Saturday, September 25, 2010

#oow10 - what happens when the firehose is not spraying in your direction

To put this in perspective for the six-plus billion people who have never attended Oracle OpenWorld in San Francisco, let me explain that when you are there, the experience is overwhelming. The streets around the Moscone Center are clogged with over 40,000 people, all wearing red and white badges, all talking about "stacks" and things like that. In fact, some streets are completely closed down - not only to handle the crowds, but also to allow the construction of additional facilities to take care of everyone. It completely dominates your life - so much so that if you want to get away from the madness for a bit, it takes a great deal of effort to do so. In past years, I have likened the experience to a firehose, and the description is pretty apt.

It's an entirely different experience if you're not there, and you're just monitoring it from a few hundred miles away.

I attended Oracle OpenWorld for several years in a row. Initially I'd just go up for a couple of days, but recently I've been staying for the entire week, flying up on Sunday morning to participate in the Oracle PartnerNetwork activities, and flying back home to southern California late Thursday afternoon or early Thursday evening.

This year, because of the change in my work duties, I didn't go to Oracle OpenWorld this year. (Actually, technically I shouldn't have gone to Oracle OpenWorld 2009 either, but I had already registered for the conference by the time my company's reorganization was announced.)

I'm working on two major projects right now, but I figured that I would cover Oracle OpenWorld 2010 from afar, providing a literal outsider's perspective on the announcements and events. I actually started well before the conference. For example, here are the Oracle OpenWorld 10-related posts that I've written since the beginning of August:

(August 4) Oracle OpenWorld Unconference move for 2010?

(September 6) Phillips and Hurd - one thing in common, but only one's at Oracle

(September 15) You know it's Oracle OpenWorld when they get ready to close Howard Street

(September 15) #OOW10 Five tips to follow Oracle OpenWorld 2010 on Twitter

(September 17) Larry Ellison's Sunday #OOW10 keynote will be interesting, for a variety of reasons

And then the conference officially began.

On Sunday morning, when I'd normally be on a plane heading to San Francisco or Oakland, I was in church.

On Sunday afternoon, when I'd normally be leaving my hotel to go to the Oracle PartnerNetwork event, I was working on one of my two major projects.

And by Sunday evening, when I'd be listening to the Sunday evening keynote...well, I already shared that story. I listened to about five minutes of Ann Livermore (and I didn't think she was as bad as everyone made her out to be), but my wife and I went out to dinner before Larry Ellison started speaking. I had to read about his announcements after the fact.

And by Monday morning...I was back in the office, feverishly working on my two projects. Oh, I'd read the occasional item in Google Reader, and I monitored the tweets surrounding Ellison's Wednesday afternoon speech for a few minutes, and I peeked into Twitter Wednesday night to see how the Treasure Island event was going.

But I had other priorities.

And it helped me to understand something. Although Oracle OpenWorld is a huge experience when you're there, it's a minor blip to the rest of the world.

I always wondered why the Oracle OpenWorld-related hashtags were NEVER trending topics on Twitter, despite the fact the everyone around me seemed to be tweeting about the conference. The answer becomes apparent once you're not standing in the direction that the firehose is pointing.

In a way, Oracle OpenWorld is kind of like FriendFeed. When you're there, it seems gigantic. When you're not there, it seems inconsequential. Remember the big hullabaloo in February when FriendFeed went down and, in the words of MG Siegler, both remaining users were pissed? Some FriendFeed users took offense to that statement...even though in relative terms it was true. For whatever reason, FriendFeed usage has declined since the Facebook acquisition, and even if usage had stayed the same, the number of FriendFeed users is nowhere near the number of Twitter users. And the fact that most in the tech press refer to FriendFeed in the past tense just exacerbates the situation.

So it is with Oracle OpenWorld. What would happen if Oracle, for whatever reason, decided to cancel Oracle OpenWorld 2011? Now a lot of my personal friends and acquaintances would be extremely upset, and it would be a major catastrophe to them. But most of the world wouldn't care.

In fact, I know one person who would be EXTREMELY happy if Oracle OpenWorld would just go away. Back when I wrote about the closures of Howard and Mason streets, I received a comment from a woman named Diana. This is (part of) what she said:

The above closure will be EXTREME hardship for those who are mobility compromised and live at 149 Mason Street! Am I supposed to walk a block and stand at a street corner, when I cannot do so without a wheelchair, and when the Medi-Cal system has not yet processed my wheel chair prescription--and may not for a while? I use Paratransit which comes right to my door at 149 Mason St., on the corner of Ellis and Mason. How can I walk a block to meet them if they cannot come to my door? Not to mention the dangerous neighborhood to stand around in that I will find if I even COULD go a block in either direction. Drug dealers galore, thieves, etc. Did anyone there ever even give a thought to those of us who can't get around except by muni, Paratransit or cab? How can we get where we need to go without walking? This is absolutely unfair and unacceptable!

So while I'm thinking about a place where I can get beer and Oracle Technology Network building blocks, Diana is living in the real world and has real worries.

I still want to get around to exploring Oracle's cloud initiatives at some point. Perhaps I'll start by reading something that Jake Kuramoto wrote back in 2009.

But, like I said, I have two other projects that I'm working on...
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