Agent Smith goes to London

On the 13th and 14th of September there was a business intelligence forum in London run by a fairly new organisation called “Obis Omni” (no, I don’t know what it means either). I was a speaker at the event, which was quite well attended given that it is a rather new conference.  The customer attendees seemed to be what one was billed i.e. people really involved in BI projects (some events seem to struggle to keep focus), and the conference seemed generally very successful based on the conversations that I had with assorted attendees.  

What was rather endearing and a little scary was the sheer efficiency of the conference administration. The event ran very tightly to time, and there seemed to be armies of helpers to guide you around, all rather disturbingly fitted out with communication devices in their ears just like those of Agent Smith in the Matrix. Indeed the only criticism would be that they were a little over-enthusiastic at times.  After my talk I was speaking to a delegate in the corridor, when one of the Agent Smith types came up, interrupted oiur conversation and said “you are due to attend session X now Ms Jones, please come along”.  This wasn’t the speaker who was late you understand, just a delegate.  God forbid that an unauthorised corridor conversation should take place during session time.  The delegate looked as stunned as I was and was led meekly away to her session without putting up a fight. 

I can never see this kind of thing catching on in Italy or Spain.  At the ETRE conference the tragically mistitled “organisers” struggle to keep sessions within half a day of schedule, and generally mooch around in a resigned if amiable state of chaos.  Here an eerie calm was the order of the day (come to think of it, I never did see that delegate again…)

The pre-conference administration and exhibit set up was as spookily efficient as everything else, with briefings just after dawn for exhibtors and, it has to be said, nicely set out booths with careful traffic flow.  I even had a new experience of having my slides lightly censored.  My crime was using a (fully credited) Bloor slide to show an overview of the market, and a chart which listed several relational databases in one of the bullets.  Apparently this violated rule 438 subparagraph (c) in the conference rulebook about vendor promotion.  Well, I have nothing to do with Oracle, IBM etc, and just put them in a list as examples, so I am a little hazy as to how exactly this was “promotion” (DB2 is a database, shock horror), but the offending slides were duly excised from the presentation, and probably ceremonially burnt as well.  I actually think it is quite admirable that they would go through the slides and try to ensure there were no blatant vendor sales pitches, but this did seem just a tad over-zealous.

Anyway, enough teasing.  I would much rather that an event ran with military efficiency than collapsed in a shambolic heap, so congratulations to the organisers for arranging such a slick conference.  If only they could be persuaded to take over the British railway system….