Sunday, December 9, 2012

Andy's Guide to Whaterver We're Calling It.

For the past several years, I've written a blog post that, for me at least, grew into a themed fun post on what to do to get ready for another Lotusphere.  We're under 50 days away from the conference that we formally knew as Lotusphere and I'm having a bit of a problem this year.  Yes, change does happen and I'm okay with that.  But going into this years Lotusphere, the winds of change are blowing and they are even gusting a bit.  Several of the things on the prior lists no long longer seem to be valid, so my list is going to be a bit shorter this time around because there is a lot of the unknown factor.

First off, the conference is no longer called Lotusphere.  It's IBM Connect.  They have Lotusphere technical tracks as a part of the conference and many of us in the community will continue to call it Lotusphere regardless, but I don't want to get into that debate here.  So, I'll try and be a good boy and call it Connect throughout this post. 

(And now, the yearly disclaimer:)
What you will not find in this blog post is who the secret OGS speaker is.  What you will find here is a somewhat practical guide on what you can do to get yourself prepared and ready for the drinking of the fire-hose of knowledge that is Lotusp....I mean, Connect.

Part 1 - The Prep:

Like any good plan to work, preparation is KEY. If you are an Domino administrator, Domino developer, someone that manages a Sametime environment, someone that manages a Connections environment or someone that wants to see that there is other life out there beyond Failpo...I mean Sharepoint, the Lotusphere Connect conference is the place to go to learn from IBM and others what their software CAN do and how people ARE using it. It is also the place to get the inside track on things to come!  So, if you haven't already, GO ASK YOUR BOSS!  I'll wait.
Oh, you're back.  And the answer was...yes!?  Great.  Okay now that you are allowed to go you have to prepare yourself for a week of drinking from the fire-hose of knowledge.  This will be my 11th Lotusphere first Connect conference and every year, (I think, I mean, it's the first year under this name so I'm assuming it will be very similar), when I get back home it's the same thing.  Soar feet and brain overload.
Here are some of my usual tips that have not failed me yet!  Remember, preparation can save you some time and money later.

1.  Internet Resources
  • Follow the Lotu...I mean, Connect 2013 website for up to date information.
  • Follow Collaboration Today.  A site dedicated to all the news within the IBM Collaboration Solutions space that for sure will have detailed information about Connect 2013.
  • Follow   Many of the sites listed on there will have information regarding the conference. Both posts and podcasts. 
2.  Go and get yourself a new pair of tennis/walking shoes NOW. Wear them and break them in. If you can, get two pair so you can switch back and forth during the week.  This will save your feet some pain after the first day of walking around the conference. And you will do a LOT of walking around while you are there. You may also want to get a new pack of white socks at Walmart or Target. The real cushy kind. Those help a lot too.

3.  Before you leave on your adventure, stop by that section in cosmetics at the Walmart or Target that has all the neat little travel sized stuff and pick up anything you can think of that you may need! Aspirin, Advil, Tylenol, NyQuil, baby powder, Q tips, etc, etc. But most importantly PEPTO-BISMOL. I got REALLY ill once and had to dish out a lot of money at the little store in the Dolphin for supplies. Bringing a small drug store with you can really save you some bucks. It's usually 3-4 times more on site.  After all, you are staying at Walt Disney World.  Also PRESCRIPTIONS! If you have some that you need to maintain your quality of life, make sure you bring them with you!  When you stay on-site and you don't have a car, it can be a real task to get to a pharmacy.
  • Building on that point about bringing your drugs with you, Susan Bulloch, whom you should all know, respect and fear, brings up a great point in the comments below.  GET A FLU SHOT!  If you are reading this in December, there is still time.  Plus, the CDC has stated that flu season is starting early this year and it's a nasty one.  The good news is that the current flu shot for 2012-13 is 90% effective at the current nasty strain going around.  Being sick in Orlando sucks.  I know. So get your shot and start slamming the Vitamin's C, D3 and B12 NOW! 

