IBM Think Review 1: Non-Technical Observations
There will be a number of reviews of IBM Think from me, on various topics – gone are the days when there was a very tight narrow focus to my attendance at an IBM conference. But this first post is a review of some of the non-technical aspects of the conference.
This was the first conference with a dedicated IBM Champion and Community Day, on Sunday. The day itself was oversubscribed, from what I hear, and it was great to have a day of sessions aimed at community themes. This was particularly useful because the IBM Champion desk during the rest of the conference was rather out-of-the-way. It was in a different venue – MGM Grand rather than Mandalay Bay where the rest of the conference was. But the smaller site meant it was easy to become familiar with the space and a great opportunity to meet familiar and new faces.
There were concerns beforehand that such a big conference would mean ICS might get swallowed up and that it would be hard to find everyone. The Monday had a lot less space because the showcase floor was not available until Monday evening, which did mean the corridors were very crowded. But once the showcase opened the corridors were much more manageable. However, one corridor looked very much like another and even by the end of the week it was easy to go down the wrong corridor. Because of the size of the venue and the labyrinthine nature of the corridors, it was a good job there was so much time between sessions. From what I remember of last year’s venue, I don’t think it will be a problem next year.
The specific focus on ICS for the Community Day on Wednesday also helped to give a feeling of a “conference within a conference” – a popular request after the initial announcement of IBM Think – allowing a more in-depth catch-up on the products than we would have had in just a keynote. This was a nice touch and again allowed us to see familiar faces. Having some sessions in Think Tanks on the showcase floor was good, although the areas were packed and noise bleeded from other talks. Thankfully the sessions were planned with enough time that they could be run twice, giving plenty of time for questions and hands-on experience.
But being part of a much broader technological conference gave the opportunity to dig into other areas of IBM technology, both officially and unofficially. It was also good to meet IBM Champions from other brands face-to-face, I look forward to more of that in the future. An interesting change to previous years was that the ICS champions used Watson Workspace extensively to communicate with one another. It became virally adopted as the de facto tool for meeting up. The lightweight mobile app, pre-existing workspace, heavy adoption, ease of direct messaging and the reliable wifi – not just in the venue but across the hotels – meant it just worked. Chat apps have existed at previous conferences, but there was not one that was as pervasive. Wifi will not be as widespread next year and user groups are much smaller, so I’ll be interested to see how use of Watson Workspace at future conferences changes and evolves.