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Volume 18, Number 26 -- July 13, 2009

COMMON 2010: Bring Your Own Booze (And I Will)

Published: July 13, 2009

by Timothy Prickett Morgan

It is hard to believe it, but the COMMON midrange user group is coming up on its 50th anniversary. And like other user groups and trade shows that have been put under pressure by the lack of funds for travel and training and the increasing workload we all seem to be carrying, COMMON is facing some pretty stark realities.

That's why Wayne Madden, COMMON's newly appointed president, sent a letter recently to the volunteers that truly make COMMON what it is--a user group by users and for users--to give them a sense of what the 2010 COMMON meeting has in store. (You can read that letter here.)

We've already given you the lowdown on the COMMON event held in Reno, Nevada, at the end of April from the point of view of people attending the show and the questions that many raised about the future of COMMON, and Madden pulled no punches in his letter about the difficulties that COMMON is facing.

"To provide some background, COMMON's Annual Meeting in Reno certainly followed the current trends in the conference industry as a whole due to the economy," Madden wrote. "We experienced about a 48 percent drop in attendance from the 2008 Annual Meeting while the average industry trend appears to be a 50 percent-60 percent drop in attendance. This certainly is bringing some urgency to COMMON's financial position in terms of protecting our reserves and ensuring we have the right model moving forward. That started many conversations about the 2009 Annual Meeting relating to how we could reduce risk, manage the event wisely, and also what types of changes would be necessary for the future to ensure that COMMON will serve our members."

To that end, COMMON's board has voted to cut the number of session tracks for the next annual event, which will be held in Orlando, Florida, down to 15; to cut back on education days for the event, down to four; to cut the Expo down to two days, from three; to shift to a cash bar instead of free booze at the social events; cut back on lab rooms; and to move to less expensive hotels that don't have convention centers. Volunteers, as you can see from the letter, are going to have a whole bunch of their benefits curtailed, too. Madden pointed out that SHARE, the mainframe user group, has never given out bennies to its volunteers as a means of cushioning the blow, but when you have had a benefit, it is hard to give it up and keep volunteering.

But you know what? People will. This is COMMON. And belts are tightening everywhere, and this is just the way it is.

But fear not. I will be working on a new recipe of a little something I'll call Four Hundred Lager, compliments of Prickett-Morgan's Finest Picobrewery, located in Inwood, New York City. I'm thinking maybe something with a hint of blueberries, but a defiant edge of Lutheran hops. . . .


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