4.  Here is where I would tell you to download the Notes database created by Ben Langhinrichs.  Well, this year he will not be creating this resource that has saved MANY of us time and effort when putting together our weeks schedule.  Thank you, Ben, for your commitment to the community and all the hard work over the years!
UPDATE: The genius that is Mat Newman has come through for us.  Picking up the flag carried by Ben all these years, Mat had gotten a team together and has created the "The totally unofficial, totally unsupported IBM Connect 2013 session database!"  Head on over to Mat's site to download yours today!  It works just like before where you can select your sessions and add them directly to your Notes calendar!  Great work Mat and team!

5.  If you need to, order more business cards now, if you still use them. You can go through a lot of them. Downside - Your phone will ring for a couple of weeks afterward.  (Yes, people still use business cards)

6.  Pay attention to the weather forecasts leading up to (insert conference name here). Orlando can be really nice and warm in January but it can also get downright cold at night. Pack appropriately.

7.  Dress for Connectosphere is casual. Jeans, shorts, polos and t shirts seem to be the norm. Even kilts for some! But no mankinis, please.

8.  Bring a plug strip, or two, with you. Most hotel rooms are limited on power outlets and having several outlets extra can always come in handy.

9.  And don't forget all of your accessories power cords for charging your stuff! You don't want to show up Saturday and realize that you are short a power cord for your iPhone. Not that I've ever done something like that, ever.

10.  If you can, get a portable charger like this. I brought one of these with me and saved my phone from running out of charge during the day.

11.   If you have access to a Mi-Fi or cellular wireless card for your laptop, bring it.  Yes, wifi is made available during the conference for your use.  Good luck trying to get on it.  There are several thousand other geeks there with you all trying to get connected at the same time during the day.  Access points can only do so much.  Historically, on Monday, the wifi is usually unusable because of overload.

12.  If you have a tablet...BRING IT.  I have found that carrying a tablet around in a small bag all day is MUCH easier on the body the lugging a huge bag o' stuff with your laptop in it.

Part 2 - You're There!: 

So now that you packed all your power cords, plug strips and comfy shoes, you arrive in Orlando to hopefully warm, sunny skies and are ready to begin drinking from the fire hose of knowledge that is (redacted conference title).

1.  Since Orlando is a tourist mecca, there are several ways to get to and from the airport.  The most expensive option is of course a private car or taxi.  But those can be a little costly.  For $34 (plus tips) round trip, you can take advantage of the Mears Shuttle.  This will get you to the hotel and back relatively easy.  But, you do need the coupon. Click here for coupon.  If you are staying at a Disney property (non-Swan or Dolphin hotel), you can also look into using the Magical Express for free.  See your hotel information for details.  However, I'm not sure about the Swan, but I know the Dolphin has car rental drop offs available which is important to note further down the list.

2.  If you are staying at the Swan or Dolphin, great.  You're right where the action is.  The Yacht and Beach is the next closest official hotel right within walking distance of the event.  If you are staying at one of the other Disney properties, get to know early where the conference shuttle pick up and drop off is at.  It's usually right out front of the hotel and you can always ask an ever helpful Disney cast member where they are.  My first year down there, I missed Saturday night registration by 10 minutes because I used the Disney transportation to get me to Downtown Disney first, then back to the Dolphin.

3.  To go along with point #2, don't be afraid of getting stranded at the Swan or Dolphin after the conference shuttles run.  You can use the Disney buses to get around.  From the hotels, they go to Downtown Disney and from there you can catch a bus back to your hotel. (Disney properties only)

4.  Once you checked into the conference DO NOT LOSE YOUR BADGE!  There are no mulligans.  You are Gollum and that is your precious. You loose it, you either go home or buy a new one.

