Saturday, February 6, 2016

Thoughts on IBM Connect 2016

Three days have passed since I returned home from IBM Connect in Orlando. This was my fourth ‘Sphere’ with my last being two years ago. This is my first time to attend as an IBM Champion! My overall impression was extremely positive. It certainly exceeded my expectations, and my expectations were pretty high.

My Goals for a Successful Conference

My personal goals were split into three equal parts:
  1. Spend time with existing friends/acquaintances as part of the finest software community in the world 
  2. Network, network, network which overlaps with #1 
  3. Increase my knowledge by attending technical sessions
The community was out in force this year with just a few notable exceptions. The community we have really is something special, amazing really. I am tempted to list all the names of people I enjoyed seeing but don’t want to miss anyone. It was great to meet some people that I knew of but never met such as John Dalsgaard, Simon Peek, Greg Reeder, and Jeff Twardowski.

I also really enjoyed spending time with my Navy Federal coworkers Ernie Javier and Blair Armeau. Prior to this, I had only known Blair via sametime so it was great to meet in person. To me now, they are friends, not just coworkers.

When it was time to leave immediately after the closing session, I was tired and ready to see my family, but still it felt hard to leave such a group of amazing people.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the people whose presence was missed. It would have been better with Marky Roden, David Leedy, Mike McGarel, Peter Presnell, Ulrich Krause, and Shean McManus.
Connect 2016 was also very productive for me on the networking front. At my current employer they don’t have any more XPages projects in the works so I have to decide whether to stay or go. This conference really gave me clarity for the future. I don’t know how things will play out, but I had some conversations that were very encouraging. Along those lines, if anyone reading this is looking for a developer with 20 years of total experience and 3.5 years of XPages then please reach out to me at
The quality of sessions this year was definitely on par with past conferences. The topic that really surprised me this year was Bluemix. Although I had seen sessions on it before, the progress that the team has made was very impressive. It has definitely caught my attention.

These were my favorite sessions:

  1. The XPages of Things: Integrate Bluemix into your XPages Applications for a World of Possibilities. I think that John Jardin blew everyone away with what he demonstrated in this session. For me, the relevance of BlueMix went way up with this session.
  2. Get Hands-On with XPages Apps for Bluemix – Martin Donnelly and Brian Gleason gave more details on what Bluemix with plenty of demos. Because I previously had been inspired by John, this session has more meaning for me.
  3. The Grid, the Brad, and the Ugly: Using Grids to Improve Your Applications – This session by super champions Brad Balassaitis and Paul Calhoun was very informative and the audience was extremely engaged. Even though I had a fair amount of experience with the topic I certainly learn quite a bit.
  4. Real-time Video Chat XPage Application using Websocket and WebTRC Technologies – first time attendee and hopefully future champion Csaba Kiss showed two methods of having a real time chat application inside of XPages. The material was comprehensive and he covered a lot, and certainly inspired the developer audience to think of ways to integrate this into new and existing applications.
  5. Once You Go Graph… Nathan Freeman is obviously extremely passionate and knowledgeable on this topic. I had been wanting to see this session at MWLUG, but it was presented opposite of the one I was giving. I first heard of graph databases two years ago, the first and only time I met the late great Tim Tripcony. He was just as passionate on Graph database and spent a half hour explaining them to me. I like sessions that inspire you to want to learn more on your own.

General Impressions


For the most part, I really liked the OGS, compared to past years it seems to take itself less seriously.

I was very unimpressed with the guest speaker Jason Silva. I thought his message was intellectual cotton candy, and visually distracting. I was very impressed with the case study from West Africa on how an XPages application has helped improve fair trading between farmers and the middlemen who deliver the product to market. 

The drama where they showed the new products being used was funny and well done. It was obviously contrived and very staged, but that is to be expected with this type of demo. I thought the break in the middle was a good idea.

Universal Studios

Whenever I go on rides at parks like Universal, I get reminded that I am not a kid anymore. Even though I got queasy, I  enjoyed spending time with John Jardin, Andre Horak, and Paul Withers on the Harry Potter ride. The castle there is extremely impressive as were the animated paintings. After that John convinced me to ride the dragon coaster. It might have been the fastest coaster I ever went on. I would have liked to ride it again but the stomach would not allow. 

The Venue

I had no problem with the venue. I hope that they continue it there next year, although nothing was announced. I like the fact that I could stay nearby at the Days Inn which was only a five minute walk. This year I am paying my own way to be at the conference so having reasonably priced hotel and food options nearby is a huge plus. When we were on Disney property, we had none of that. News like this doesn’t make we want to spend money on the mouse, even if they backtracked later due to public pressure. 

An Apology

I feel the need to apologize for my awful cough which I am sure was annoying to those sitting around me. I know that I was a distraction and I appreciate that everyone seemed to be understanding.

Final Thoughts

Overall, I felt a very positive vibe from those around me. It was encouraging to see many first time attendees, as well as some very engaged younger developers. The conference is alive and well, and I hope IBM does nothing radical to change that next year.

It was an big honor to have my photo on the big screen before the OGS