My mother always said, never volunteer and being a good son, I did exactly not as she said. When I heard, Social Connections would be coming to Switzerland, I immediately offered my invaluable service to the team. To everybody’s surprise they accepted and I got the highly demanding job to get the main room at IBM Zürich under control. Holding up cards with „10 Minutes left“ written on it, while trying to get the attention of the speakers. Which isn’t that easy, especially if the speaker just looks at one person all the time (hallo Klaus, die hübsche Schwedin kann’s nicht gewesen sein, die sass weiter hinten).
It was one of these days that happen to probably everybody. You get the chance to meet some of the people, you have admired since your youth (for a given value of youth) and when you finally meet them, you give the impression to be a complete moron. As an excuse, I did not sleep well (oh, the excitement) and I had to get up before 5am, missing just that hour of sleep, that makes the difference. When I arrived and met Femke Goedhart and Stuart McIntire, I felt like Quasimodo hung over and they probably immediately thought about just letting me run around with flyer’s instead of giving me a task that involved using my brain. Looks like they were desperate enough to let me do the number girl. Fortunately I did not have to wear a skirt, since I hadn’t shaved my legs. But the rest of the day I just felt one head shorter, than I normally am.
Now what about Social Connections? They were quite a few memorable events.
First! Praise the lord, Allah, Jehovah (do I get stoned now for saying the name?) or whatever deity or spirit you believe in. Sacrifice a goat, turn on the dishwasher or whatever you do, when something does happen that nobody believed will ever happen.
IBM got a new design for their presentations and it’s good.
First I thought Heidi Ambler just made her own design, just because she was sick of the incredibly ugly and overloaded slides they had to use for years, but no, Louis Richardson (aka Servant and Storyteller) used the same design. Slides with just a few words and they used animations. What happened? Did IBM buy Keynote? Oh and just a side note. Mac’s, or generally Apple devices everywhere. That’s the first time I felt that pc’s were exotic.
Another remarkably good presentation was given by Shiro Sakamoto (E-Jan Networks, Japan). He had just one big slide and he focussed on the part he needed. Have to remember that. Very helpful in the Q&A session. He didn’t have a Mac though.
Felix Binsack showed off the Web Content Management of TimeToAct. Pretty neat that thing. A must-have if you ask me, provided you want more, than just a standard installation of Connections.
WebGate had a presentation that surprised me. Swiss are not known for their strong emotions, but WebGate really showed their passion for Connections.
Tom Smith of Ephox demoed their editor „EditLive“ for Connections. Nice and really something Connections needs. OK, it is written in Java (bite me, but many were bragging about that), but Java Script just can’t do it. EditLive it is so good, it can make the difference for the user to „get“ Connections.
IBMs Tom Haab and Roger Hänggi showed IBM Docs. They promised to show us the latest version under development and demanded, not to take pictures, if there is a yellow bar on top, that says something like „not for the lower life forms outside IBM“. I never saw it. I don’t know, if they ran out of time, but as far as I could see (and had my glasses) it was just IBM Docs 1.3.
Not to forget Klaus Bild from Belsoft. Thank you Klaus for making me understand for the first time, what Cognos is all about. Even in my state of temporary brain damage, I was able to understand, what he was talking about and that was a technical session. Do you need Cognos? Yes, if you are a bean counter and want to know, in numbers and nice graphs, even 3D graphs, which are more for showing off, than information, how your users are adopting Connections, no, if you just want to use your gut feeling, which is fine by me and costs way less.
The Closing Session was given by Michael Sampson from New Zealand. Clever that guy. He wrote a book about Connections lately, which is probably worth reading, if you go for Connections. Alas no ebook version, which is a pity, because for us not native English speakers, the possibility to have a definition of a word in one click is very helpful. On the other hand, he should be banned from talking about food. He thinks that half liter mugs full of coffee is culture, compared to our Espresso. People have been put on a stake for less. When we were in Kiwiland last time, my wife was pregnant and we had a hard time finding restaurants for an obvious reason. Once I had a kind of pasta dish with meat, topped with a coulis of wood berries. That was main course and dessert on one plate. I still have nightmares.
And this is the transition to my by now traditional bragging about the food. Living in a country were food is an important part of being SOCIAL, the sponsored catering has defined the new low. I am sorry, but Social Connections is organised and attended by the crème de la crème of the Connections Community. People come here from the other side of the world and all that is fed to them for lunch are sandwiches. As a Swiss, I felt a bit ashamed. We could have gone across the street and would have found better stuff at the train station. The apéro was a few chips which looked like they were leftovers from the bottom of the bag and wine that tasted only remotely like wine. We have really reached the bottom, short of telling people to bring their own food. While it does not have to be a the same level as at Givaudan (just impossible), we should remember that we are in Switzerland, where socializing over food, is part of the culture, at least where I live. But probably Zürich is becoming just a normal global city, where being stressed and pretending to be important is a higher value, than being a good host. Therefore my proposal to the Social Connections team: Next time you come to Switzerland (or if you go to New Zealand) I’ll cook. Give me a stove and I will not disappoint you (and making up for being Quasimodo, whereupon I can beat that catering even in a Quasimodo state). I suppose the Dinner WebGate offered after the event, made up for this. Thank you WebGate, for holding up Swiss hospitality.
And another thing that struck me. Even if Social Connections is „just“ a fan group, they hold up the Connections flag big time. They do a lot of work that is free to IBM and on the day that matters most to that team (and it should matter to IBM, too, because Connections should be considered a rising star marketing wise) nobody of the top top top management of IBM Switzerland showed up. Again, that is against everything our mothers have told us. Compare that to Gini Romettys „IBM wants to be essential to its customers“ – and it wouldn’t even have cost them more. My goodness, is it really too much to just to come down from the ivory tower and say „Good morning, I am the boss here and happy to see you“?.
In the end, Social Connections was a hugh success. If it ever happens to be in your neighbourhood, go there. It’s getting bigger and ever more interesting. This time there were 35 sessions in three rooms.
Thank you to the Social Connections team letting me be the ring girl. Was fun.
PS: Swiss companies should stop giving away Swiss Army Knifes. For those from far far away with handluggage only, the knifes end up in the bin at the airport security and for the Swiss: we all have several. We traditionally get the first one to cut our umbilical cord.