With a couple of days to mull it over, here's my take on the conference.
Registration was pretty simple. Of course, there was basically only one Application Development Track session per time slot, so there wasn't a whole lot of choice involved. Two things I would suggest for improvements for next year (assuming there is a next year, more on that a bit later).
1. After you create your agenda, you can view it and there is an "add to outlook" option for each individual session. What is not obvious (though I did eventually find it) is that the "add to outlook" icon in the legend will create a file that contains all of the entries, so you don't have to load them to outlook one by one.
Tip: When I added them to my Outlook calendar, I created a new calendar within Outlook for them. Fortunately, the iPad does a great job of syncing with a multitude of calendars and keeping the entries straight. (When I did the same thing with Windows Mobile, it would keep merging all the appointments from the various calendars together and then adding them to the calendars they didn't come from when I synced with them). The different colors on the iPad calendar indicate the different calendar sources the appointments came from.
Suggestion for next year: Make the Add to Outlook option for all events more obvious.
2. The website lists the conference location as "Hilton Washington". Problem is, there are 2 Hiltons in DC proper, and 5 more in the immediate vicinity. Makes it a bit difficult getting to the location if you're not sure where it is.
Suggestion for next year: Please, give the address of the conference, even if you believe it's a landmark (apparently it's the hotel where the Reagan assassination attempt was made).
On Site Registration
Getting checked in once I found the registration desk was a piece of cake. Finding it was the problem. There weren't that many signs in the hotel pointing to the registration location, which was on the lowest floor (2 floors below the lobby). To give the hotel some credit, they have interactive displays throughout the hotel that list the event calendars and show a map of the hotel. You touch an event on the schedule, and it will show you where that event is occurring and your current location. It's great for getting around once you're aware of it, but I didn't discover that feature until the second or third day of the conference.
Suggestion for next year: More signage, or at least a pointer to the interactive displays.
I didn't participate because I'm rather particular about my diet. I did however hear a lot of complaints this year about the quality of the continental breakfast this year. I know that the breakfast is actually furnished by the hotel, but it does appear that Sybase had some choices about what to offer.
Suggestion for next year: Don't skimp on the breakfast, make it as appetizing as the lunch.
I loved this particular format. Rather than rows of chairs, we were seated around tables. Much more comfortable Rather than the standard keynote with droning on about financials, Chen was interviewed by an analyst. Much more interesting. And since we were already seated around the lunch tables, as soon as the keynotes were over they moved right in with lunch and served us where we were at. Much more efficient.
Suggestion for next year: Don't change anything.
Lunch was quite good, and as indicated above was served promptly. The one weird thing is that lunch Tuesday didn't seem to be much different from lunch on Monday. Also, the tables had numbers on them for lunch on Wednesday. If that was supposed to be a PowerLunch of a "birds-of-a-feather" lunch like they've had at prior TechWaves, somebody forgot the announcement and/or signage.
Suggestion for next year: Drop the PowerLunch, if that was what was intended. There were ample networking opportunities available, we don't seem to need the PowerLunch any more.
The tools plenary session was great, as has been the case since they introduced plenary sessions. Lots of good information about new features planned for future versions as well as demos of 'not quite fully baked' implementations of those new features.
Suggestion for next year: Don't change anything.
The breakout sessions were also great. What was particularly helpful is that all of the application development breakout sessions, as well as the application development tools plenary session, were all in the same room. I just planted myself for the entire conference. No wandering around trying to figure out where your next session was at. The breakouts on Wednesday included a lab, so at that point they wired up electrical outlets throughout the room. Given that a bunch of us have laptops, that's something I wish they'd done a lot sooner (i.e., Monday). I picked up an extension cord and an outlet strip during lunch on Tuesday so I would have power anyway.
They also provided a password for complementary wifi access in the meeting areas throughout the conference. I didn't find the speed particularly impressive. What's worse, I paid for fired access in my hotel room and the speed wasn't any faster there. The hotel apparently offers higher speeds, including DSL and "T1.5 or greater", which I assume means the intermediate level between T1 and T2.
Suggestion for next year: Wire electrical outlets throughout the meeting rooms for the entire conference, not just the labs, and access to truly high speed internet via wifi.