5.  Meet people and make contacts. Very useful and fun. Sitting in your hotel room at night is no fun. There are not a whole lot of cable channels anyway.  So, get out and mingle, network and collaborate! Get social, dangit! If you arrive on Saturday and have nothing to do, wander on down to the Boardwalk area and stop in to the Big River Grille & Brewing Works. On Saturday afternoon, the Bloggers -and friends- Annual Lotusphere Dinner, BALD, takes place. It's nothing more then a bunch of Lotus geeks hanging out for a few adult soda pops and enjoying each others company. Very family reunionish without that odd aunt nobody likes anyway.  Then later in the evening on Saturday, wander on down to the ESPN bar for The Turtles get together. Always a fun time!  The Lotus community is one that is very accepting and social.  Very social. Make some friends, dang it! Seriously, get out and have fun.  You will meet people from ALL over the world and they will become your friends. But watch out for "handsy" Australians.  That's right Mat, I'm still talking to you.

5a.  There are a couple of social events also on Saturday you may want to check out!
  • I've just learned that our pal, Bill Mal, (Bill Malchisky), is hosting "Soccer Saturday".  It's a free fun event on Saturday and you should be sure to check out!  Check out the information on Bill's site for all the details
  • There is also the "Connect13 Hog Ride".  This is where a bunch of geeks rent Hogs, (Harley Davidson motercyles), and tear around central Florida.  I've never done it, but from what I've heard in years past, it is a great time!  Check out all the information about the event on Paul Mooney's site if you are interested in joining in!
  • Also, Saturday is the annual Australia Day.  It's 4th of July for our fellow ex-colonists from down under.  So make sure to celebrate with them!

6.  While we're on the topic of getting out and having fun, go to the vendor sponsored events usually on Tuesday night. They are always a lot of fun! (And saves you from having to find something for dinner that fits your expense account.)  Seriously though, if you are a customer of a vendor there, ask them if they have anything going on that week.  Remember, you are spending money with them normally.
Also, there is always a party or event to be found on either Monday or Tuesday night.  Work the show floor and you can usually score an invite.

7.  Your first time at Lotusphere is like your first day at college. You will be wandering around wondering where in the hell SW10 is. Ask people! Or if you look lost enough, (like I did my first year), someone will help you out.

8.  If you are certified take advantage of the Certification Lounge. Hang out, get some eats, and get a chair message (if they have them again.)

9.  Don't miss breakfast and lunch. I've really enjoyed the food that the catering folks put out for us. Especially at breakfast, drink lots of OJ, eat a bran muffin or two and have a bowl of cereal. Really pays off for the rest of the day. Also, be sure to thank the nice folks that are there taking care of us. They are always real nice people and seem to appreciate someone thanking them.  Also, do not be wary of approaching anyone there. Make yourself sit at tables with those you do not know and engage in conversation. Sometimes you meet awesome people. Sometimes it doesn't work. Either way it is how the community grows.

10.  Speaking of food, one thing I did different in recent years was rent a car to get to and from the airport.  One of the reasons why was that I wanted to stop at the store and grab some room snacks.  Pop tarts, pork rinds, green tea, etc.  Just general munchies.  There's nothing worse on one of the nights getting the munchies and not wanting to spend $8 bucks on something that's $2 at Walmart.  The rooms in the Dolphin have a fridge, so there's a plus right there.

11.  During the morning and afternoon, there are break stations set up throughout the conference.  Usually coffee, water/juice and a snack. Grab couple extra waters and snacks and throw them in your bag for either a late night snack (if you don't have a car) or just to have the water around.

12.  Keep yourself hydrated while you are on the go down there.  A full day of sessions and running between hotels can be draining.

13.  Stop into the developer labs and have all your burning questions answered! All of the top folks from IBM are there to help you through all of those tough questions you've been meaning to ask! Also, if they have the User Experience lab again this year, it's really cool! Check them out!  They are there to listen to us, the customer!  Do not be afraid of them, they won't bite, mostly.  You can have some very open and honest dialogue and work through your problems.
  • IBM'er Chris Reckling says:, "Yes, there is a UX Lab this year again. We also have planned some fun stuff, because that's what we do! (And I'll be showing new and 'old' mobile apps!)"

