Monday 30 August 2010

Insync10 - what I learnt

I recently wrote about getting ready for Insync10 and all too soon it was apon us. Melbourne is a long way from Belfast and quite a journey.

I met up with Mogens Nørgaard at Heathrow and we were very pleased to find ourselves travelling in an A380 to Singapore. Mogens is 6'3" so having the extra leg and head room was really good. We had decided to break the journey in Singapore to visit with another OakTable member Tanel Poder. Tanel and his wife are from Estonia and have actually since moved back. We had a great time with them and other friends in Singapore including the inaugural OTTTTT but more about that in a later posting.

After two days but only 1 night in Singapore we were off to Melbourne arriving mid morning on the Sunday. The conference was held in the Melbourne Conference Centre and the Hilton Coffee Shop seemed to be the place all the speakers were hanging out in as we waited for rooms to be ready. 

The conference had 700+ people which is a big growth from last year in Sydney and had a real buzz. I had a great time, meeting old friends and making new ones.

I had once met Connor McDonald at UKOUG and made the point to say hallo as he was Fujitsu, but in those days I didn't talk to the very technical. That has all changed and I really looked forward to watching a presentation where there are in excess of 300 slides. Yes 300, and honestly you simply don't notice. I met Kyle Hayley someone else I had heard off and read his blog but never met before. I caught up with Tom Kyte and Francisco Munoz Alvarez who both arrived Sunday and left Monday for New Zealand. It was lovely to catch up with Richard Foote but I did miss not seeing Chris Muir, although I did meet his boss Penny Cookson who I loved. Later I also saw Ed Roske and Stephen Feuerstein so there really was a 'geek fest' but back to that later.

On the Apps side of the house, where I actually speak I met up with Bambi Price, Sue Shaw who now she is immediate Past President of Quest has been able to get back to presenting, Luke Hodges and Daniel Strassberg from Quest.  From Oracle Cliff Godwin and Nadia Bendjedou were there, great friends I love that my role allows me to see often. I also met Gary Greishaber from the JDE stable at Oracle and Margaret Mills who I met in Colorado a few years ago. I love to mention friends but hate that inevitably I will miss some out.

Bambi Staverly and John Bushell who along with Daniel and many others were responsible for Insync10, asked  Mogens and I and others to present later in the year in Perth. I am really honoured and am happy to do so remotely but just cannot justify or find time for another visit 'down under'.

Now it may simple read that this conference was all about personal networking but that isn't true. I went to give 2 presentations on Fusion Apps which I give regularly and as I have said before I like to also learn both about Oracle and about presenting from others. I attended 2 sessions each from Tom Kyte and Mogens plus one from Connor. I may be all about the Apps but people who talk about performance and issues in the technology are very important, I have learnt so much about how to approach problems, what to look for etc. I also learn about new features and then look to how they have been utilised in the applications. 

I don't think I will be copying Connor's 300+ slide approach but I have underlined from him about the importance of  knowing your presentation inside out. He started to overrun a bit and decided to remove one example, and he knew exactly which slide number to jump to, not a moments hesitation, almost seamless.

I also like to push myself with new presentations, although I have 3 accepted for OOW that are all new and wish I had more time to bring them together, however for Insync I was trying not only a new presentation but with a co speaker. Mogens writes for the UKOUG Magazine, Oracle Scene. In his own charming and sometime controversial way he entertains and educates our readers. He once wrote about how his company moved into the Accelerators approach to Oracle E Business Suite and how this was encouraged by his business partner who normally had nothing to do with the Oracle side of things. The article 'How Apps Finally Got To Me' is as with all Mogen's content accompanied by a video. He and I were discussing this some time ago and I was really impressed that I finally had an out and out techie person talking apps. When he was asked to present at Insync I joking said 'let's so a joint presentation on Oracle Business Accelerators', and he agreed! Not only was that a risk in itself but we decided to look at it from the Partner's viewpoint. Why had Miracle and Fujitsu decided to take this approach? Many traditional System Integrators have not, why did we think it made sense and what were the benefits to us? Often I hear people say, what they want is more user stories, and yes we had a couple of case studies but we did look at it from our side. During the actual presentation we got a lot of audience interaction and I would say it was actually very successful (although Insync had no formal session feedback). However, I get ahead of myself, I had never actually been involved in OBA myself so spent time with colleagues in Fujitsu who had and need to thank them for their time. I also spoke with the Miracle project manager to ensure I knew their side of the story and pull together some slides; Mogens may not use slides, but I do. I was very nervous when the time came to present, but probably more about what unrehearsed comment Mogens might have come up with, (who am I kidding there was no rehearsal); but he behaved and at the end I wanted to do it all again.

