Friday, November 12, 2010

Conference is about Conversations

A beautiful Friday evening marked the end of the annual BT (Business Technology) Summit held on 11th and 12th November 2010 at NIMHANS Convention Center in Bangalore. BT Summit capitalized on the popularity of current hot picks in technology - Cloud and SOA. SOA being in news since some time, had a extra bit of makeover thanks to Cloud. This attracted not only developers, but decision makers, senior managers of IT companies, startups and the conference regulars.

The event divided over 2 days, the first about Cloud and related technologies, and second for the SOA.
The first day really saw the entire main auditorium full with attendees waiting to grab the next available IP address off the Wireless Internet Access point. Needless to say, once you loose the signal, you are put in a waiting queue for the next burst of Wireless access.
Among the day's highlight was the introductory talk by Dr. Soley of OMG on why standards and quality are important. A cliched topic, but explained in his humorous and straight-to-business style.
I had already gone through the numerous Windows Azure and Amazon Web Services introductory talks, so the next talks were not really an appeal. I especially had different expectations from Enterprise Cloud Computing talk, waiting to hear about use cases and implementation scenarios for Public cloud in enterprises of all sizes, but with no success. The talks were good, but repetitive if you have already been through the similar sessions.
The talk by Mr. Udayan of NIIT Technologies about designing apps in cloud was full of new learnings and excellent material. I regard that talk as one of the best in the list of talks I attended on both days. Full of real, practical advice, without been spoon-fed. Great work.
The next half of the day, saw me attending talks ranging from implementing private clouds for enterprise, to Windows Azure.
I liked Janakiram's no-nonsense-straight-to-point style of presentation, completely "paisa vasool" or "worth-the-penny".
My colleagues also poured in inputs from a talk about Multi-Tenancy on Cloud by Mr. Vikas and rated it as one that provided them with good practical knowledge. Along with the talks, the twitter hash "btsummit" was on fire, thanks to flurry of tweets flowing from all corners of the venue. It brought the summit in prominence on twitter hotspots in Bangalore.
I had my chance to participate in a Chalk talk as a result of a cancellation of a Q&A session, where along with me, two other attendees got a chance at microphone for 10 minutes. The topics included "Implementing Mix-breed Private cloud", "Amazon Web Services Case study" and "Using Cloud in enterprises". I had a good day with my luck, and bagged a elegant golf-set as an award for my chalk talk, rated top on public poll.
As the curtains came down to the first day, I had a mixed feeling as a take-away. The topics I had high expectations with, didn't really had punch, and under-rated ones surprised me.
The second day's highlight was the mix-bag of demos shown by Mr. Rohit of Kronos Inc. He talked about Semantic web and HTML 5, and amazed the audience with his bagfull of jazzy demos from all around the web.
I have a soft corner for panel discussions and see those as a perfect platform for brainstorming and value creation opportunities. The panel discussion on the second day about SOA in the age of Cloud and Integration did not disappoint me. It was the sheer aura of Dr. Soley as the moderator that kept me in the session. He got the best and the funny out of all, not just the panelists. It was a fantastic display of how a serious topic can be discussed in the light of intentional humour. Good Job.
The end of second day, made me to compare and contrast my expectations with real outcome of the conference. There were highs and lows, as with any other conference. But the whole point of coming together of a community, conversations over lunch and in middle of talks, networking, and finding new twitter friends is an amazing proposition alltogether. I made a set of friends thanks to twitter, and lucky to meet two of them in person - uma_kanth and _bharath (I better know you both from your twitter handles than your real names :)). All in all, a good experience and a learning opportunity.

A couple of points popped in my head as I browsed through the array of talks in my head:-

a) The presentations (not just powerpoints anymore) are still the old-school-style. Not all, but some notable ones still prefer to have the too-much-text syndrome. No pointers from me in this post to solve this, just read from Guy Kawasaki, Steve Jobs, Presentation Zen blog etc. - you will get the signal.

b) Beat around the bush and cliched-terms-to-save-point - I sometime found that talks, especially the process of talking involved abstraction and lacked a real sense of done-it-seen-it feel. We can make out when you see people talking like that, don't we ?

c) Ramp up the skills of presenting a talk - I found some talks to be little bland and less engaging, leading to a one-sided affair. I believe a talk or presentation is all about conversations and engagement. And this doesn't disarm the talent and skill of any speaker of a conference. The conference is a learning experience for the speaker too as its for the audience.
I sincerely hope to get feedback questionairres for each talk I attend, so to provide a consistent and focussed review, that not helps me, but also the speaker. Saltmarch, please do so from next time.

All in all, a great effort and wonderful opportunity to meet the fellow technologists from all walks of life.

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