I like it. AS/400 and System i pros have a good sense of humor about themselves. This taps into that.]]>
By far the cutback people are talking about most is the reduction of compensation to volunteer speakers — whether that be in the form of a free registration, paying for travel and hotel, or other expenses. Jon Paris and Susan Gantner wrote on the topic, which garnered a host of comments touching on the speaking issue.
“I don’t think COMMON realizes how much they are milking the speakers to date,” wrote Aaron Bartell, an IT consultant for System i. “Not only do we get little compensation, but it is lost wages that I am just as concerned about. For example, for the five sessions I gave at COMMON I probably spent a total of 5 to 6hrs per session.”
Bartell added that he also doesn’t have “much use for the ‘COMMON Credits,’ that cover my registration costs because I don’t have a lot of time to attend other sessions.”
Scott Klement, an IT manager and COMMON speaker, had a point to add:
At this conference, there were approx 130 speakers, and (this is a guess, I don’t have any real numbers) perhaps 600 attendees. That’s just speakers, not counting the myriad of other volunteers. Consider that ratio! COMMON definitely needs to trim the fat — they need to reduce spending on volunteers. But they need to do that by reducing the number of sessions, and by limiting the number of volunteer positions.
Cut quantity, but do not sacrifice quality.
I think Klement hits on a good point here. It’s clear that COMMON needs to reduce the number of sessions, but is its approach to doing that the right one? With this kind of cutting, the only people that might be able to speak at future COMMON conferences will be mostly vendors. Now, it’s not necessarily a bad thing to have vendor speakers. But to have only vendors speaking is not good. End users don’t go to COMMON to get sales pitches all day, every day. They go to learn.
So there are a few things I think COMMON could do to keep costs down but still make it a valuable experience for users:
Any other ideas?]]>
“If we were to do nothing at this point, at the end of 2009 COMMON would suffer an 800,000 dollar loss,” said Dufault. “Needless to say, an 834,000 loss, even though we have an incredibly healthy reserve… that would put us in a real untenable position.”
He explained that the plan for the 2010 conference would include the following changes:
Dufault shared that even with the cuts that are planned, the projected loss would still be about $582,000 in 2009 and a lost of $139,000 in 2010.
This news was a lot to take for the members, and the feel of the meeting had already been a bit melancholy as Dufault made a gesture of remembrance for Al Barsa Jr. that he was barely able to complete and which left much of the room struggling to keep composure.
Members stepped up to the microphones and asked a host of questions, expressing thanks to the board and the COMMON staff for setting up the meeting and being so honest with them. Some shared suggestions of means to growing the interest in the meeting through college recruitment and expanded outreach efforts. Others clarified the cuts to volunteer perks and asked that the board open up more to get the community involved in coming up with more creative ideas. One Orlando, Fla., resident and COMMON member lambasted the cuts, pointing out that you can’t grow your revenue while making cuts. Some expressed concern that the value of the program would diminish with the cuts to sessions, and thus, less people would attend. All of this left members and myself thinking about what could be done differently to attract more attendance and improve the chances of the organization’s survival.
Earlier in the day I had attended the first-timer’s social meeting, which was a chance for fist-time attendees to give their feedback on the meeting and share their suggestions for improvements to the program. One thing that some people expressed was that some of the technical sessions were too advanced, and they felt lost.
Time for my two-cents: Perhaps COMMON’s education committee could take this advice and work to create specific learning tracks that would be more attractive to first-time attendees. In a coordinated effort between speakers, attendees could start at a introductory level and take classes on a specific topic area through an advanced level. Some speakers taught a series of classes this year that aimed to accomplish this, but because of scheduling and perhaps a lack of emphasis on the marketing side that this was being done, some new attendees may have missed out on this. If COMMON wants to recruit more attendees, perhaps creating these one or two-day mini-courses on a specific topic would be beneficial.
The other thought I have is a question: Is this IBM’s fault? Did their rebranding efforts and lack of effective marketing vision for the platform cause dwindling interest in educational activities around the IBM i? (What do you think?)