One visitor to the conference was Simone Lemming Andersen of Strategic Communications Ltd, Denmark, someone who advises people who have a public profile, much more than an Image Consultant. She very generously agreed to watch me speak and give me feedback. She gave me advice about what to wear, one the first day I introduced Mogens and was wearing trousers with pockets, subconsciously I put my hands in them. She told me to wear trousers without pockets and when I gave my own presentations I followed her advice and did fell better. She told me which hand movements were good and which not so, advised that a little makeup would be good because of the lights, what to do with my eyes when having a pause and how to interact with the audience. She also gave me great advice about what to do when sharing the stage, and finally she gave me some feedback on my own slides. What she did best of all was gave all this advice through praise for what I do well and how to enhance that, rather than by a list of don'ts. This kind of advice on a one to one basis is invaluable and I know how lucky I was to receive it. I hope I am disciplined enough to follow through.

So I learn a lot at Insync10, about me, about Oracle Technology and about presenting in general. Thank You to everyone involved.

Sunday 29 August 2010

Speed Brainstorming.............

A year in an organisation has behind it a cycle of events and milestones, and UKOUG is no different. We need to look at our strategy constantly and best practice dictates that you take a day out to look at this in isolation. The board need to look at how we run UKOUG, things are changing, budgets are tight and how do we stay relevant and attractive to our members?

We rely heavily on volunteers, especially the SIG chairs and Oracle liaisons who spend so much time with the members, they have so much insight to share. Twice a year we try to get all the volunteers together, once is just before what is now known as the TEBS (Technology and E Business Suite) conference in December but the main opportunity to learn from them is our summer volunteers day. It is a very long day with lots to be packed in and then a dinner to say thank you for all their hard work.

This year we met in Birmingham near to the airport which seems to be a pretty central place to get to. The format of the day had in many ways been dictated by the group who are very good at giving feedback. What I was particularly interested in what getting solid feedback and ideas on the areas we had started to look at in our board meeting the day before. A few years ago we introduced 'Speed Networking' into some of the SIGs, where people get to meet and talk to a lot more of the delegates and this has proved very successful. So a variation on this theme was tried out at volunteers' day. We had 'Speed Brainstorming', we looked at a number of areas and each table that had about 6 - 8 volunteers, also had a director or two with them. Once they had captured their thoughts on the first topic, the directors moved onto the next table and we looked at the next topic. It meant that volunteers were not intimidated by directors,(although I am not sure any are in the first place), but it also meant ideas were mixed up. It was fun and produced a lot of good ideas, all of which were captured and fed into the strategy working groups we are now running.

The board is looking at our products, our members, our membership model, our partners and our costs. To stay healthy, and we are a very healthy user group, we need to ensure we deliver what people want at a price they are able to pay. To do that we need the input of everyone and I hope the 'Speed Brainstorming' has allowed us to do that.

Blog v Twitter

A few days ago a good friend Paul Pedrazzi tweeted this:

A million blogs withered and died as their authors stopped taking the time to process their thoughts... and switched instead to simply copying and pasting them into the world, 140 meaningless characters at a time.
– Thnks Fr Th Mmrs: The Rise Of Microblogging, The Death Of Posterity

The idea as I see it is that as we throw out our thoughts on twitter we no longer have the discipline to write a more researched article in a blog.

I understand the point but am not sure I agree. In my world, that of Oracle, there are some phenomenal bloggers who write both entertaining and educational blogs. I have to say most of them are technically based, and it may be easier to write about something 'tangible' rather than thoughts; but many of them do also 'comment'. My favourite bloggers are Cary Millsap, Steven Chan, Ray Wang, Floyd Teter and Mogens Nørgaard would make the list if he blogged a little more. I subscribe to the OakTable blog RSS and OracleApps and read most of them. I have to admit if they are too technical I switch off but it is amazing how much you can learn.It is true that the people listed are my friends but wouldn't it be rude not to be interested in what they write?

Kyle Hailey blogged recently to share the of PHD school in pictures well I never even went to university but I think I can use the analogy to show what ready blogs has done for me (you may need to read the original very short blog if you are not familiar).

So to me:

Sometimes you are introduced to new blogs and start to follow them. One I love and can't recommend highly enough is Big Daddy Paul. The connection with Oracle is that the subject of the blog is a young boy whose Mother works for Oracle. His father who had his own successful career decided to give it up to be the primary carer, and my he is funny. I will be first in the queue to buy the promised book. Not only is it funny but it so resonates with my feeble attempts at child rearing, (but everything turned out OK my daughter is wonderful). But I digress.....

Do I therefore think Twitter is bad? No, twitter gives you an instant release and quite often an instant reply. It is often used to point to blog postings or articles that otherwise I might not have seen. I LOVE twitter at an event, a conference, it adds so much 'buzz' to the event and if you can't be there you can feel a small part of it.

