Beginning of June, summer is here. This period is often a synonym of summer break. A summer break for most of the User Groups, not being active during summer as members have (deserved) holidays.
From the beginning of the year I had the chance to attend public events organised by 4 User Groups and a meetup.
For once no tech content but more an overview of those events and my impressions about them, hoping it also give you hints on what to attend in the future.

January is synonym of Italy

For the last 3 years the first conference of the year was in Italy: ITOUG organizes its yearly events at the end of January (beginning or February). It has always been split over 2 days in 2 different locations: Milan and Rome.

These events are totally free to attend, which make it a really interesting deal for the quality of the content you get. I’m not aware of another place where you get a day full of sessions split into 2 tracks for free.
The people behind ITOUG are doing a good job in promoting and making their events growing, both in size and quality. Worth adding that most of the talks are in English as ITOUG is very open to foreign speakers, to have different experiences from abroad.
This is a really important thing in my opinion, having people from abroad allows to challenge the local habits and practices, to be exposed to something different.

Colosseum in Rome, we had a tour while at ITOUG 2019
Colosseum in Rome, we had a tour while at ITOUG 2019

For me it’s the perfect location to “try” new topics in general, being the first of the year I often talk about something new. The absolutely human size of the event also makes it interesting for interactions with attendees.
Last but not least: as I speak Italian it allows me to get (and give) the best even with local attendees not feeling comfortable in speaking in English.

March goes with the boat

Color Fantasy by Color Line
Color Fantasy: the boat hosting the conference on his way from Oslo to Kiel (Germany) and back.

My second conference of the year was the spring conference of OUGN. This one is often known as “the boat”, which can sound weird for those not aware about the venue.
It is held on a boat, technically a ferry, going from Oslo to Kiel (Germany) and back in Oslo.

It’s a quite large conference from a content point of view, with many tracks in parallel and always a great set of speakers. More than half of the sessions are generally in English, so also worth attending from abroad. Being on a boat the networking is more intense because people can’t really disappear even once the sessions are over.

The committee of OUGN at OUGN 2019
The committee of OUGN at OUGN 2019

Personally, I always enjoy it, partially because of the “boat-effect” but mainly because it’s really nicely organised and there are often great interactions with attendees after the sessions.

The reborn of Austria?

In May I was pleased to be back in Vienna for the yearly AOUG conference. Vienna by itself is a really nice city, with a lot to offer for a quick visit.
The local User Group decided to change things to make their event an important date in the agenda of local people after some years of decline.

I was there in 2018 already and I had a “weird” impression, a bit like if it was missing passion. Or just if it was stick into repeating, year after year, the same model and approach.
This year they started renewing things, moved the event a bit earlier in the agenda and doing more noise about it to attract more speakers and attendees. Speakers from abroad too, to deliver different experiences to attendees.

Me about to start my session at AOUG 2019
Me about to start my session at AOUG 2019

It was a 2 days event: one day full of workshops and live demos (a no-slide approach) and the second being a more classical event. Between the two a nice and entertaining evening which really make it easy to speak with the various people.
From a content point of view it was really good! Important to say that a majority of the content was in German, but they made sure to always have at least an English session for every slot and they had some great speakers.

My first time “at home”: Switzerland

End of May has been the week of SOUG. After having travelled around various countries attending conferences I finally managed to present at my “home” event.
Some years ago I got in touch with SOUG because I couldn’t understand the logic, in such a small country, to separate events by “language”: there was an event targeting the German speaking people, another one targeting the French speaking part. To me it sounded like the best way to not go anywhere: take a little group of attendees and split it in 2, you can only have an average result. (No need to say they disagreed with my point of view.)

Jasmine Fluri presenting at SOUG 2019 in Lausanne
Jasmine Fluri presenting at SOUG 2019 in Lausanne

It started with a half day event in Lausanne (French speaking part). I was expecting really few attendees and was surprised to find a packed location: about 40 people I would say. It was more than all the past events of the same kind apparently. It was nicely organised and the human size made it easy to speak with people. All in all, it was a really nice event! (And not just because it was 10 minutes by walk from my place.)
I really hope the local people will keep going with their good work in setting up a community in the area.

The day after it was time for the German speaking version of the event: a full day in Olten with 5 parallel sessions over the day. It was held in a school (University of Applied Sciences and Arts Northwestern Switzerland) which means big rooms and good projectors.
But the good things stopped there: I really had a weird feeling at this event. Really little content in English (1 of the 5 parallel sessions only) and mainly local speakers.

To me it was like a missed chance to learn from different practices from abroad: you make an event, invite many foreign speakers and challenge your habits comparing with what happen abroad. All the local speakers will be available for meetups and similar kind of events during the whole year.
So I had that bad impression of “look how good we are” more than “let’s see how they do things somewhere else”. It felt like if they just kept repeating the same thing again and again, year after year, and missed a chance to innovate. Doing some local-self-promotion.

SOUG 2019 in Olten
SOUG 2019 in Olten

I still dream about a single event for SOUG where the French speaking area meets the German speaking area. An event in the middle of the country, with everybody in the same place and with more content from abroad to be inspired by the innovation instead of being some years behind like often. I suspect this would need to wait a renew of the people in the group to be able to innovate. (Isn’t Oracle always talking about “disruption”?)

Meetups are always a bet: can be good or bad

Right before Austria I was speaking at the very first Swiss Data Circle meetup. I went there with no expectations, after some tries to start a meetup with no success in Geneva last year. I was expecting the worse to be easily impressed if finding anything else. The idea of the meetup is to be data centric: any vendor or technology as long as it’s related to data. It was organized by Oracle people and in their venue in Zürich. Really great location! And there was an interesting attendance all in all, so I can only wish the best to this meetup, I will keep following the future meetups of this group.

Swiss Data Circle meetup about to start
Swiss Data Circle meetup about to start

ACE program: back in the news at this time of the year

In this post talking about the User Groups events I attended in these first months of 2019 I would like to spend few words about the ACE program. Why now? Because end of May / beginning of June is the time of the year when evaluations are made to identify who qualify to stay in the program or not (said in really few words, it’s a bit more complex than that) for one more year. This is also the period when reading around Twitter about people leaving the program, some have a positive view of the experience, others not much.

I read criticism about the program from some people leaving, and in parallel positive things from other staying.
My point of view about it is quite simple: if I’m part of it or not my engagement will not change. I don’t attend events because I’m an ACE, I do it because I like it, because I like meeting people, sharing about technical (and not) topics etc.

All in all, the ACE program is an award, as such it is like an optional thing which isn’t supposed to impact the activity of somebody.

What’s next?

The second part of the year will be less dense than 2018 for me.
I’m already scheduled for the POUG conference beginning of September.
And I submitted bunch of papers for DOAG and UKOUG. Let’s see how it goes, if they still want to hear me talking about Graph databases.

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