Devin Olson February 8 2016 09:29:35 AMBefore I give you my thoughts about Connect 2016, I need to first provide a bit of a background.
I have faithfully made the annual pilgrimage to Orlando every year since my first one back in 1998. I have been there for the highs and lows, representing 6 different employers (and several times just as myself). I have forged long-term SOLID friendships with people from all over the world. Lotusphere (and then Connect, then ConnectED, and now Connect again) has been a VERY important part of my life, and career, for 18 years.
I say this so you fully understand how big of a decision it was for me to NOT attend Connect 2016.
I, and all of my teammates at work, had decided it just wasn't worth the effort to attend this year.
The last several Lotusphere / Connect events at the Swan / Dolphin have consistently gotten worse each year, and listening to the death knell of a product I loved ringing ever more loudly by IBM had become too painful to bear. It felt as though people were trying to be upbeat and excited, but everybody knew things were coming to an end. The customers, partners, vendors, and even IBM staff all bore the stink of death on their souls. The last two conferences felt as though we had moved to hospice, and were sitting around waiting for the final bell.
So last year, on the final day, I said my farewells to my friends, and left the Swan and Dolphin knowing something special and magical had gone forever.
And then this year, something rather unexpected happened. I was named an IBM Champion.
My wife Tanya (whom many of you know) told me I had no choice in the matter -I would be attending Connect 2016.
So last minute travel arrangements were made, phone calls and meetings set up, and last week I found myself at Connect 2016. I was busy has hell -helping out with the IBM BP Beer Tour (huge thanks to Amanda Bauman and Duffy Fron, and IBM for turning SpankyBrews into a proper, officially sponsored event), giving a SpeedGeeking session (which I totally ROCKED), attending other sessions, meeting with vendors (including several NEW ones), attending social events with friends, sitting on the GuruPalooza panel (which also ROCKED), and doing all the other crazy / insane / busy things that one does when stuff matters and people are counting on you.
The venue had changed (the Orlando Hilton at the Orlando Conference Center); and while I miss the Dolphin / Swan, I think the choice of the Hilton was a good one. The food / beer was WAY better, the layout was better, getting to and from sessions was easier, the Vendor Showcase was better. Basically every thing about the Hilton (other than fond memories of times past) was better.
And I noticed something different. Something had CHANGED. The feeling of dread from the last several conferences was gone. It has been replaced with something else. This new thing has not yet fully formed -it is more of an anticipation of good tidings in the future. It is the vestiges of excitement, the beginning of a promise of good things to come.
To quote and hold song: "Hope is like a lighthouse keeper's beam; Hope the master cobbler of our dreams"
Hope has returned -you could see it in the faces of the people there. And that is what really matters -the people. Not the product, not the number of seats / licences / partners / etc. It is people, and their relationships with one another, that matter. The feeling of hope has invigorated me -I am filled with excitement about my projects / code for the coming year. The stuff I am going to make and do will be amazing.
I am very glad I went. And I hope to attend again.
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