New Site, Positive Vibe Mark OCEAN Tech Conference
July 26, 2010 Dan Burger
There are still several local midrange user groups that can organize and put on top-quality tech conferences. The OCEAN user group in Southern California continues to show it can get the job done in a big way. This year, the organization moved to a new location without skipping a beat. Attendees and vendors approved and OCEAN was able to do well enough to fund another year’s worth of monthly programs that keep members educated, informed, and enthusiastic about the IBM i platform and their careers.
In regions where local user groups have not folded up their tents, there remains some camaraderie and interest in keeping up with what the IBM i technology offers. These annual tech conferences are touchstones to not only the technologies that are carrying companies forward, but more importantly to the people who are making it happen–for the companies they work for and for themselves.
Not only are the speakers technical experts in their fields, they are can-do people with enthusiasm that rubs off on the attendees. As a group, these are people who know that IT can be fun as well as challenging. They actually enjoy their profession. They are solving problems for business and enjoying it. Maybe not every damn minute of every day, but if I was putting together an IT team, these are the people I’d look for. They are the difference makers.
At the OCEAN conference, which took place July 17, you could see and feel the enthusiasm in sessions like Susan Gantner’s presentation on special files and Paul Holm’s “System i Can Do” technology review. They were the best attended sessions at the conference. Judging by the attendance at sessions on PHP, SQL, and integrating smartphones with IBM i, the desire to learn more about those topics is clearly evident.
People want to learn about and gain a deeper understanding of the new technologies, the new products, and the new capabilities, says Margaret Matthews, OCEAN president. Matthews said attendee feedback lauded the speakers and topics. It also overwhelmingly indicated the event was perceived as a great value.
Paid attendance was 140 and the cost of registration was $145. There were six tracks, with five sessions in each track. The tracks were power programming, new technology, PHP, infrastructure, Web development, and vendor-specific presentations.
Although the majority of attendees were from the Orange County area, the event also attracted participants from throughout the Los Angeles area as well as several dozen from San Diego. People came from as far away as San Francisco, Oregon, Arizona, and even Minnesota and Chicago.
One of the unknowns going into this conference was whether a new site would be advantageous. Past OCEAN conferences were held at hotels. This one was set up at National University. No one that I talked with was sorry. Attendees liked the session classrooms that handled up to 50 people without difficulties. The vendor expo area was smaller than what OCEAN had in the past, which led to selling all available space in only three days. The five vendor sessions on the agenda were also quickly snapped up.
The National University facility in Costa Mesa was accommodating, the parking was free and convenient, and the site had easy freeway access (a big plus in the greater Los Angeles area). Perhaps the most important benefit of the conference relocation was the significant cost savings for OCEAN. Hotel meeting rooms and food service are notoriously high. The move cut OCEAN’s expenses in half.
The general sense that I got was that this was a very positive day for everybody,” says Bob Langieri, the conference chairman and a veteran of many OCEAN tech conferences. “This makes everybody realize that the i is alive and well and there is a community out there that supports it.”
“It’s kinda like when you are down in the dumps and you hear all the negative news about the economy and you feel like nothing good is going on . . . then you go to a gathering where everybody is sharing ideas about doing new things and you know you are on the right track and there is a positive side to things,” Langieri added. “It’s like someone shouting ‘We’re alive! We’re not alone on the planet!'”