Clif Notes: Popcorn? It's Not My Fault!

Since our last issue, the International Spectrum Conference was held in Phoenix, Arizona. I'd like to offer a few observations and musings about it. Let's start with the most important — the ice cream social.

There wasn't one.

Let's get one thing straight. This was not my fault, despite the vile rumors that by featuring it so prominently in Clif Notes in the last issue, it was feared that we would be inundated by attendees whose exuberance (in addition to the presence of a no-host bar) would lead to bank-breaking ice cream over-consumption and possibly a rather messy, sticky, food fight. Nor is it true that the resort denied permission to hold it because the idea of raging sugar levels, wine and beer, and a number of competing vendors in the same room at once struck fear into the hearts of the hotel's anti-terrorism task force. No, the reason for the absence of the ice cream social from this year's conference was much more mundane — none of the corporate sponsors wanted to host it. So the decision was made.

Let them eat popcorn.

At least the no-host bar was still present so that you could get some liquid refreshment to wash it down.

Now don't get me wrong; I like popcorn. But after after playing up the ice cream in my last column, it was a bit of a shocker to walk into the exhibit hall, smell popcorn, and not a single bowl of hot fudge to be seen. On top of that, I discover that this turn of events was known in advance of my ice cream oriented column going to press. But apparently they decided to just let it run and see how I would handle it when I walked into the situation unaware. My buddies; my pals. But that's okay. Wait until they see my pre-conference column next year. Paybacks are rough.


We had a number of both new attendees, and returning attendees who had not been to a conference in several years. This was primarily due to the fact that the conference changed its location from the East Coast to closer to the West Coast. People in a particular geographic region are more prone to attend the conference when it is on their side of the country. That's one of the reasons why the conference moves around every two years. Why not every year? It has to do with the economics involved in booking hotels for conferences. I am given to understand that you get a much better deal by negotiating a two-year contract. (I don't know the details of that, however. I have no involvement in that aspect of the business.) So we had an opportunity to see some colleagues that we see every year, reacquaint ourselves with colleagues we haven't seen in a couple of years, and meet some new MultiValue professionals and exchange notes. For many of us, combined with the professional continuing education aspect, that is a major motivation to attend. As I said in the last issue, it's not about the ice cream. (And it sure isn't about popcorn.)

We also had some new attendees from other countries along with returning attendees from other countries. Personally, I was always that very heartening. Whereas a number of companies will not permit anybody but salespeople to incur travel expenses (a penny-wise, pound-foolish attitude, in my opinion), it is apparent that the conference offers enough new, strategic, forefront of the industry information that these folks find it worth the time, money, and effort to not just get on an airplane but to fly across oceans and continents in order to attend. And if you think that doesn't require a certain higher level of motivation, you probably have not traveled internationally. You take a few flights to and from a conference most of the way around the world and I can tell you from experience, it makes Chicago to Phoenix feel like a commuter flight.


Speaking of forefront of the industry information, just what kind of information were this year's attendees looking for? As I pointed out in last month's column, about 78% of the session content of this year's conference was professional education oriented. It most certainly was not day after day of vendor demonstrations and product roadmaps (although those were also available). So we took a look at the attendee counts for each non-vendor, non-communal (i.e. Lunch presentations) sessions, categorized and ranked them, and came up with some numbers. (See the 2013 Recap article on page 6 of this issue.) Sessions dealing with Web and Mobile applications, techniques, and tools led the pack. Following that was a category we loosely identified as Integration. In other words, topics having to do with how to get our MultiValue systems to work in conjunction with non-MultiValue databases, systems, and tools. The third category was Development topics.

What does this mean? My personal interpretation (not necessarily that of International Spectrum or its staff) is that what we are seeing is that more and more MultiValue systems are being used in a multi-platform environment, and its seamless access to all the information on all systems is now the expectation. Users, both internal and customers, expect to be able to access, and in certain cases manipulate, information on your systems using their smart phone or tablet. Whether they want to or not, MultiValue developers are being required to either provide or at least to support these efforts. That might account for the ranking of Web/Mobile and Integration sessions.

What about Development? One of the things that I am seeing in our community is an increasing discussion of formal development methodologies. For example, several attendees in my sessions reported that their companies were either using or investigating SCRUM or some other Agile methodology or mix. Additionally, I've seen some rather interesting discussions about the topic of Agile on the MultiValue-oriented LinkedIn groups. You might want to go and explore those if you are interested in the topic. At the very least you may find a bit of humor in some of the more sanctimonious postings claiming that "MultiValue has always been agile before there was an Agile." (Right…)


So, should you plan to attend the 2014 International Spectrum Conference, again to be held in Phoenix?


I really don't think you should. I don't think you should spend your time and either your or the company's money to come to the conference. Your time would be better spent staying in your shop, developing applications in the same manner you been using for years, and fighting the never ending fires that come from poor planning, uncoordinated effort, and lack of any kind of methodology. Leave the web and mobile stuff to the Oracle people. And if they want to exchange data with you, insist on CSV files, since those are the only things MultiValue can handle. I really think you should.

That way my conference-attending colleagues and I can proceed with implementing modern applications with and on MultiValue platforms, thus ensuring ongoing employment and funding of our clever Plan to Take Over the World.

Then we'll buy the ice cream.


May/Jun 2013