A week in Florida. I have an idea.
You know that feeling when you know exactly what you want to say, but you can't quite write it down?
This last week I've been working in Orlando. Not in the area above, but the floor below on the trade floor for Teamstudio. Working on an exhibition stand is something I've done a fair amount of - and as I concentrate more on the LEGO side of my business it's going to increase (LEGO pulls people onto a stand).
The last week in Orlando was something much more than another event. 2013 marked the tenth anniversary year for me - 2003 - 2013. Eleven years of traveling to an event, yes, but far more importantly, 11 years of spending a week with some of my best friends.
This year was different for so many reasons, and working all day at a stand gives you a very different outlook to a week of meetings and presentations. But for me, it brought home one more, important point. It's not about the technology. It's true that for over a decade we've used the excuse to travel in order to learn technical content about the Lotus world. Hell, my (7 year old and still in use) proposal document says that. But for me the past week wasn't about the technology anymore. It was about friends and community. It was about love.
Lotusphere might have been the reason that we came to Orlando, but that isn't the reason we stayed. It doesn't explain why Kitty, Collette, Matt, Joan and all the other husbands, wives and kids have joined us. It doesn't explain why we all fly around the world to visit LUGs, or why I've stayed with other speakers in their houses and we have had them to stay here. That's not the real reason.
Connect will be back in Orlando in 2014, and I'm sure it will go down well. Volker explains it well, and I have NO problem with IBM focusing the event on management, CxO's and analysts and selling the big picture. If there is a reasonable way for me to return in 2014 then I'd love to be there with a badge on. But it won't be for technical learning or customer networking, not for me.
Alan commented on Volkers' blog asking if someone would take on running a technical Lotus conference elsewhere. A Dev or AdminCon I guess. Whilst that's certainly a possibility, I don't necessarily think it's the only way to go. The View and the LUGs cover alot of that ground already - the content is out there. I suppose Lotusphere could be spun out, but without management buyers there, the sponsors will find it hard to justify and without them the attendance costs would rocket.
I have had another idea, and it's one that I'm going to go through with in 2013. It's one I mentioned to a couple of people last week and one that I've wanted to do for well over a year. I've already mentioned to people that UKLUG will be back in September(ish), but I'm going to throw in something else.
I think the real reason we were all so sad to say goodbye this week is that we miss the people, the experiences, the breadth of learning and understanding. We miss the late night conversations and the deep and meaningfuls. We miss the insightful debate and we miss spending time with our friends. Yes, we're all socially awkard geeks at heart, so we like having an event to base things around, but that's all it is - it's a base.
So, I present you with this. Not an unconference, but a conference with no fixed agenda. Immediately before or after UKLUG there will be a new event - with sessions and keynotes and breakouts - but not focussed on Lotus. Not on IBM and not on any real topic at all. Just on interesting things that you want to hear about. Think of the Nerd Girls spark sessions, Tim Clarks' Olympics session this year or my LEGO community session at ILUG - or even the TED talks. Anything goes if you want to present it. Don't have an hours content? That's fine - you can have 15minutes. Want to do a workshop or BOF instead? No problem.
We'll plan the conference as usual. We will have abstract submissions, but we'll let the web vote on what gets put through. We'll have evening entertainments and registration and lunch and all that good stuff. What we won't have is a show floor (probably), so there may be a charge involved to cover our costs. But what we will have is a reason to get together, to learn, to inspire and grow.
I want this event to be something that you bring your husband/wife/mom/dad/sister/brother/significant other to . I want it to be something that you bring your kids to - and I want them to learn from it as much as you do. We will market it far and wide - crowdsource support and management - find a way of getting more and more people involved. Whatever happens, I DONT WANT TO LOOSE THIS HEAD START.
So, what say you, interwebz? The technology is there and so are the people. As much as I could do this alone, I don't want to. If I'm right then there are many people reading this blog and wondering what is next. I am looking for help and this could well be your chance to be part of something very cool. Or, at the least, a weekend with friends. What's not to like?
ps: That photo above, in case you hadn't guessed, is backstage at Connect 13. Kristin Keene and her family were kind enough to allow me to join their backstage tour (OK, I begged her!) after this years' closing session. For me, it rounds out the event and completes it for me. It's something I've wanted to do since year one.