Structure 08: The Whole is Less than the Sum of the Parts

I spent the day at Structure 08 and–at the risk of getting too mereologic–felt that the whole was much less than the sum of the parts.

The conference was focused on cloud computing which I believe is an important technology trend. They recruited several very good speakers–and many poor, or at least poorly prepared, ones.

One of the first presentations was by Alistair Croll who pitched a $250 briefing on cloud computing  that should probably have been made available to conference attendees or not mentioned. In any event taking the time to try and sell to us  from the speaker’s podium at the start of the conference was annoying. I always feel terrible when I have paid real money, in this case about $600, and have to sit through a sales pitch.

There was a video tape of Nick Carr talking about how important cloud computing is but adding nothing beyond praise for Om Malik’s team in putting the conference together. If I felt terrible listening to a sales pitch, I felt stupid watching a video.

That was another challenge, the sessions were not interactive in any meaningful way. I had the opportunity to chat with perhaps 20 folks who either sat next to me at breakfast, lunch, or sessions and was uniformly impressed. Take the time with at least a “show of hands” model to let the attendees learn more about themselves.

Many of the speakers seemed unprepared and unwilling and/or unable to be succinct in the time allotted. Some of the panels essentially ran out of time after the introductions, with little time for any questions or useful interaction among the participants. In a venue that participants have paid to attend I think you have to worry about whether it’s really appropriate for your marketing message to exceed 2-3% of your time as a “what we do.”

That being said there were two talks that were quite good:

  • The panel “Harnessing Explosive Growth: Infrastructure Strategies and Tactics” brought together a number of sysadmins who offered a wealth of practical advice. Sandy Jen in particular was low key but very well prepared, explaining the need to avoid any “trap door transitions” that you couldn’t undo and the value of making a series of small easily reversible changes to explore improving the user experience in a heavily loaded infrastructure for a rapidly growing user population.
  • The Level 3 talk was very interesting in its exposition of standards driven networks based on optical fiber acting as a basis for cloud computing.

It may be a while before I attend another GigaOm conference.

1 thought on “Structure 08: The Whole is Less than the Sum of the Parts”

  1. Pingback: SKMurphy » Quotes for Entrepreneurs - December 2008

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