Can I blame Twitter for slowing down my blog posts? Not really, I am a procrastinator and although reading twitter and facebook might take up time, if it wasn't that it might be something else. However today I am making a big effort to catch up, and I will try and be more disciplined.

Sunday 8 August 2010

Impressive Friends

In my world, which is defiantly global, I have a lot of friends, who, like me present at Oracle conferences.

I know them through User Groups, through the ACE Program, through The OakTable and the wider Oracle Community. What we have in common is the desire to share information and to inspire others to learn more about Oracle.

These people are not only my friends but they inspire me. My daughter, who knows nothing about Oracle, has accompanied me to several events and has met a lot of these people, she is not impressed by technical accolades but gets to know the person behind the presenter. That in itself is a humbling thought, but just thinking about the people I know is even more:

*   A few weeks ago I discovered an Oracle ACE, now Director, who is also a physiotherapist.

*    A friend who is launching a new trace tool tomorrow I predict we will all want to be using soon.

*   At least two are very talented musicians who Oracle should have on stage at OOW, showcase their own community talent.

*   Two have cycled very long distances for charity in the last few weeks, one for cancer and one for a childrens' hospital.

*   Several brew beer, it seems to be not unusual in the geek community

*   Many take really good photographs and could be professionals, and one is exceptional, the photos of his daughter are unbelievable.

*   Over the years I have seen several step out from their comfort zone and start their own businesses. All have been successful.

*   Many of these are inspiring bosses who manage with respect, and are loved by their employees.

*   Several have written books, and the passion as they do so, and excitement as they go to print inspires.

*   They all work hard, and then play hard, not just in the bar, they ski, they walk and they dive.

*    Passion in sport that they teach, or coach. One is a diving instructor who helps disabled people learn to do something in an environment they are not disadvantaged in.

*   I have seen people reach out for help, with work or personal requests, and others queue up to help them.

*  I have reached out for emotional help, and found it from many and two in particular.

*    Some have children with challenges, and they are better people because of it.

*   Two I can think of immediately, campaign on issues close to their hearts, passion driving them to educate others.

*   Some have hobbies that show other skills they should be proud of.

*   I saw one present on how he is changing the way students are educated in his country, a long term project for improvement.

Yes they are all inspirational, and yet they do these things, as well as their work in the Oracle community, and they love their families even more.

I am honoured to have met them, and some of their families. I am very lucky, and proud they choose to call me their friend.

Getting ready fo Insync10

Last year I went to Insync09 in Sydney, the conference was excellent and it was good to see a conference catering for all areas of Oracle.  In Australia this was achieved by bringing the different user groups together. My own user group, UKOUG is unique in that we Strive "To serve the Oracle Community" under one umbrella, although it is a big challenge not knowing what the community will look like next month. Oracle has acquired a new company, on average, a month for the last 5+ years.

Anyway, I loved Insync09 and had a great time despite the weather, but that was April and the temperature was not too bad. I did the trip as part of a long tour and had plenty of time to enjoy time with friends as well as visiting my daughter who was doing a placement with the Australian Outward Bound School. It is good to be able to combine work and pleasure. It all sounds very glamorous but a trip from the UK to Australia in economy class is not glamorous, but it is fun and the more conferences I do, the more wonderful people I meet, and the more fun I have. A bit more about that in the next post.

However back to the conference, it was the first time I gave my analogy of gadget charging to show how SOA works. At the time I thought it might be patronising but it went down well and afterwards it was recorded and posted on youtube. I get good feedback on this as it allows people to understand what SOA is trying to achieve, very quickly.

In January of this year I 'starred' in another video on fusion Middleware, this time being interviewed by Mogens Nørgaard. It started off fine and then he asks daft questions like "Will it do my housework?", quite funny to watch me try and keep composed.

Anyway Mogens is at this years' Insync bringing his own unique brand of presenting to the event. He is talking about Real Applications Testing, and then repeating his "Tales From the Trenches", where he discusses very important things like Oracle Licensing and RAC for SQLServer, making you laugh and also making you think.

I am presenting an update on last year's paper on Fusion Applications and then a look at where I think they will be in Five years. Even if you are not an applications user come along and find out how it may affect you.

One thing i like to do when I go to a big conference is try to push my own understanding, and I am going to try something quite risky. I am going to do a joint presentation on Oracle Business Accelerators from the partners' viewpoint. And my joint presenter..........Mogens, defiantly a challenge.

So the big journey starts on Thursday, and I wish I had longer, but looking forward to meeting up with old friends, meeting new ones and hopefully sharing what I have been honoured to learn with other Oracle users.