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Software Technology

Time To Bring Back the Software User Conference ( 43

Holger Mueller, writing for ZDNet (condensed for space): Every tech company has a user conference these days. And is it just me, or are they all starting to feel the exact same? Same announcements, same message, same speakers, same venue. Rinse, repeat. On top of this sameness, irrelevant gimmicks and lack of substance threaten to drag the tech user conference into obsolescence. But all is not lost. Here are a few areas in which tech conferences are going astray, and a few ideas about how to fix them.

It's about the product. Users attend conferences to learn more about a vendor's software. So product needs to get a lot of air time. Yes, services matter too-but it's the product that people have taken time out of their busy schedules to learn about.
Have a motivational speaker who matters.
Demo software. Many attendees are expert users. Vendors need to demonstrate they, too, are experts with their own product. The best way to do this is to demo the product.
Subject expertise beats celebrity. Yes, user conferences are about inspiration, but a celebrity, soap opera star, or a talk show host is not something an enterprise software user can relate to their work and is definitely not why they spend 3-4 days and a few thousand dollars/euros to attend a conference.
Limit the philanthropy. It's great for vendors to give back to a purpose outside of the software. But it should not be 50 percent of a keynote.
Users want to network. Vendors should give users a chance to network. Not just informally, but in a planned way.
Party hard but responsibly.

Time To Bring Back the Software User Conference

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    Sotware products, not smartphone apps.

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @01:42PM (#56222545)

    All those dead are good, but one problem I've noticed at conferences in recent years is, it seems like a lot of attendees are not fully into the material.

    Conferences would probably be better if they were smaller but more dedicated. That would limit networking a little bit, but if you had smaller and more regional conferences the quality and usefulness of networking would probably be higher.

    I also think most software (development and use) conferences could use a LOT more hands-on training opportunity. You can get a ton of videos on development or using any software these days, so to me real value that brings me to a conference is (A) to get to speak directly to developers to provide feedback and ideas, or (b) to be able to have some hands on the wit truly expert users who can help me with problems I may be having, by working with me in person.

    • Why do I keep getting training videos for software? I'm clearly a guy who decided as a career I want to look at a text editor. Why are you going to make me sit through a video as opposed to a well written document.

      I'm joking, I know why. Cause a bad video sounds better to your boss than good text, and is much cheaper to make.

      Live is a different story. Being able to ask questions is super important.

      • For development I usually prefer documents as well, but for using software I often find video more quick ro process and descriptive, because you can see things they are doing they might forget to be writing down or simply not realize they are doing.

        Video of talks at development conferences can be useful for similar reasons, they mention something offhand that wouldn't go into a document but is useful.

    • Conferences would probably be better if they were smaller but more dedicated. That would limit networking a little bit, but if you had smaller and more regional conferences the quality and usefulness of networking would probably be higher.

      The Wordpress community does this somewhat well. From the point of view of the Wordpress end user, I'd say that WordCamps do an excellent job.

      It's unfortunate they don't offer as much which covers the administration end, which could be useful to those of us who have to manage these installations. Certainly there's lots of info out there on the web... but I've found, when it comes to most any type of tech work I've had to do, I've learned as much (or more) just talking to other admins as I've learned from re

  • by jellomizer ( 103300 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @01:44PM (#56222559)

    These user conferences are not about software, it is about bigwigs to go and make contacts. While us working folks, can get our work done uninterrupted.

    The last time I been to one of these, I had more interest looking at the other vendors booths to see what they are doing and where the market is shifting. The actual speeches and stuff, were just a wast of time.

    • The last time I been to one of these, I had more interest looking at the other vendors booths to see what they are doing and where the market is shifting.

      So you got good value out of the conference. That is what they are for, to find out where the industry is going. And for us Engineers, it is good to stick out head up out of the cubicle from time to time.

      The other major reason to go is, of course, to pick up the free tee shirts. I save a small fortune on clothes. (Actually, a tiny fortune compared to what my wife spends...)

  • ... Party hard but responsibly.

    Everything was going fine, but then they had to add those last two words!

    More seriously, I've seen too many people completely non-functional the second/third day of a conference because they drank too much the night before. And these are adults who should know better (although my guess is the kids just managed to hold the same amount, or more, of liquor better.) Don't go crazy just because [large tech company] is picking up the tab.

    In seriousness, the author goes to 40+ conf

  • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @01:49PM (#56222579)
    it's sold to management. When it to sales know your audience. If a guy comes into a truck dealer with a hot wife and he's looking for a $15k plain white work truck you ignore him and sell the wife a $60,000 Cadillac.
  • What industry are you in? Automotive has them

  • Same announcements, same message, same speakers, same venue

    Of course.

    There are a bunch of companies out there that offer conference-as-a-service. From travel to accomodation, venue, decoration to social events - of course taking special dietary, cultural and religious needs into account - you can outsource your conference. Of course they're trying to be unique, but they still base everything on their expirience and "best practice"

  • by 110010001000 ( 697113 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @02:11PM (#56222709) Homepage Journal
    That is because these conferences are run by marketing and sales. The marketing people are using it as a platform to show how useful they are to a company, and the sales people are using it to generate leads. What you want is a technical conference, but tech corporations are rolling in money so aren't very interested in technical things at this point.
  • These companies really don't care what users think. They want users to mindlessly consume. They want to imprison users in convincingly safe and comfortable walled gardens. User conferences are all marketing, hype, and corporate image management.

  • What the software world needs are heckling sessions, where users get to pour out their frustrations over the people responsible for them. That includes the developers who leave software littered with bugs and illogical behavior, UI designers who rearrange the whole interface for no good reason and marketers who force user-hostile behavior into programs.

  • by sexconker ( 1179573 ) on Wednesday March 07, 2018 @02:39PM (#56222833)

    All of these conferences are useless. Here's what I want to know:

    What does your product do?
    How much does it cost?

    If you can't answer that on a single page on your website, you're full of shit.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      What does your product do?
      How much does it cost?

      You evidently aren't a user yet. Or you would already know the answers to these questions.

      Users would ask things like:

      Why doesn't Feature X work properly?
      When are you going to port your product to something other than XP/IE6?
      What about all these bugs?

      But in my industry, once you become a user, you have signed all sorts of ND agreements and licenses which prohibit you from speaking to anyone other then the vendor about the above topics. Getting users together in a room would be an app vendor's worst nig

  • The last time I went to WWDC, I managed to scrounge together a set of technical presentations to go to. I distinctly remember sitting through a Grand Central Dispatch presentation where the presenter really was dumbing things down for the audience. Which was probably fair, because even the "real developers" audience these days contains a huge proportion of people who are only functional when you equip them with a few hundred third-party libraries to do important work like "trim whitespace from the ends of

  • I've attended the SHARE [] conference for the last few years, it's been going on for more than 50. For those not in the know it's a user conference that's focused primarily on IBM System z and its associated ecosystem. Point by point on the checklist in TFA I can say it passes for the most part, there was a bit of a hiccup with one of the keynote speakers last year in San Jose but for the vast majority of the speakers I've heard they've been relevant and useful. If other parts of the computing ecosystem want t

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