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April 14, 2005 » 6:27 pm

Observations from Portals 2005

When I worked at Dr. Dobb’s Journal, I did the software development and IT conference circuit regularly. Most of those conferences were incredibly boring, but they were rarely a waste of time. What made them compelling were the attendees.    (IM0)

I’ve been spoiled in the six years since. Not only have the conferences I’ve attended been more diverse and interesting, many of them have exploited collaborative processes that emphasized participant interaction. That’s obviously an advantage if the reason you’re attending is to meet interesting folks. Additionally, most of these events were more about social good rather than corporate productivity. As a result, the energy is much more positive.    (IM1)

Attending Portals, Collaboration, and Content Management 2005 these past few days was a blast to the past for me, which was exactly why I chose to attend. I wanted to reconnect with the corporate IT community and discover what they were thinking about these days, especially regarding collaboration. I also wanted to test my ideas with this crowd, to see if I still remembered the language of this community and if my message would fly.    (IM2)

I gave the first talk in the collaboration track, and it was very well received, moreso than I expected. There was a snafu with the program, which listed my talk as, “Collaboration: What’s In It For Me,” when the actual title was, “Collaboration: What The Heck Is It?” One woman approached me afterwards and told me that she was originally planning on attending my talk, then saw what the real title was and decided to attend a different one instead. Afterwards, she ate lunch with several people who did attend my talk, and much to her chagrin, they raved about it.    (IM3)

Several people told me they enjoyed the interactivity of my presentation. That was intentional. It engaged the audience, and it gave me a chance to learn from them. My plan wasn’t to teach, it was to stretch people’s minds, to give them an opportunity to think about things in new ways.    (IM4)

Folks who know me well or read this blog regularly know how much I tout highly interactive conferences. I think there is a huge opportunity for such an event for IT workers. I heard very little that interested me in the conference tracks. The attendees were far more interesting than the speakers, and most of my learning occurred during the meals. Several people even said as much, completely unprovoked by me.    (IM5)

Some other observations:    (IM6)

  • I ran into a number of people who had been with their companies for 15 years or longer. One person suggested that the reason for this was that companies liked to put their most experienced people in charge of portals. It makes perfect sense. These folks have an innate understanding of the organizational dynamics, which portals should parallel.    (IM7)
  • Kaliya Hamlin suggested that people attending this conference would be really interested in Identity Commons. Sure enough, several people said they were looking for good Single Sign-On solutions. However, despite my active involvement and evangelism with Identity Commons, I don’t think Identity Commons provides what these people are looking for right now. The real value of Identity Commons as an identity solution is inter-organizational, whereas most IT people are dealing with intra-organizational problems.    (IM8)
  • I was blown away by the proliferation of SharePoint in organizations. During my talk, several audience members realized that they were all dealing with similar challenges with SharePoint, so they gathered afterwards to discuss. I discovered many others in similar situations. I mentioned this to some folks at the SAP Netweaver booth, and they said they were blown away by the same observation. SharePoint seems to be making real viral headway in organizations, largely from the bottom-up. Ironically, some IT people are expressing the same misgivings about SharePoint as they do about Open Source software.    (IM9)
  • I love warm, summer nights. Yes, I realize it’s still spring. An April evening in Phoenix is about equivalent to a July evening in Los Angeles.    (IMA)

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