I enjoyed a fun taxi journey from Paris Charles De Gaulle airport into Disneyland Paris on Sunday. A chance to practice my rusty French. It has been 12 years since I got a grade B in my French ‘A’-level, and I was amazed at how quickly it came back to me. Plucking up the courage to get into a conversation about the recent election of Sarkozy over Royale (the driver’s preferred candidate), we touched on politics, crime, and racism. I was pleased that, although I’m a long way from being fluent, I was at least able to make myself understood.
I’m staying at the Hotel New York, on of the many “Hôtels Disney” on the resort. It is strange. Decorated like the bedroom of a rich child whose loving parents have decided that “New York” makes a good theme, the place is of course horribly full of children. Breakfast was quiet enough though, and the hotel has done a good job of keeping the convention center (which is currently flooded with IBMers) away from the rest of the hotel.
The conference is an internal one, but one of the bigger things IBM puts on for its technical people. It’s the TLE, or Technical Leadership Exchange, a chance for IBMers to get together and learn what’s going on in the rest of the world. The US version ran recently in Anaheim California for a reported 4700 people. This week in Paris I’m joining 2200 colleagues from across Europe.
Day 1 starts (after registration) with some elective ‘super sessions’, which are an intimidating four hours long. Especially intimidating if you’re presenting one of them, as I was yesterday. Of course, I didn’t stand up and talk for four hours straight (I don’t even want to think about what that would be like, for myself or my unfortunate listeners). No, I was joined by the charming Swede and fellow metaverse enthusiast Mikael Haglund. Mikael has played a key role in administering the Eightbar group in Second Life recently, inviting hundreds (if not thousands) of IBMers into the group in the last few months.
I’d been warned that the session has received enough advance interest to warrant a move to a bigger room, though I had not realised this room would seat 500 until I walked into it on Monday lunchtime. We nearly filled that.
What did we cover? Well, not just Second Life. We talked about a variety of virtual worlds, including economic and historical factors, business use, what IBM has already done and what might be possible. I spent some time in the presentation extolling the advantages of an intranet metaverse already available to IBMers. If everyone in the audience tries it, and tells a couple of people. we’ll reach a critical mass of users pretty quickly.
Since there is a big push at each session of this to gather feedback from the audience, it seems only fitting to say how I thought it went…
- Having a 20 minute break for coffee. 4 hours is a long time for anyone to sit down. And it was hot in there.
- Sharing the presentation with another speaker. It was easier to be engaging when taking it in turns. We both had rests, and it varied the voice for the audience too. Mikael did a great job.
- Inviting lots of questions. The audience was big enough that it was never going to be an intimate discussion, but several brave people did ask questions. Lots more kept questions for the break or after the session. (I notice this phenomenon a lot, but especially in large audiences and especially when English is not the first language for everyone). Immediately after the event Mikael and I made ourselves at the front of the stage for about an hour while people asked the burning question they hadn’t wanted to ask in front of the whole room.
What could have been better:
- I only realised as I stood up to speak that starting with the “how to get involved in the virtual universe community” bit was a bit strange. That should really have been the last section.
- Realistically, we didn’t need four hours. It was the length of the session, and I hope we filled it with useful and relevant stuff.
- I really really wanted to show a live demo of both Second Life and the IBM Metaverse live during the session. The free conference wireless in the lobby was extremely flaky to the point of not working at all, and the situation is no better in the conference rooms. We had some some lovely backup videos, and plenty of screenshots, but it’s just not the same thing.
Now my speaking duty is over I can relax and enjoy the rest of the conference. I’m more than a little disappointed with the wireless connectivity, but signs went up today which makes me thing I’m not the only person to have mentioned this.