Storage Field Day was hosted last week, and I typically like these events. Mainly because they have start-ups presenting their new technology and I like the flow of the sessions typically. I also like the interaction between the “delegates” and the vendors, well at times I do. There were several blog posts on the topic from people who are part of the, what I would call at this point, old boys club (yes there were women attending as well but you get the point) as that is what it felt like during the event. I wanted to comment on Bob’s article, but it looks like he is not looking for a healthy debate so I figured a blog post would be the best way to reply.
For those who don’t know: The sessions usually start with some background on the company, a problem description and then followed by a product session with demos and deep-dives where and when needed. Delegates will fire off questions during these sessions, sometimes this leads to a great discussion and sometimes it doesn’t.
This week, as some of you may have noticed on twitter, the event was held but personally I didn’t enjoy it very much. I think this tweet from my friend Jason Boche captures the feeling I had well:
Negativity in the stream is getting out of hand. Show some compassion, respect, & professionalism. #Heathers
— Jason Boche (@jasonboche) April 24, 2014
What stood out to me, and by watching twitter to others as well, was the negativity from some of the delegates about some of the vendors. When the initial problem statement/marketing fluff would take too long the “boring” comments from the delegates started to pass by on twitter, especially during the start of the EMC session this was particularly bad. (Not the first time I have seen it… and definitely not trying to defend a vendor here as they could have known what they were up against and should know the first rule of presenting: know your audience.) Maybe even more annoying for the person watching the feed were the “inside jokes” and the “annecotes” / “incrowd discussions”. It really disrupted the flow of some of the sessions, and I think the PernixData session was the best example of it… it derailed too often leading to the presenter running out of time, or as Frank put it:
— Frank Denneman (@FrankDenneman) April 24, 2014
When several people commented on the tweets/atmosphere some heated debates kicked off. What stood out to me during these debates was that the “delegates” felt that they were doing the vendors a service and that the vendors should respect their time/effort. (I agree with them to a certain extend) It was also mentioned various times that they were all experts and there was no need for basics/problem descriptions as all had done their due diligence and came well prepared. Personally I don’t believe that based on the questions asked, and personally I think everyone can learn something even from the basics, besides that I would argue that the Tech Field Day website is really clear on this:
Don’t assume all of the attendees are experts in your area. True to the spirit of Gestalt IT, we intentionally mix many IT disciplines at Tech Field Day to spark creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.
And on the topic of respect; it goes both ways and it seems that the Tech Field Day charter agrees with me on this as this is what it states in the section what it is like to be a delegate:
… just treat them with the thoughtfulness, professionalism and mutual respect they deserve.
But what is the underlying problem? What the delegates seem to have forgotten is the vendor’s perception… Why are these vendors there. What is their reason to participate? Are they looking for feedback from a handful of people on their product(s) and aiming to make road map changes when needed… Or are they looking to introduce their product (or new version) to the world through the reach the event has? (note I said event and not delegates on purpose) I would expect it to be the latter, as the majority of companies presenting are presenting a new product or version and not a road map on top of that I would argue that if they are looking for direct product feedback they would do this in a closed setting with a limited group of people under a strict NDA. Even when that would not be the case, just as you are asking the vendor to be respectful of your time, you should also be respectful towards them for what they are investing. Which is probably a lot more than just time as without their sponsorship there would not be an event. (Assuming Mr Stephen Foskett is not a secret billionaire… But who knows :-)) Either way, think about what allows these events to exist. Without these companies investing, it would be difficult for Stephen to organize these. Also, think about the people watching the event online and even about the person sitting next to you. What is glaringly obvious to you, may not be so for the person sitting next to you simply because they come from a different background.
So why am I writing this, well hopefully so things will change for the better. As I stated, I like these events as they are valuable to the community in my opinion and they provide a nice podium for start-ups to present themselves to the world, but that positive aspect should not get lost in unneeded debates and negativity. As that is what these events are about in my opinion, it is providing a service to the community and I hope it will stay that way.
PS: I have a lot of respect for the endless effort Stephen puts in organizing these sessions / events…