I’m all stressed out get­ting ready for re:In­vent, Nov 28th through Dec 2nd this year, in Ve­gas. I’m at­tend­ing, and may even be speak­ing if cer­tain pieces fall in­to place. I’ve seen this movie be­fore.

At Sun, it was Ja­va One. At Google, I/O. Every big tech com­pa­ny has one. They de­fine the rhythm of the year, and I’m won­der­ing if they’re a good idea.

Big! · Most read­ers here have prob­a­bly been to one or more, but for those who haven’t, here’s how it goes. First of al­l, “big” is rel­a­tive. Google and Ap­ple fa­vor San Francisco’s Moscone West, a nice wel­com­ing light-filled venue which max­es out at 5,500 head­s. At the oth­er end of the spec­trum, I see that Sales­force claimed 120K for Dream­force.

I can’t find a pub­lic an­nounce­ment about re:Invent’s head­coun­t, but I see that Cloud­abil­i­ty claimed it grew from 5,700 at­ten­dees in 2012 to 18,600 last year. I can tes­ti­fy that the Vene­tian was full.

But last year I was talk­ing to a Ve­gas lo­cal and said I was at a big show, around twen­ty thou­sand peo­ple, and he laughed: “That’s nuthin. You wan­na big con­fer­ence? That’d be World of Con­crete, the ce­ment guys.”

What hap­pen­s? · There are keynotes, ten thou­sand and up in the big room to hear about the big re­leas­es. There are hun­dreds of ses­sion­s, some deep tech, some mar­ket­ing fluff. There is hall­way af­ter hall­way of meet­ing room­s, where cus­tomers and part­ners and in­te­gra­tors gath­er over ice-water to talk de­tail­s. Fi­nal­ly, there’s the trade show with the big host booth at the cen­ter and then end­less ankle-grinding aisles of stands full of op­ti­mistic eyes hop­ing you’re a prospec­t.

Me, I dis­like keynotes (o­ra­tion not con­ver­sa­tion) and don’t get to most ses­sion­s; I like the face time, in meet­ing rooms and on the show floor, with cus­tomers who are ac­tu­al­ly in the trench­es try­ing to get work done. Even the bor­ing ones are in­ter­est­ing, and sev­er­al times ev­ery day I’m amazed by what I learn.

You can’t re­peat Bill Joy’s old les­son too many times: “Wherever you work, most of the smart peo­ple are some­where else.” A lot of ’em are at these gath­er­ings.

It’s ef­fi­cient · The fact is that big tech com­pa­nies build new stuff year round, and do Mar­ket­ing and Biz-Dev and Evan­ge­lism and so on to get the word out. But it’s hard to drink from more than one riv­er at a time. So it’s sort of sen­si­ble to have a des­ig­nat­ed week for each ven­dor when they own the news cy­cle; ev­ery­one can fo­cus in and take away what­ev­er piece of the big pic­ture mat­ters to them.

Forc­ing func­tion · At ev­ery BigTechCo I’ve known, the in­sid­ers have a dream: Their stuff is in the keynote. A lot of them get hap­py, but then al­so hearts are bro­ken. Be­cause those com­pa­nies got big by, among oth­er things, be­ing fussy about what they re­lease, and learn­ing to say “no”. Last year I got a No for some­thing I want­ed to launch at re:In­vent and I was crushed.

Prac­ti­cal­ly speak­ing, it means that dev and mar­ket­ing and mes­sag­ing teams put the ped­al to met­al for a few weeks and just Do What It Takes To Ship. At one lev­el I’d be hap­pi­er if this biz dropped the big damn shows and we stayed home al­ready, in­stead of troop­ing to San Fran or Ve­gas and stand­ing in lines. And ev­ery­one shipped prod­ucts when the prod­ucts were ready.

But on the oth­er hand, ship­ping is about as much fun as you can have in this biz. I’m tired all the time, but we’ve got a fin­ish line in sight and bright hopes for what we’re build­ing, and some things that were yel­low or red are now green. I’m smil­ing.

But don’t ex­pect much from me the week af­ter.


Comment feed for ongoing:Comments feed

From: Gordon Haff (Nov 17 2016, at 17:49)

Maybe I'll have a chance to see you there!

I mostly find that big shows are good forcing functions so long as stuff doesn't get over forced.

I also agree that I go to most of these events to meet people even if some of the sessions also cause me to think about things in new ways.


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