Monday 22 July 2019

Kscope19 - What's not in the brochure

Kscope19 was my second Kscope.
It's a long way, but the trip is worth it.

Sure, we can all see the session list.
Delegates all see at least 5 sessions we'd want to see on each timeslot.
Those unable to come weep at the delicacies they are unable to see first-hand.

But what about what isn't in the brochure?

People often comment about the benefits of conferences beyond the seminar room. Let me tell you a story.

Well... turns out parts of this story actually is in the brochure, but some details made these examples particularly special, more than just an unexpected vendor schmooze.

Also remember, this was like a choose your own adventure. Like the session times, there are often concurrent activities to choose from, often aligned with the APEX/Database/EPM tracks.

Friday - Travel day

I left Perth on Friday morning. I thought if I landed Friday evening, I could fool my body into thinking squeezing more hours into a day was a survivable technique.

3 flights later, ~21 flying hours, I'm in Seattle. 4 hours late, check in not long after midnight. Food or bed? Bed won.

Saturday - Recuperation day

I spent the morning walking down to the famous local market on the pier, get a feel for the area, and treat myself to some local food. I haven't really seen mountains before, so I was hoping to experience a scenic flight over Mt Rainier and Mt St Helens, but unfortunately it was cancelled due to cloud cover.

So instead I had a few looseners with Connor, before registration in the afternoon. A couple of Perth lads who find themselves in Seattle at the same time.

[In brochure] Seems good to get registration out of the way Saturday afternoon, instead of Sunday morning. I see a few people I haven't seen since my last Kscope 4 years ago; and meet a few I've also met online - match some twitter handles/faces to actual human beings.
After a few awkward greetings, people are made aware of an APEX meetup in a nearby establishment for dinner & refreshments.

The APEX Meetup provided a few lubricating ales, and a darn good curry. The ice was broken, and a team of APEX groupies from around the world were primed for a non-stop conference. People gradually dispersed, and it was time for bed.

Screw you. jet-lag, I do what I want.

Sunday - Symposiums

[In brochure] Sunday symposiums. If there is one day you can do at Kscope, do this day.

Here's where I made an ironic rookie mistake. I thought I'd attend the newbie information session, making sure I was getting full value out of Kscope, and not missing anything obvious. Turns out I forgot receiving an invite for drinks at a speaker reception on 35th floor, held at the same time. Not in brochure, just a card my jetlag ignored during registration.

[In brochure] Welcome Reception, first chance to really explore the exhibition hall.
[In brochure] Geek Game Night - popped in for a bit, but not quite the mood a small group of us were chasing.

But we found ourselves back at the pub we were at the night before, making more conference friends. An amazingly diverse group of people, and the conference hasn't even officially started.

Monday - Bring it

Again, while the first two items were technically in the brochure, there were a few surprises I was not expecting... hence... they.. were.. surprises.

[In brochure] Keynote Session.

I appreciate magic, and the role it plays in critical thinking. I'm not so much a fan of the flashy illusionists, so I wasn't sure where Jason Latimer was on that spectrum.
I really appreciated the message he had for our society, looking to inspire wonder in children with STEM. Honestly, I was moved - I'll be looking to consume more of his content.

The facial expression says it all. Not magic, just cool physics, and talented slight of hand inspiring wonder.

[In brochure] APEX Demo night

Firstly, we had an announcement from Maria Colgan, stating APEX is now part of the autonomous database. At first I felt like Roel, thinking big deal, but over the week it become very clear that it was more than just its presence - Oracle really are promoting Oracle APEX is the development tool you need in the cloud to build your own solutions. It's mentioned on Oracle's home page, Lauren Cohn was recording testimonials illustrating how APEX helps rock our world, and we're seeing it permeate the media, though still in a sponsored manner.

Secondly, we had an APEX app for with something to demonstrate could sign up. Of course we did.
Not only that, instead of first come first served, audience members could pledge a donation to their demo of choice. These donations will go towards ODTUG fundraising for Pike Street Markets food bank. I was pleasantly surprised to see Connor & myself at the top of the list.

Mine was a demonstration of the monitoring page I regularly use, as I've raved about here.
Connor put an APEX UI over a PL/SQL engine for a chess game.
The other demonstrations got many of us thinking about the relevant concepts shared. What an engaging event.

No need to stop there, a sponsored event is afoot. Not only do I see a bar, and some hot food, it's in a pool hall! I'm in my element.

After a few chats with people from all around the world, I finally unleash a few rounds of pool. Apologies to the fella I knocked out while flexing my pool legs, but I was itching to get some nice clean shots in - it had been a while.

A deep conversation about humanity and the pursuit of technological & cultural advancement later, and it's time for bed.

Tuesday - ACE Day

For me, Tuesday turned out to be an "ACE day".

After my first talk, I had a rare hour downtime where I didn't mind having a break and missing the next set of talks.

Instead I made time at the exhibition hall to do a couple of small recordings with Bob Rhubart for the Oracle Groundbreakers.
First I did at "Two minute tech tip", and didn't even need the full 120 seconds to rave again about APEX workspace activity logs..
Bob also interviewed me about APEX, but I'm not sure those are available yet.

I think this was also when I spent 5 minutes with Lauren spruiking the benefits of Oracle APEX - I particularly look forward to these, though the cameras were a little more imposing than I expected, compared to our initial conversation. I'm possibly not made for TV.