The last attendee to step up to the mic was Justin Porter, the cheerleader and representative to the COMMON board from YiPs (and a name you should get used to seeing in the IBM i community). Porter gave an uplifting and passionate short speech about educational outreach, encouraging IBM i professionals around the country to reach out to local colleges and universities and spread the word of i. Not a bad idea.
Scott Klement has been vlogging (that’s video blogging) from the event all week, and his video from yesterday includes the key part of Dufault’s presentation, and his own personal reaction to the announcement.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/94zuNoS5Sx0" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
What do you think? Will you be able to attend COMMON with these changes? If you haven’t attended COMMON, why not? What would make attending worthwhile for you?]]>
COMMON educational session tidbits
I attended a session at 8 AM (without coffee) on “Taking Advantage of Capacity on Demand” for POWER Systems. The session was led by Mark W. Olson, an IBM Power Systems World Wide Product Manager out of Rochester, Minn. I didn’t know what I was getting in for — maybe I should have read the abstract:
This session digs into how IBM’s Capacity on Demand offerings really work for the Model 570 and 595 processors and memory starting with how they are ordered all the way through how they are paid for. Topics include temporary and permanent activations of processors and memory, contractual requirements, pre-pay or post-pay, trial capacity, how to enable, and more.
On the bright side, if you want to know if you should get the daily or minute-based capacity on demand offering from IBM, just ask me and I’m a fount of knowledge. The session was likely useful for those considering paying for more capacity for their 570 or 595 Power Systems, but it didn’t answer what I consider the first step question, which is: Do I really need more processing power, or are there other tweaks to performance I can make? Again, no fault of Mark’s, just my own lack of reading comprehension.
I asked Olson about how cloud computing offerings might compete with limited capacity of System i on POWER6. He shared the story of a trial arrangement with a customer in which the customer’s POWER System has all the cores enabled and pays a flat fee for an agreed upon base percentage utilization, and a premium for higher use periods. Olson said that the company is working toward a “pool” solution in which the customer could take advantage of available processor power regardless of specific partition or machine dedication. The question that I asked in my head is why would IBM do that when they can make more money charging for capacity? In answer to my own question: competition. In a world in which it’s all too easy to spin up an Amazon EC2 instance of an SQL server, CIOs may start feeling economic pressure to get off an expensive licensing scheme.
Next I wandered into Paul Tuohy’s award-winning “Considerations for Succesful ILE Implementations” session. I was half there to meet Tuohy in the flesh, and half there to learn a little more about ILE. First, Tuohy is a great speaker and I learned so much that I can’t possibly repeat it all here. Here are some highlights:
IBM rolls out new blades, servers, and virtualization technology for System i
IBM held a press conference with Ian Jarman, Power Systems Software Manager, in which he went over much of Jeff Howard’s opening session presentation from yesterday, filling in the details for us journalists. Some highlights:
RPG to Web products
I managed to get another product demo from the exhibit hall, this time from Richard Milone of CNX who demonstrated the Valence Web application framework.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/PIVj4b3JGas" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Business Intelligence for i and Query400 report enhancement products
I would be remiss if I didn’t at least mention a couple of the new product announcements released today.
First place runner Hany Elemary of Profound Logic Software (right), and event organizer, ringer and marathon runner Dan Kimmel (left), RJS Software and COMMON Treasurer finish up the last portion of the course near the Truckee River before heading to the finish line.
I stood somewhere close to the 4k marker and cheered on the participants while visiting with a couple of attendees who had volunteered to help monitor the course. As we were walking back, I found out I was talking to IBM i educator, Jim Sloan, who shared that his newest CL programming book was published in January. For my networking purposes, this was perfect, and we discussed getting a chapter excerpt for publication on Search400.com so you to get a preview of this resource. Based on some of the reader questions I receive, I know some of you may find this book really helpful.
Speaking of resources, I needed to see what sessions I should check out at the meeting, and started looking through the ambitious schedule of 500 educational events. Some at COMMON have used the term “technical information fire hose” to describe the event, and I have to say, it’s a fairly accurate analogy. I sat down to plot my course for Monday and discovered that there are two dozen concurrent sessions during each time block to choose from!
