IOUG Live! 2003 – The Week in Review

by David C. Kreines


Now that IOUG-A Live

Now that IOUG Live! 2003 has come to an end, the opportunity to summarize
and wrap up the week’s events presents itself. 
I was originally planning to post daily updates, style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  but since Stephen Andert
has done such a great job of that with his postings here, I thought something
somewhat different might be in order. 
So, I’m not going to get into the details of individual sessions and
content, but rather try to key on what makes IOUG Live! a unique event. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 


style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>A LITTLE HISTORY


In order to understand style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>IOUG Live!, it is helpful to have an
overview of what came before.  Since I
have been attending Oracle conferences since 1985, I think I am prepared to
give you that, so here goes.


The first user conference probably
took place in 1985 in San Diego. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  I say probably, because some Oracle users
were getting together informally to discuss the product (version 4 back then),
but San Diego was the first time
Oracle actually sanctioned a meeting. 
There were probably 50 users present.


In 1986, Oracle had just moved
into its  brand-new
world headquarters in Belmont, CA,
and hosted an event called International
Oracle Users Week
in San Francisco. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  All involved were thrilled with the
attendance, which was almost 500! style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  It was held in the Hyatt Regency in San
, and the exhibit hall was on meeting room
with two vendors (Sequent Computer and Israel Stern with a little product
called SQR).  One of the more notable
events at this conference was a general user meeting where attendees divided up
by region and selected representatives to organize a new users group, which
took the name International Oracle Users Group, or simply IOUG. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  The new group got organized during the year,
and provided some limited assistance to Oracle with the planning of the 1987
User Week event in Washington. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 


The 1987 meeting was another
success, with about 1000 attendees. 
Oracle was 10 years old and growing rapidly. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  They recognized the value of a user-oriented
conference, and encouraged IOUG to become a full partner. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  I was selected as Conference Chair that year,
and held that position through 1996 (but more about that later). style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 


International Oracle User Week or IOUW, as it was now know, became
increasingly successful, and after several hotel-based conferences (1988 in
Orlando, 1989 in Dallas, and 1990 in Anaheim – do you see a Disney theme
here?), 1991 saw IOUW expand to a convention center event in Miami
.  In the
years that followed, attendance grew to over 10,000 users in San
in 1995. 
As attendance grew, so did the quality of the presentations. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  A group of IOUG volunteers reviewed session
submissions and, using objective criteria, carefully prepared a program that
would have value to every attendee.  At the
same time, the Planning Committee came under increasing pressure for Oracle
Corporation to add more and more “marketing” sessions to drive their
ever-increasing growth.  In 1996 IOUW was
held in Philadelphia, and Oracle
made a surprise announcement that beginning in 1997, they would take control of
the user conference, call it Oracle class=SpellE>OpenWorld, and base it permanently in California. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 


Needless to say, this was a blow
to the IOUG, which by then had evolved into the IOUG-A (International Oracle
Users Group – Americas)
in deference to the European and Asia-Pacific user groups. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  After some tense negotiations, Oracle decided
to give IOUG a significant role in paper selection, but they retained overall
control of the conference.  What class=GramE>had  been a focused
technical conference had now become, in the opinion of some, “International
Oracle Marketing Week”, and in the process lost its technical edge. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  In response, IOUG decided to risk its
reputation and limited financial resources to run a Spring
conference called IOUG-A Live!  Get
it?  IOUG-Alive – IOUG-A is still
alive!  OK, enough of that. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  By the way, it seems that they are again just
IOUG – I’m not sure what happened to the –A.


What occurred in Orlando
this year is a continuation of the tradition of technically oriented user
conferences.  Is it style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>OpenWorld or style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>OracleWorld? style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  No.  Is
it better?  Worse? style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  In my opinion, it is neither. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  Rather, it is a substantially different
event.  IOUG Live! and style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>OracleWorld are actually quite
complimentary, and work well together. 
For the audience who want to know what’s coming up, where the technical
horizons are being expanded, and in general where Oracle Corporation is going, class=SpellE>OracleWorld style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'> is the place. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  For the “techies
who actually make the products work, IOUG
can’t be beat. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  I go to both!


As I said earlier, I am not going
to do a ‘blow by blow” description of the conference; rather, I’ll try to give
you the flavor of the event.  Remember
that the opinions expressed here are mine alone, and don’t represent those of
anyone else.  So, having said that, let’s
get on with it.


style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>GETTING SMARTER?


I think everyone involved would
say that if there is one overriding theme to the IOUG Live! conference, it is
Education.  This theme seemed to be
carried out though the entire week, and fairly successfully IMHO.