I was humbly invited to participate as a panellist at the APEX Lunch and Learn. I found myself next to giants like Scott Spendolini, a smooth talking sponsor of many of the evening soirees; Dimitri, founder of AOP; Peter, founder of FOEX; Vincent, the PWA guy; and me. I felt a little out of place, but I think the panel members were also conduits for the entire audience. There were plenty of individuals in there capable of answering the interesting questions raised, and some of them certainly did. You can also find these types of people on the forums, it would be great to see more participants.

Tuesday evening started with a dinner for the ACEs, giving us the opportunity to converse face-to-face, since we're all actually in the same place. And despite what you may think, conversation is rarely about tech. With such diversity around the table, we couldn't waste it with what we've been talking about all day!

At 44°N, Seattle surprised me with the amount of brightness at 8pm. Apparently the next opportunity that beckoned was another sponsored event at a local hangout called Spin City - an underground place full of ping-pong tables!

So there I found myself, playing pong with Steven Feuerstein - and the night has yet to find the most surreal moment.

After a getting it out on the ball for a while, I found a drink, a chair, and someone new to talk to. Turns out she was a local of Seattle, and part of the APEX development team. A distant traveller meets conference local. What a hilarious yarn.

At some point we start to get ushered out of the establishment, and the local suggests "let's go to my apartment". After multiple assurances to the question "are you sure?", and a few head counts to ensure nobody was left behind, we found ourselves with tremendous views of Seattle from the common area on a 40th floor. Soon followed with pizza & booze, and blurry photos.

Thanks Jason
Now that was surreal.

Day 1 completed with a game of pool with the German FOEX lads.

Wednesday - Party Night

A plan made the previous night was the play hooky on the first session and go to breakfast at a great local eatery. Best darn eggs benedict I ever had, washed down with the best darn orange juice I ever had. My companions had a combo that involved the fruit bar, where the fruit looked picture perfect. Thank you to the Oracle dev team for that meal, and more conversations that weren't about Oracle.

Note to self - ensure you have enough battery power during your talk.

[In brochure] KScope Party
A few more sessions later, and it was time for the party. The ODTUG Kscope Wednesday night event is not just any event, they really go all out. When I found out they encouraged fancy dress, I got my procrastinating bum into gear and spent about $40 of my colourful Australian dollars on what I thought was a comfortable, but fun pop-culture costume choice - Forrest Gump.

How's this accent?

The cover band were sensational, wandering through a museum of pop culture was a treat, and the dance floor was thoroughly lubricated. The after-party was too many people in such a small place for my liking, but the security check at the door gave me a laugh when turning my licence upside-down to check authenticity.

 And a sensational way to release the brain fry that was the previous 4 days.

Thursday - Not quite over

Yes, there is still half a day to go, and a chance to have the afternoon to soak up the local city.

[In brochure] The final morning was also live streamed, and I liked the format of having multiple people covering the essentials of their niche topic.

There is also a closing session where a few awards are announced, and you see further evidence of a clearly successful succession plan the ODTUG crew have for future board members, to ensure the quality that is the Kscope conference is sustained. Colour me impressed.

I'm sure this conference is like no other, and I'm thankful for not only the opportunity to speak, but to be dedicated participant for every waking hour. I've got 25+ hours to sleep on the way home, right?

I had the afternoon to kill, I ensured my flight times facilitated me a little more of Seattle, to help make up for not getting to do that scenic flight.

I walked to the Space Needle. I figured I couldn't be a real space nerd without heading back to take a closer look. The local food court seemed progressive, and inclusive, lunch was awesome, and I explored the Chihuly glass garden while I waited for my ride up the needle. The garden was stunning, not only visually, but the smells of the flowers, and the sounds of the local buskers mastering their stringed instruments.

I needed a few more of my Australian dollars in the souvenir shop on the way out...

Finally, it was time for my journey to the airport, where I managed my first bit of catch-up sleep.

Sydney fog delayed my arrival home with a lovely diversion to Brisbane. I was due to arrive before the local footy game began, but alas. At least I wasn't travelling with a child this time.

For those fiscally minded, I have three comments

  1. Submit an abstract. Connor advised me many moons ago to start speaking, "it will take you places". You no longer have to convince someone to pay for your entry. The need for diversity is everywhere, so you'll always find new speakers. An estimated 42% of Kscope19 speakers were new.
  2. While my own boss was sponsoring my flights, accommodation, and meals, I barely paid a thing in between land & leaving. On the rare time Kscope, or one of its generous sponsors, or an Oracle credit card wasn't paying, it was hard to grab the tab.
  3. The value of the conference is beyond the entry ticket, beyond the sessions from a plethora of passionate subject matter experts, many of which are particularly talented presenters, but also in the people meet; the conversations you have; the problems (and solutions) you all share. Finding normalcy on the other side of the world.
    Also, how often am I going to find myself in Seattle? Or Boston, Nashville? A life experience in itself.

So, there were 7+ hours worth of sessions, and there is also 7+ hours worth of networking each day, if you can eke it out. Difficult to put a true value on it, but personally meeting people and having normal conversations certainly seems to enhance the nature of future online interactions.

Presentations I didn't see, or too dazed to properly comprehend at the time? They are recorded, and will be available after post-production.

Boston? You betcha, I've got abstract ideas already to help make it happen. Probably with family this time. Travelling with a 6 year old should be a breeze, right?

And choosing between sessions is hard, how am I to choose from all of this?!


Jorge Rimblas said...

That was a fun read! Great job! It's hard to capture what's not on the brochure about Kscope. I know this will help others.

Kevin McGinley said...

Thanks for sharing this. I love reading recaps like this because it just shows you that there is so much else to Kscope that you don't see because of how diverse it is. Look forward to seeing you in Boston!