Oracle OpenWorld 2012 Survey Feedback

by Seth Miller

OpenWorld exceeded my expectations for both of the last two years that I attended. I have already started planning for 2013 and can’t wait to see what OpenWorld has in store. I have a number of suggestions for improvement, a number of complaints that the planners of the event probably have no control over and both of these are heavily outweighed by my appreciation and praise for the return of value I receive for the price that I and my employer pay for OpenWorld.

2011 was my first attendance of OpenWorld. I planned very poorly for both the event and logistics. The closest decently priced hotel I could find that wouldn’t require me to share a bathroom was in Sausalito. This was, of course, completely my fault and I planned much better this year. I booked my hotel and flight eight months before the event and stayed in Union Square. However, I have a couple of colleagues that ran into the same problem this year that I did the previous and were forced to stay across the bay. I’m sure there is little or nothing to be done about this issue since it is increasingly difficult to fit tens of thousands of people in a relatively small area. But it is worth noting the issue.

The tent over Howard Street is nothing short of incredible. I wish I would have attended OpenWorld before the tent existed to get a real feel for the contrast but I can appreciate it just the same. The extra room the tent provides and advantage to the attendees to be able to walk between the two locations makes it almost necessary and I can’t imagine the landscape without it.

San Francisco is known for its leniency and some would say encouragement of homelessness on its streets. As well behaved as they appear to be, no one (especially 50,000+ people that dedicate themselves to their career) likes to see filthy people sleeping on the sidewalk. No one likes to be approached for money every 50 feet. No one likes to see people rummaging through garbage cans or dumpsters. As much money as OpenWorld (and other large conventions like VMworld) bring into the city, it would seem that the city could at least temporarily help with this problem and make the attendees that bring in so much money feel more comfortable.

Most attendees come for the sessions. These are the meat of the event and should be treated as such. There is no doubt from the quality of the speakers that Oracle and the user groups are very careful about who is selected to speak. The setup of each room including a stage, large screen displays, microphones and sound and technicians in each one makes for an ideal environment for learning and absorbing information.

However, distractions in the sessions are a problem, for me at least. Perhaps I am spoiled by Toastmasters but it is explicitly requested at the start of every Toastmasters meeting that electronic devices be silenced out of respect for the speaker and the audience. I heard this request only once this year at OpenWorld and it was all but ignored. The speakers go through a lot of preparation and hard work on their presentations and I believe this is something they should be afforded. This would also include the constant clicking and beeping of cameras, smart phones and tablets taking pictures of the screen. This practice continues to baffle me. I don’t understand why audience members would take a grainy picture of every slide when the entire presentation is made available in high quality shortly after the event. The only conclusion I can come to is that people are not aware that the presentation will be available.

The refillable water bottles and the ubiquitous refill stations are another fantastic idea. Not only does it do a tremendous amount to reduce trash imposed by plastic cups and bottles, it also allows people to carry water with them, encouraging them to drink more of it. The HCL sponsored glass bottles last year were perfect for the reasons that they could hold a good amount of water and were sealable so they could be put into one’s bag and transported. This year there were more water refill stations available which made it even easier to refill our cups. However, the cups that were included with the materials were a gigantic let-down. They were not sealable making screw-top plastic water bottles a much better alternative to transport water. They were made of plastic instead of glass, increasing the environmental impact and they were cheap and mine ended up leaking after the second day of use.

My reaction to the bag that was handed out with the materials is exactly the opposite of the cup. The bag this year is easily superior to that of last year in style and functionality. I did not use the bag I received last year because it just didn’t have enough functionality to make it worth using. Whereas the bag I received this year has exactly what I need in a daily work bag and I will start using it as soon as I return to work.

There were a lot of bloggers covering OpenWorld. I searched several times for news from the people covering the event. It was easy to find the Oracle blog posts through the Oracle website but surprisingly there is no link for the independent blogs anywhere on the OpenWorld website. I also didn’t find any collection of these bloggers anywhere on OTN, IOUG or other sites I thought would be a good place for them

The “mobile app” that was used this year was useful at best. I quote “mobile app” because a website is not an app. It became unresponsive several times of each day. It was painfully slow when transitioning between screens and didn’t offer enough information. It was also difficult to find. I looked for an “app” for several hours before I realized that the “app” was a website. I know that I was not the only that had issues with it. I met several people that just took screenshots of their schedules instead of using the app because of the issues. On the other hand, the app from last year was incredibly useful and fast. I still had it loaded on my phone and kept making futile checks to see if it was updated.

The social networking locations are awesome. My second goal this year was to network with as many people as possible and being able to sit across from someone in any building and on any floor made that goal very achievable. I also love that there are so many outlets available in those locations for charging electronic devices that are so ubiquitous in this industry. I rarely see an empty seat in these locations and they are always filled with conversation.

I utilized the speaker lounges as well as the certification lounge liberally. I very much appreciate that the attendees that choose to devote so much to their career by becoming certified and speaking at this conference get a little bit of a special treatment. It is nice that when I have to skip meals and need a hot coffee and a snack that it is always available in one of these locations.

The design of the ID pouches is great in many ways. The extra pocket that holds the lunch ticket and information packet is very useful and the information that the booklet provides is also valuable. The name tag is easily readable and really helps to identify people especially when you recognize someone but can’t immediately remember their name. The adhesive tags that attach to the pouch are right up there on my list of most inspirational ideas at OpenWorld. They are useful and effective for so many obvious reasons and I hope they continue to become more heavily utilized. The one correction I would make is to find a way to either keep the name tags facing out at all times or to make them show identification regardless of the direction they are in.

I filled out every survey that was requested. I found them to be simple enough that most people would take the time to fill them out honestly, yet have enough substance to give the speaker valid criticism and praise. I do think it would be valid however to have a freehand field much like this one to offer further feedback.

The evening events are superbly planned and executed. The talent, food, activities and locations leave nothing to be desired. I can’t think of anything that would make events any better.

I am a huge fan of ebooks. In fact, I rarely buy paper books anymore. Especially technical books since they are often large and heavy. I was shopping at the book store in Moscone West and was ready to buy a couple of books but was told that they were not selling ebooks. I wonder how many more would have been sold, had the same offer of 20%/25% off would have been offered to digital books as well as paper. I also was fully prepared to purchase a shirt but my size was not available in any of the button-down styles.

The staff I had contact with, whether they were registration staff, security, badge scanners for the presentations, room attendants, janitorial staff or information desk were all friendly and accommodating. I’m not sure how that can be since they are a mixture of different groups with different employers, but it definitely enhances the experience of the convention.

I am proud to be an ambassador for Oracle products. I am grateful to have a career that involves my passion and to have a passion that drives my career. It always blows me away that I get paid to do what I love. When I show up in San Francisco every year, it never ceases to amaze me that I get to be surrounded by people that feel the same way I do. I appreciate the opportunity to give this type of feedback and I will do my best to offer it again if it helps to make a better OpenWorld.