For those interested in an
in-depth treatment of a particular subject, there were all-day IOUG_A
University sessions on Sunday, and half-day sessions on Thursday. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  True, they cost extra, but the fees seem
reasonable for the knowledge to be gained.


Most of week consisted of standard
one hour technical presentations, but the planners clearly understand that not
every topic fits into a neat one hour, and so they also scheduled half-hour
sessions as well as longer 1-1/2 hour sessions. 
Sessions covered a wide range of topics, with heavy emphasis on DBA and
Developer topics, as you might expect. 
As I mentioned at the top, see Stephen’s daily Weblogs
for detailed information about these sessions.


class=GramE>ROUND PEG IN A SQUARE HOLE? style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>


A unique feature of this
conference is the Roundtable Discussion Forums. 
These are loosely moderated events, sometimes with an announced topic
and sometimes on a topic decided by those attending. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  The round table is usually square, but that’s
OK.  What is not OK is that fact they class=SpellE>they are not well publicized, and so a lot of folks miss
out on a great opportunity to participate in some practical and technical discussions. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 


style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>RUMBLINGS AND GRUMBLINGS


It seems like no matter what you
do, somebody doesn’t like it.  Food is
always a hot topic, and this year was no exception. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  There was no breakfast provided, which was OK
in and of itself, but there was also almost class=SpellE>noplace to buy a donut or fruit or whatever. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  Yeah, sure you could go to the hotel
restaurant and pay $20 for a bagel, but come on.


Lunch was advertised as “Birds of
a Feather” lunch.  It was a box lunch
distributed in the Exhibit Hall, and in my opinion the lunches were
significantly better than anyone had a right to expect. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  Don’t forget, the organizers are at the mercy
of the venue (in this case, the Dolphin hotel), and conference food is not know
for its quantity or quality (and you wouldn’t believe how much each one costs). style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  But these lunches were quite good, with more
than enough food and a wide selection of drinks. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  As for the Birds of a Feather – I never did
figure that part out.  At class=SpellE>OracleWorld they have tables with signs like “DBA” and
“Left-handed Forms Development” (OK, I’m kidding about that one), but if such
tables existed at IOUG Live, I didn’t
find them.  The lunches did get folks
into the Exhibit Hall (more about that later), and I didn’t hear any complaints
about Pepsi in the keyboards.


Another cause for complaint was
the fact that another conference (a Phamaceutical
Company) taking place at the some time and in overlapping space. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  It was quite strange to have dueling signs
and hoards of “other” people walking though “our” area. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  It would have been nice if the two
conferences could have been geographically separated in the hotel.


Finally, the
  Can’t those Disney
people do something about the rain storms? 
Tuesday was particularly bad – the Big Bash party was scheduled to begin
at 6:30 on the beach outside the
hotel.  So of course at Hour="18" Minute="0">6:00 the skies opened up and didn’t stop for
hours.  The party finally started in a
ballroom at about 8:15, but by then
the spirit of the evening had been thoroughly doused!


style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>BOOK IT!


Warren Capps and his Illuminations
Company (
ran the bookstore this year.  Warren
displayed and sold a wide variety of Oracle-related books, including the
O’Reilly books that everyone comes to depend on. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  My personal favorite was “ style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Web Pages that Suck” (or something close
to that; I can’t remember the exact title) which was a book to teach web design
by showing less-than-successful web pages. 


The best selling style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  book, at least by raw numbers, was…. ( class=GramE>shameful self-promotion) my newly released style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>Oracle Data Dictionary Pocket Reference,
which was just released on the first day of the conference. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  According to Warren,
DBA books and O’Reilly Pocket References were the style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  best sellers, while JAVA and
developer-oriented books just sat on the tables and took up space. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  One theory is that the majority of conference
attendees are DBAs, and the developers in attendance
were at a level beyond the books.  In any
case, the bookstore was a popular feature with people constantly around.


style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>ATTEND THIS


Speaking of the attendees at this
year’s event, I had trouble finding out how many folks were actually
there.  When pressed, IOUG staff
responded that “the numbers met out expectations” and “were on a par with last
year”.  It seemed like they didn’t want
to give out a number, probably thinking that it would reflect badly when
compared with the 15,000 or more that attend style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>OracleWorld. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  Well, as near as I could tell, there were
about 1,600 paid attendees, and 2,200 total. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  If each person counts as one point, the class=SpellE>OracleWorld
wins.  But, if you have been paying
attention to the description of Live!
(I’m getting tire of typing the whole thing), you will realize that smaller is
most definitely better.  Included in that
1600 people were most of the significant Oracle authors (for example, Kevin class=SpellE>Loney, Steven Feurerstein, Don
Burleson, Cary Milsap, Michael Abbey, Michael
, Marelene Thereault,
Rachael Carmichael, and a host of others. 
And, there were literally hundreds of other Oracle experts in
attendance, and they were easy to find and have a discussion with. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  Try that at style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>OracleWorld! style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  If it was up to me (it’s not), I would limit
the number of registrations for Live! to preserve this
kind of focused intimacy.


