Normally every year I have someone help me get a good photo of the yellow community. Unfortunately, I messed up the settings on my camera this year, so the person helping with the photography wasn’t able to get good shots. That said, Oliver Heinz got a wonderful shot, and it’s posted on flickr with a great ConnectED 2015 photoset. Check it out.
Okay, I know the last post seemed completely down on IBM, and mainly it was because of logistics and cheaping out on basic stuff. It’s just that such a high bar had been set by Lotusphere in the past. I was there when 10,000 attendees took over everything, and comparing this year to even prior down years was pretty bad.
That said there were some excellent things that came out of ConnectED.
The main one is IBM Verse. For the first time in a long time IBM has something sexy to sell, and they are actually marketing it, by name, on TV. It’s been a long long time since that has happened, so that in and of itself is huge news.
By using analytics and Watson, they are really trying to differentiate this offering from other email systems on the market. I think they will succeed, and hopefully this can be used to move those unhappy with Notes to the browser-based Verse.
I’ve been to a lot of briefings leading up to ConnectED, and my biggest concern all along has been the lack of support for on premises installations of Verse. Well in Scott Souder’s session on Verse he asked the audience how many would like it on-prem, and damn near the entire audiences hands went up. The demand is there, and they said it will happen the second half of the year. That said, I’ll believe it when we have the code up and running in Development.
IBM also announced that they will be putting out a “freemium” model of Verse so normal consumers can use it as well. This is going directly against the likes of Gmail, and I think it’s a pretty bold move. Not sure it will get a huge uptake, but you never know.
As excited as we all are, we do have to remember that it’s still just a browser based email client. So I’m tempering my enthusiasm a bit, but still looking forward to getting my hands on it.
Fighting to Win
The next huge thing for me, was a story from Steve McDonagh. Mr. McDonagh’s company was contemplating moving 40,000 users to Google Apps. In order to avoid that, IBM had to combat Google on price, features and functionality. Apparently IBM really stepped up to the plate and fought for it, and in the end, won. Now it was a SmartCloud play, which is where IBM really wants you to go, so I can see why they fought so hard. That said, it’s still heartening to see IBM really fight.
Would they fight just as hard for my 600 on premises users? Not sure, but I’ll give them credit in this case.
The technical sessions… were technical
Even though some of them ended up full and having to turn away attendees, the consensus is that the technical content was much better than years past and had much less fluff. Room size and scheduling were still an issue, but if you wanted good deep technical content, you could find it. It wasn’t ALL marketing and HR speak. I would have like liked to see a little more on the admin side but I’ll still take it.
Thanks as always to the particular track managers who fight for good content. You know who you are.
There ARE IBMers who get it
I spoke to many truly passionate IBMers who feel the same way we do. They hate the lack of focus on the core products, they disliked the cheap direction this years conference took, want to see IBM Verse on premises, and really want to do the right thing. They exist and they are wonderful people, OUR people. Hopefully they survive job cuts and can continue to fight for us.
I’ll even give props to Jeff Schick who has said many of the right things at the conference. I just hope he can do some of them before he’s rotated out to some other division as happens all too often.
A Community Re-Energized
Some folks have talked about the energy at the conference, and it WAS really palpable. I’m not sure if it was just everyone trying to enjoy what might be the last hurrah or what, but it was there and it was real.
That’s the thing. I’ve been to other IBM conferences and have talked to others who attend them all the time, and I always hear and see the same thing. There is NO other IBM community out there quite like ours. We are actually the most social, in both the sense that we are all over social media AND all meet in the bar until it closes down.
If the OGS is bad, you’ll know immediately by the snark on Twitter. What did people take away from the show? Read their posts on Facebook and their blogs. Did people enjoy themselves? Look at all the pictures on flickr and Google+.
I hope IBM sees this somehow, and actually realizes that this group of users who have grown up on Groupware, knowledge management and now social business are really the ones doing the most with the products. Give us this type of conference, and talk about our software (Notes, Domino, Connections, Sametime, Verse etc.) and we will come, and we will spread the word.
We have ALWAYS been social, and we have always meant business.
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.
Myself and many of my friends have been migrating south every January for nearly twenty years to gather as a community, learn, network, and see each other in real life. It’s been an awesome ride, but Lotusphere as we know it in Orlando, is probably finished. Since that’s the case, that walk brought back a ton of memories, and so I thought I would share many of them, in no particular order.
- Hating the Wild World of Sports as a closing party, but LOVING the Brian Setzer Orchestra
- Going to the first several Lotuspheres not knowing anyone and keeping to myself.
- Finally engaging online at Scott “The Turtle” Wenzel’s Totally Gonzo Unofficial Lotusphere page, and talking with a lot of folks online.
- Going to that first ESPN party and meeting Scott in person and having him introduce me to many folks including Wes Morgan and Bill Buchan.
- On that fateful night, matching my friend Bill drink for drink. The next morning I had one of the worst hangovers of my life. Vomiting, dry heaves, splitting headache. When I finally was well enough to hit the Sunday afternoon sessions, I ran into Bill, and he was just peachy. In tip top shape. I learned my lesson to never try to match him again.
- Meeting John Head for the first time when he saved a seat in the front row for me to attend one of his sessions.
- Meeting this young Irish lad who had built the template everyone was running their blog on, Blogsphere. His name was Declan Lynch and to this day he is an incredible friend, and for some time now, also an incredible coworker.
- Being introduced to Jaegermeister and Red Bull by Ms. Terri Sciolla.
- Meeting and partying with Devin Olson, only to sit next to him the next day and not recognizing him because he had shaved off the full beard he had the night before.
