Tuesday, 23 December 2014

2014 UKOUG - ACES and a tale of just how Technical I AM NOT

UKOUG Tech and Apps 14 events were co-located in Liverpool earlier this month. In the run up to the events I blogged about the amazing ACE talent that would be on hand.

I was organising the ACE dinner, something I have done for a few years now, but it was thanks to an idea from Mark Rittman that this happens in the UK. Normally we get about 40 people to the dinner, actually the exact number for the last 3 years has been 42, no kidding it always is the answer. However this year, with the ACE program being extended to include ACE Associates and the sheer popularity of UKOUG with overseas speakers, we thought we had 61 ACEs on the agenda.

Luckily the requirements of the ACE program do not include reading instructions, as many ACEs appeared out of the woodwork in the run up to the events. Some to be fair were new additions to the program, some were attending but not speaking but several had simply not ticked the box that said 'are you an ACE?'. 

The day before everything kicked off, I thought I had 54 confirmed attendees, which was mainly (probably 42) ACEs, Jennifer from OTN, and a few selected Oracle Product Managers whose support for the program is so important.

This takes some organising, and a beautiful spreadsheet. I normally collect names from Agenda Planning, Select the extras and send out a MS mail merge invite. Updating the spreadsheet with responses, chase a few times and eventually ring the last few (you know who you always are).

That Saturday really early I thought I would send out a last minute reminder prompting any last minute cancellations to let me know. I did have a few invitees going to the Peter Gabrielle concert and I knew another ACE was going with then but he had said yes to dinner, I caught that one but you never know if there are others. 

Oh dear - bad idea:
  • First mail merge, my bad, two conditions and it is AND not OR so everyone got the email! It said last minute instructions, Ok for those going, caused a flurry or emails from those who had already said no.
  • Next no idea, still looks right to me, and it sent email to everyone, not just those who accidentally got first, saying 'Yes I know you said No, I'm sorry' - that caused a bigger flurry from all those who had said yes!!
  • Final attempt, was deliberately sent to everyone. it said, If you said "Y" then ......... followed by If you said "N". Seems simple enough? No - I am new to MAC and MS Office on MAC is an art form I have yet to master. Apparently the first line is some sort of syntax for whatever their tech is and it came out as ŒY² then ŠŠŠ - WTF!!! 
  • I give up email - "you all know what you said" - problem here was I was by now so stressed that I put '+1" not '+44' in front of my mobile.
Apart from lots of emails from confused ACEs (not that difficult apparently), I had many emails and tweets from amused ACEs. But I doubt anyone will ever challenge me about 'not being technical' again.

What it did achieve though was a few last minute, 'yes I can come' answers. So I popped into the restaurant when I arrived in Liverpool and said we might be as high as 55, someone always drops out.

Alex Nuijten and I took Jennifer on the Beatles Magical Mystery Tour on Sunday morning, it was great fun and onboard was another ACE who didn't appear in any of my lists, so he got added, then another at hotel check in. By the time it came to the dinner, I was lost.

UKOUG had their volunteer thank you reception, so I popped along to that and then left early for dinner. I arrived at the restaurant, the Spice Lounge about 15 early and a few eager ACEs were already in residence, and then more arrived, and more, and more.

It was very obvious the tables laid for me were not going to be enough so I spoke to AJ the boss and said it looked like I was going to expand. There was a little wobble of stress but calm soon returned and they got on with re-arranging the restaurant. This is not a quiet restaurant and they would have been full from walk ins regardless, in fact when i left at 11.30 there were still people waiting for tables. They were brilliant and within 20 minutes had managed to find tables for the 63 people who sat down for dinner, we did at the peak have 67 but a few left and returned to the volunteers dinner. That saddened me as we would have found the room, they deserved to be there.

We had to wait a while for the food to come out, but drinks were served and the whole idea of a sit down dinner was to ensure people had the chance to talk to each other, and that was certainly achieved. Jennifer went round all the tables introducing herself and speaking to everyone.

I was very proud, so many ACEs together, most of the UK contingent plus all those from overseas who chose to come to UKOUG, several from India, Australia, many from the US and across Europe, Argentina, the list goes on.

photo from Ajith Pathiyil

The food was excellent and based on the hugs, emails and tweets I received everyone had a great time. Thank you again OTN for supporting UKOUG and this now traditional event.

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