style='mso-bidi-font-weight:normal'>NOT JUST FOR EXHIBITIONISTS


I don’t know about you, but I
always find the Exhibit Hall to be one of the most useful features of any
Oracle conference, and this was no different. 
There is no point comparing the exhibit hall here with the one at class=SpellE>OracleWorld
they are as different as the two conferences are. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  Suffice it to say that it takes all week to
walk past all the booths at OracleWorld, while at Live!
you can find what is interesting and useful and
quickly get to the point. 


Apparently the exhibitors weren’t
concerned about the attendance numbers – every one I spoke with was very
pleased with the quantity and, more importantly, the quality of the leads they
obtained (they are there to sell, after all). 
I found it interesting that many of the booths were staffed by technical
people, rather than the usual sales types most often found at the larger shows.


I thought it might be interesting
to give out some “awards” to the hard-working exhibitors, so here goes:

Best Giveaway:  HP gave out s
little gizmo called the “Survival Card” that does everything except catch
fish.  Pretty cool.

Best T-Shirt:  Tough one, but
Network Appliance gave out a t-shirt compressed in the shape of a beer bottle.

Most Practical: Another tough one, and I ended up with a tie between XIO who
displayed their packaged RAC implementation using LINUX, and Expand Beyond who's Pocket DBA may be the most practical use I've seen for a wireless PDA. style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 

Most Annoying Booth:  Also
XIO for their annoying robot (which also ran into my foot in the middle of a

Hidden Jewel: Tucked away in a small booth in the corner was HOTSOS,
which offers a novel and technologically advanced approach to tuning.


Personally, I found it quite
useful to be able to walk the exhibit floor and actually get a good idea about what
each company had available and how it might help me and my projects. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  I learned about more than one product that,
although I may not be buying today, might just save the day in the not to
distant future.  The Exhibits were class=GramE>another valuable aspects of the week.


PRIMARY KEY(note)? style='mso-spacerun:yes'> 


One always present feature of any
user conference is the Keynote Session. 
Way back when, there was only one on the first day, but then somebody
got the idea that you could have one (read that as “get a big company to pay to
present one”) every day.  Well, style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>IOUG Live! is
no exception, so we had the HP Keynote on Monday and the Legato Keynote on
Tuesday.  Monday also included words of
wisdom from Oracle Corporation.  These
sessions are marginally interesting, but we are not going to get any great tech
tips (other than buy HP or buy Legato) from these folks, and Oracle saves all
their big announcements for their own conference. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  So, in my opinion, these Keynotes are not
primary, and I noticed that quite a few of my fellow attendees agreed, judging
from the number of bodies in the hotel but not in the General Session room.


The final general session of the
week, “The Oracles of Oracle”, has the potential to be a really good
session.  But, it suffers from two flaws: style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  First, it is the very last session, and a lot
of folks have either left or are brain dead by then. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  Second, it seems to have become a bit of a
political exercise to see who will be on the panel, though I think this year
they did a better job this year with only one IOUG Board member
participating.  The third problem (I
know, I said there were only two) is that this format is sort of contrary to
the intimate, “up close and personal” nature of IOUG Live!,
and so it runs against the grain of the rest of the conference, where a more
personal form of interaction can take place. 
IOUW used to include a series of sessions called “Ask Oracle” where an Oracle Corporation expert would answer
questions on a particular topic.  I think
that basic concept could be revived, with several sessions scheduled with a
small expert panel taking questions from a smaller, more focused group. style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  Or is that a Roundtable? style='mso-spacerun:yes'>  Oh, well – let’s see what happens next year.




Yogi said "it's not over
until it's over", so I guess it is - both the IOUG Live! conference and this
review.  Just inc
case you're not sure about my opinion:  I
think the week is an incredible opportunity to learn, share experiences, and
interact with your fellow Oracle professionals. 
If you haven't attended before, I hope I have influenced you to give
this conference a try.  If you attended style='mso-bidi-font-style:normal'>IOUG Live! 2003, I hope you'll come back
- I know I will!


If you have comments about this
column, please email me at
– I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.