14.   Take Visio's with you of your environment. What better way to explain the layout of your environment than to have the graphical representations of it with you.
  • IBM'er Wes Morgan suggesting the following: "As a longtime staff member, I'd add one to your list:

    "When visiting the labs, be kind to your fellow attendees. Yes, it's a great opportunity to brainstorm with IBMers, but remember that others want to talk with them too! Basically, it comes down to "if a line is forming behind you, wrap it up and give someone else a chance."

15.  When "the conference" is over and you're getting ready to jump a plane home, be sure to check your receipt from the hotel. The Swan and Dolphin are notorious for charging you for things you didn't use, like the mini-bar in the hotel room. They almost got me one year. I'm sorry, $3 for a Snickers bar is just insane!

16.  When you see me, buy me a beer!  Oh wait, that doesn't belong here, moving on.

17.  IdoCheckin is back this year, so finding everyone around the conference is even easier. Visit the site, get yourself a Foursquare id and make friends.

18.  Stay tuned for a possible community event on Thursday after the closing general session.  In years past, the awesomeness that is Mitch Cohen had spearheaded an event that had to be cancelled this year.  Stay turned!

19.  If you are a Nerd Girl, you need Nerd Girl ware!  Stop by the shop here and get your swag early!

Now here is the MOST important thing you can take away from this blog entry/guide/manifesto:
Lotusphere, Connect, WHATEVER it is called is what YOU make of it! Take advantage of everything that you can, but pace yourself. You will be absorbing so much knowledge and sometimes by Wednesday, you may start burning out. Take it easy, take care of yourself, but just have fun!  Be Social!  I know it's a year of change for many things.  But sometimes change can be good.

Stay tuned to this blog post.  As new things become available, I will be updating it.  If you have anything to add, please leave a comment below and I will add it in!


Mat Newman said...

Andy, excellent advice as usual mate, the 'essential' guide to ConnectOsphere.

Don't know what Mankini's and Handsy Australians have to do with Connect through :-)

Andy Donaldson said...

Of course, Mat. You have NO idea about handsy Aussies ;-)

Susan Bulloch said...

How about this: GET A FLU SHOT. Right, Mr Newman who almost fell off the stage with the flu?

Wes Morgan said...

As a longtime staff member, I'd add one to your list:

When visiting the labs, be kind to your fellow attendees. Yes, it's a great opportunity to brainstorm with IBMers, but remember that others want to talk with them too! Basically, it comes down to "if a line is forming behind you, wrap it up and give someone else a chance."

Chris Reckling said...

Yes, there is a UX Lab this year again. We also have planned some fun stuff, because that's what we do! (And I'll be showing new and 'old' mobile apps!)

Carl Tyler said...

That's an excellent suggestion Wes.

Michael Kobrowski said...

Not sure if the Turtle will be there this year. A few month ago he sounded a bit negative on that possibility. : -(

Denny Russell said...

I'll add another here...

Remember back when you were about to have kids and everyone told you, 'Get your rest now, because once the baby comes, you won't know what sleep is.'

Same applies here. Start sleeping now. By the time Lotusnect or Connectus rolls around, you'll be ready to take on the week.

As always, great job with this. I found it very helpful my first Lotusphere.

Andrew Welch said...

I will definitely be bookmarking this and reviewing when packing for my first Lotusphere/Connect. Thanks Andy

Unknown said...

My first one too I am really excited.

Stephen Bailey said...

That post deserves a beer!

Thanks Andy, this is really useful to rookies like me. If you see a 6"2' slightly overweight ginger guy, be sure to say hi and escort me to a bar! :)

paradise valley real estate said...

I am going to surely always be societal bookmark administration this kind of along with looking at while appearance with regard to my first Lotusphere/Connect. Thank you Andy.

Ottavio Nuccio - Abiti da sposo uomo said...

Great! thanks for sharing.