bowls.  Apparently when they went to Staple’s for the drink tickets, they went next door to Walmart for the large bags of candy.
  • There was no IBM store that I could find.  No place to buy books, or swag or anything else.  Isn’t that something they MAKE money on?
  • The product showcase just felt so cramped to me, but it may have been better for vendors.  I’ll leave them to say what they think.
  • And yes, as petty as it is, the lack of a Pretzel Cookie was like kicking us while we were already down.  It was just a final reminder that this conference was an afterthought, a contractual obligation.

So yeah, maybe I sound all doom and gloom, but when I pay that much for a conference, and pay that much for a hotel, I have some expectations.  And to me, a lot of those really just fell short.  There WERE some good things, and I’ll talk to those in another post.

I guess it comes down to this.  As another friend said “If you are going to do this conference, do it right, or make it something else.”  I agree.  It can be something else, and somewhere else, as long as I can meet once a year with the people I love in this community.  Despite the IBM blunders, I did enjoy myself and learned quite a bit.  More on that soon.