There were actually at least two, one a bit less official one held prior to the official beginning of the conference and another hosted by HP at the end of the first official day of the conference. Both were fine. However, the HP sponsored one was held in the combination of the rather small exhibit area and a much larger area next to it. That left most of the people wandering around in an area away from the exhibit area. I'm not sure I would have appreciated that if I'd have been a vendor with a desktop in the exhibit area. Most of the people were in a different room.
Suggestion for next year: Have the reception in one room with the exhibitors, or have the event away from the exhibitors entirely.
The special event was great. There was plenty of food and good entertainment. Apparently, the best entertainment occurred after I left, when conference attendees like Jeff Gibson and Millard Brown sat in for band members. There was apparently an air guitar contest that I missed out on as well, but Dave Fish, John Strano and Millard Brown were kind enough to reenact it during the first session the next morning.
Suggestions for next year: Do the same, but bring back SyberJam as the band.
Enhancement Request Session
I liked this format a whole lot better. Sue Dunnell gave an overview of the product direction, which seemed to get people focused on bigger picture items than the minutiae that we seem to get bogged down in in prior enhancement sessions.
Suggestions for next year: Rename the session to something like "Product Futures Discussion" to emphasis the bigger picture focus of the session
I don't know if I'd been that excited about the "tabletop exhibit area" if I was a paying sponsor of this event. I wasn't, so perhaps it was great and it just didn' t look like a great setup to me.
Just an observation that the amount of people that I've seen posting on Twitter and Facebook about the conference during the conference has increased considerably over prior years.
Ask the Experts
Rather hidden this year, and the only staff on site were for the ASE product line. If you asked a question about a different product, they connected you back to a tech support person via a video phone. I can only think this makes sense for people who don't have support contracts. Why not just file a case?
I think both in terms of technical information provided and in how the conference was run, this is one of the better TechWave's I've been to in years.
What does the future hold
That is up in the air a bit. One thing I've complained about in past TechWaves is that we never know when and where the next one will be when this one ends. I would think you would want people to register for the next one while they're still fired up and excited about the one they were just at. However, that may be an advantage for them now, as the SAP acquisition of Sybase certainly has tremendous possibility to change things. That didn't happen for a while after the Sybase/PowerSoft merger, we still had separate PowerSoft conferences for a few years. However, even during the keynote at this conference there was discussion of making TechWave a "Sybase track" at the annual SAP TechEd events. I say "events" (plural) because SAP held 4 TechEd events this year in four different locations: Berlin, Las Vegas, Bangalore and Shanghai. Would the Sybase track appear at all four events?
One of the concerns raised during the keynote by John Chen himself is the large price differential between the TechWave and SAP TechEd events (SAP Tech Ed is 3 to 4 times as expensive). I'm also concerned that the conference would be of limited value to me as a PowerBuilder developer if the content of the conference is reduced. What I'm primarily thinking of are similar events held by Oracle and Adobe. I use their products as well, but as an application developer, I find their annual conferences of little value. I was offered a free pass to OracleWorld this year, and turned it down because I couldn't find anything being presented that was of significant relevance to me. Instead, we're paying to send one of other developers to the ODTUG "Seriously Practical Conference". I've attended a couple of Adobe Max conferences. The only reason I went last year at all is because it was local (so I could come and go as I wanted) and because one of the vendors gave me a pass. There's just not enough content there for line-of-business ("LOB") application developers to make it worth paying for and traveling to. Instead, if we sent anyone to a conference we'd probably send them to 360Flex instead.
One of the other ideas I heard being tossed around, at least for the application development tools, was having a separate track at Microsoft's TechEd events. Once again, I say "events" (plural) because Microsoft has 7 of those this year: New Orleans, Gold Coast, Yokohama, Auckland, San Paulo, Beijing and Berlin. However, Microsoft's TechEd runs 2 to 3 times as much as TechWave, so there is still a cost factor. However, it does address my concerns about content. Theoretically, the track would be primarily focused on development tools. What's more, I'm much more likely to find content in the main conference that also addresses my needs (.Net Framework improvements, WPF, Silverlight, WCF, Windows Mobile 7), particularly as PowerBuilder becomes more and more part of the .Net ecosystem.
So until next year, when I'll see you somewhere, just not sure where!
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