- Enjoying the birthdays during the event of Liz (Olsen) Novak, Wild Bill, Terri Sciolla and most recently Dr. Marky Roden.
- Having people like Andrew Kelly and Sean (and Rhonda) Harris appear for the week of Lotusphere only to disappear again until the following year.
- Having Paul Mooney talk a pretty, young SeaWorld employee out of her lighted nightstick by offering her a kiss, and then having my wife hide it in her clothing as an accomplice to get it out of the park. Then seeing Paul use it the next day during his session.
- The epic mini-bar theft incident
- All of the BALD dinners.
- Singing karaoke for the first time in my life at Kimono’s with a bunch of support from my friends, including Julian Robichaux who sat at my feet like a groupie. I sang Desperado by the Eagles.
- Seeing Matt “White Chocolate” Stratton belt out Rapper’s Delight and other songs with ease on stage.
- Never being able to finish a duet on stage with Jess Stratton because we would always break out laughing.
- Meeting Jess for the first time and we were both wearing our “I’m blogging this” t-shirts.
- Doing “Summer Loving” with Kristina “U-Turn” Festa.
- Singing “If I Had $1,000,000” with Rob McDonagh or Ray Bilyk every year.
- Hanging out with Rob, and the super hero duo of Genelle “Lady Buttcheeks” Hung and U-Turn.
- Bonding over our love of cigars with John “Angry Johnny” Noltensmeyer, Rob and Francie.
- Way too much sake with Paul Mooney and Devin Olson.
- Closing Kimono’s, continuing to drink in Paul’s room until about 6 in morning, then all going directly to a 7:30AM blogger BOF while still drunk. I honestly have no recollection of going, but I was told I spoke, was coherent, and made good points.
- Covering Lotusphere as press.
- Asking my friend Volker for advice on how to properly act as press at the event. He imparted a lot of knowledge on me, and for that I am grateful.
- Covering the event as one of the blogging community. Including the one year with yellow beanbag chairs.
- Speaking at Lotusphere will always be a highlight.
- The year a certain analyst was there and we all wore our “I’m a Sicko” badges and let her know it every time she turned around.
- Dancing and playing pool at the old Copa Banana. This is also where I first met Mr. Chris Miller.
- Being in awe at the expertise of Gab Davis and Andrew Pollack. I used to think I knew administration, and watching their sessions made me know I had a lot more to learn.
- Meeting, hanging out with, and now being able to call both Gab and Andrew friends.
- Seeing Worst Practices for the first time.
- Walking out of my hotel room and walking directly into the chest of John Cleese.
- Meeting Stephen Wright in between the Dolphin and the Swan and getting a selfie with him (before anyone called them selfies)
- Seeing Francis Ford Coppola, Walter Cronkite, Neil Armstrong, Neil DeGrasse Tyson, Alton Brown, William Shatner, Kevin Spacey, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Jim Gaffigan, OK Go, American Authors, They Might Be Giants, Blue Man Group and others over the years.
- All of the Sunday night reception parties around the beach.
- Having an entire Disney or Universal park to ourselves each Wednesday night party.
- Mat Newman hugs
- The alcoholic milkshakes at the Penumbra social.
- The Great Geek Challenge
- The very personal and moving Spark talks put on by the nerd girls.
- The year of ten thousand attendees and people selling badges on EBay for exorbitant amounts.
- Having the NFL playoffs happen during the conference for several years, and seeing my friends Mitch and Rob very happy as a result.
- The first community photo.
- The first time we were allowed to take that photo on the main stage.
- Meeting so many excellent Loti/IBMers who truly got the platform and what social meant. Sorry that IBM didn’t quite share your passion.
- Hanging out with Paul Steel, and seeing the Blackberry Playbook before anyone knew what it was. Over cigars, on the beach, of course.
- The Swan boat races.
- Closing down Kimono’s, Closing down the Dolphin bar, and hanging out in the Dolphin rotunda until far too early in the morning.
- UK Night. And having to get by the bouncers of Big Tone and Carl.
- Hanging out with Julian Woodward. We are far too alike and get into far too much trouble when together. It’s probably safer for mankind that for most of the year, there is an ocean between us.
- Going to Las Vegas immediately after Lotusphere for Project Drunken Leprechaun.
- Never winning a thing in the damn product showcase 🙂
- Mai Tai Night put on my Joe and Bill (and hosted by Dec and Terri for the last few years)
- The awesome Lotus Developer Co-Op giveaways from the likes of Mark, Julian, Matt and Ben.
- Seeing my close friend Kathy Brown go from hiding in her hotel room to being one of the most respected speakers around, and an IBM Champion.
- Seeing my coworker Mike McGarel start to bloom at Lotusphere Idol. He’s now spoken, helps to put together MWLUG, and is also an IBM Champion!
- JamFest and rocking out on stage with so many talented musicians including Red Box.
- Getting to meet so many people I interact with online in person. Too many people to name, and I’m sure I’ll forget some folks, so know that if you are reading this, you are on the list.
- The first time someone recognized me from this blog. It floors me every single time, and happened several times this year, although this year was mainly due to Twitter.
- Sitting out on the lawn with out boxed lunch on the final day, and enjoying the sun with our friends for the final time that week.
- Yes, the pretzel cookie.
I’ve been very very longwinded with this post, and I could probably go on for many pages more and name so many additional people. I truly love this community, and I love you people. This community has helped me put food on the table, and progress my career in ways I could have never imagined.
Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart, for sharing these memories with me. They are deeply ingrained part of me and always will be. And even though this particular event may not live on, we will cross paths again, I guarantee it.
So long, and thanks for all the fish.