After the Crowds

A lot has been said about the latest Dreamforce'09 Event. A lot will be said, too. Speculations will be made about announcements, product demos, etc. This is not to add to the fire. This blog is about a personal experience through glasses painted with humor. At least, I would like to think of it as such. Personal observations abound from a first time attendee and a new employee. 

  • Dreamforce'09 conference should perhaps be called Amazingforce'09. 

19K+ people, a full and buzzing Moscone Center painted in the color of the sky, hustle and bustle of all the people, rows and rows of product demonstations, exhibitions, dancing mascot SaaSy, dance ryhthm and music. It was mind boggling, intense activity.

When I went to the keynotes, I thought a small plane was about to land on the very attentive crowds. It must be the largest configuration that Moscone Center was capable of providing. Walking and trying to find a seat was not easy. Thanks to all who waved their hands to indicate an empty seat next to them, otherwise more people would be standing up. I pondered whether we would be asked to do a wave like in a baseball game, but it did not happen. It would have been a fun YouTube video. Consequently, going to the, er, bathrooms were a bit problematic if you are sitting in the middle of a row.

  • There were so many Japanese customers and colleagues who use our platform and products. I was surprised to see that several sections of the crowd took the time and allocated money to come to the conference to be part of this experience. Domo Arigato for participating and coming all the way from Japan. 
  • The Force.com zone was superb, it provided a one stop shop for development needs with sessions, labs, presentations, Adobe Stratus Cafe, the hackathon, code consultations, etc. In comparison to the hangar like effect downstairs, the Force.com zone exuded a cool vibe. One would hope that next year we have a larger section for developers, so that people could attend sessions before they get locked out and perhaps do not have to choose from parallel but nevertheless relevant sessions to attend. 

As one of our executives observed, these are very good problems to deal with. 

  • Never underestimate your community. Twitter is a force to be reckoned with in building communities externally. There was a tweet up just before the conference. I met many Force.com developers in the event and hope to work with them. One quote never escaped me at the partner party I attended. "Hey, you remember me?" one of the attendees quipped to a colleague. "We are twitter friends, I am …".
  • There was too much chatter about chatter, of course. I reserve to add my points at a later time when I would like to be more concrete. However, two things did not escape me.
    • There are talkers and there are doers. The implications of social interactions in solving business problems has been long debated, however salesforce.com demonstrated how it can be done with a platform that enables combining information resources and their activities in a coherent framework that will provide transparency to an organization. My colleagues after our announcements started to call, "Is this real?". Yep, it is. 
    • After all, thinking of Godel's incompleteness theorem, all chatter about chatter would always be incomplete. Finding out what the theorem is left as an exercise to the reader. 
  • Democratization of the Crowds: I have not been to a conference lately where there was a line at the ladies. I also never attended an event where someone would carry a stylish Dolce Gabbana bag. That is different experience for me after many years of attending purely developers conferences. This conference brought the user, the business and the developer community together around a solid platform and product experience. I had the chance to talk to people whose lives are enhanced by the product in different ways.  

There were several women competing in the hackathon.  I loved the spirit exhibited by one of our  contestants, Jennifer Knight who works at the Women's Community Clinic. She said that she learned about the hackathon that morning, decided that it would be fun to enter and did. Without preparation, etc. and she accomplished an integration of twitter with the Force.com platform. That is the spirit. I am not sure I am that courageous. 

  • Customer is Always Right. Overall, the vibe was contagious. It reminded me the good years of JavaOne, where there was such hope, promise and excitement. Who could forget the Silverstream party with Acrobats in SFMOMA or seeing the vendors building for the very platform you created? Going from one booth to another, trying to attend every talk, every demo, talking to every app server manager, developer, attendee. It was magic. This DreamForce reminded me of these years. Perhaps the Duke was replaced by the SaaSy and the Chatty mascots. Yep, there were many cool parties, Appirio's and our very own Partner party. I wondered how much money all this really cost in the end. For those of you who are beginning to think that I was forced to drink from the salesforce.com cool-aid fountain, read on. I met a lot of customers and developers. Everyone I met told me that they loved our product. The cynical side of me was pleasantly surprised by this.

Perhaps this one incident sums it up. During one of these social events, I talked to Diane MacRobie from Less Software. I was excited to meet Diane as she was the CTO of a company and I like to connect with other fellow techie women. She told me that they achieved their goals by building our platform in couple of months what they could not by using 20 people for 3 years in conventional platforms.

That observation, as a famous credit card commercial says, is priceless.

Until the next Dreamforce.

Published
November 24, 2009
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After the Crowds