COMMON Europe Cancels Its June Conference
May 20, 2013 Timothy Prickett Morgan
COMMON Europe has given a jolt to the IBM i community, and right as we are approaching the 25th birthday–the silver anniversary, in fact–of the “Project Silverlake” machine that became the AS/400 minicomputer. After a hard look at the attendance data for its European Power Summit 2013 a month from now, COMMON Europe made the tough decision to cancel the event.
In a statement published on the COMMON Europe site, the European Power Summit Organizing Committee that is organizing the pan-European and pan-platform event, said that the event in Annecy, France, near Switzerland and a positively beautiful location, was not economically feasible.
This is not a decision we have taken lightly. After several months of planning, organization, and extensive marketing campaigns, we have been forced to make this decision because of several reasons.
The statement goes on to say that COMMON Europe and the regional user groups that come under this umbrella now have “the opportunity to re-evaluate the role that that we play in the European Power community” and expressed confidence that it “will emerge a leaner, stronger organization, truly independent of any supplier.”
I sent an email off to Thomas Schweizer, acting president of COMMON Europe, to get a little more detail on what exactly happened. Schweizer told me that the expo portion of the European Power Summit event was “more or less sold out,” so that was not the issue. IBM, which is by far the largest sponsor of both the COMMON and COMMON Europe events, which are completely independent of each other, has cut back, and importantly, four key speakers (who were not identified) from the United States and who were presumably from IBM were withdrawn, and that messed up the agenda.
“Despite the initial promises from IBM to make Annecy the venue for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the IBM i on the 21st June, it has been extremely difficult to establish any commitment, with the result that we couldn’t communicate this potential major marketing factor to the community.”
Finally, Schweizer told me that COMMON Europe was trying to deal with the low attendance. “We planned to start marketing campaigns in all countries with the new highlight of the 25th anniversary of the IBM i, but after the withdrawn from IBM, we lost our ace in the hole.”
I think the improvement in Internet technologies makes user group meetings and their expositions increasingly difficult to justify in terms of the time and money it takes. I say this as a person who has never traveled so much in my life, and it is ironic that I cover the technologies that in many cases exist to connect us over the Internet so we don’t have to travel. Let me give you a very interesting example. As I write this story, Google is hosting its sixth annual Google I/O developer forum in San Francisco. It is one of the hot events of the year, and as I write I am listening to co-founder Larry Page give a question and answer session, which he never does. There are 6,000 techies who scrapped and fought to get their tickets to be present at the event in San Francisco, but consider this: Over 40,000 people were watching the live broadcast of the nearly four-hour keynote going over the advancements in Android, Chrome, Search, Maps, Apps, and other software that rides on Google’s infrastructure at various viewing events in major cities around the world. And more than 1 million–yes, I said more than 1 million–additional people like myself watched the keynote from YouTube.
As appealing as Google’s platform is, and as dependent as developers are on it to make their living, look at how many people could show up to Google IO and how many could not.
I like user group meetings, I have met a lot of great people at them, and I have had a lot of fun. And I like going to vendor-sponsored events as much as the next guy and gal. But it just takes a tremendous amount of effort to put these things together and to attend them. That has always been true, but 25 years ago, there were no other options except to have such meetings to exchange information easily and broadly. This is the 21st century, and we have options. And that is what is so hard on COMMON and COMMON Europe. Also, the fact that we don’t have time and budgets are tight puts pressure on the big user groups, too. I don’t have any brilliant answers. Just observations.