So far, the meeting has been a great opportunity to put some faces with names and to learn more about what people are doing in this community. I had the opportunity to meet with Philip Roestamadji and Alex Roytman of ProfoundLogic Software to discuss their new educational initiative, Profound Logic Software TV. The pair explained that the videos on the site will focus on summarizing and clarifying trends, ideas and technology for the IBM i based on the knowledge and information they have gained in conducting their business. The site emphasizes viewer interaction, with a request for viewer input on current and future content (including special requests). I cynically wondered what was in it for them, and it pretty much comes down to feeling good about sharing what they know with others. We’ll be sure to follow their activities, and let you know how you can get involved if you’re so inspired.
COMMON 2009 Annual Meeting opening session
The opening session featured awards and announcements from COMMON and IBM. I haven’t received the official press annoucements yet, so I’m going to hold off on telling you about the individual winners because I don’t have information about name spelling or company affiliation yet. The COMMON/IBM Power Systems Innovation awards went to companies who had some impressive achievements, and I hope to get the chance to follow-up and share more details about their stories soon. Briefly the award winners in the four categories are:
Jeff Howard, IBM POWER Systems Marketing spoke in place of Ross Mauri, IBM General Manager, POWER Systems, who was stuck in Chicago due to weather delays at the airport. Howard shared IBM’s Dynamic Infrastructure initiative, walking attendees through the ways that IBM i fits into the campaign’s vision for a smarter planet — sharing the POWER systems virtualization, energy efficiency, business resiliency, and management tools.
Howard also previewed the hardware releases the company will announce on Tuesday (BladeCenter JS23 and JS43 Express and Power 550 and Power 520 updates)… stay tuned.
Keynote: The power of data in Las Vegas style cops and robbers problems
The keynote at the end of the opening session was delivered by Jeff Jonas, IBM Distinguished Engineer and Chief Scientist, Entity Analytic Solutions, IBM Software Group. Jonas captivated the audience with discussion of next generation data management, mixing humor and humility with highly technical descriptions of how different data bits can be connected to find unknown relationships, solving real problems including fraud in casinos to terrorist actions.
Exhibit floor demos
Exhibitors at the show were happy to work with my amateur camera skills to record a couple of product demonstrations for you to check out if you’re missing the conference. (Really, I’ll get better at the zoom thing, I promise.)
First, I met with AdventureTech Group’s president, Doug McDaniel, and director of sales, John Patsch. They explained the features of iSafari, a Web-enablement tool.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/EThekrtj9Ys" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
Next, on the PHP side, I met with Marcel Sarrasin of BCD who demonstrated the company’s WebSmart PHP tool.
[kml_flashembed movie="http://www.youtube.com/v/3RknKLkW84I" width="425" height="350" wmode="transparent" /]
It will be a Q&A format where listeners will be able to pose questions directly to Holt. Some links: details on the chat, how to access the chat, and how to join iSociety (which you need to do to listen to the chat).]]>
The Twitter page is empty of updates right now, but the user group plans to Twitter live from the Common annual user group conference in Reno, Nev. later this month. So for those who won’t be able to make it to the show, you can feel like you’re actually there, in 140 characters or less.]]>
The group, which the user group COMMON started more than two years ago, has had a bunch of these so-called “fireside” chats, which are basically scheduled online chats. In the past they’ve had these chats on i5/OS, MySQL and PHP, and System i Developer.
This time around the chat will be on “Modern CL Programming” and will be led by Kevin Forsythe of DMC Consulting. The email I received said that it will be a “detailed look at CL Programming that incorporates recent enhancements to the language,” including “subroutines, pointers, Loops, structured programming options, and more.”
The online event starts at 1p.m. Eastern and is free, but you have to be a member (which is also free). Go to the iSociety chat page to learn more.]]>
Soltis is indeed retiring from IBM, mainly because the merger of i and p eliminated any jobs, like his, that focused solely on the System i. But he’s not going away. He will continue teaching at the University of Minnesota, and said he wants to get more involved with user groups like Common.
In the interview, Soltis does express his displeasure with how the System i revenue has been reported since the merger (it makes it look bad). But overall he said he’s pleased with how his 45 years with Big Blue have gone, and he’s looking forward to staying involved.]]>