OSCON 1st day exhibit thoughts

The biggest thing that surprised me was the preponderance of Perl developers at the convention. For a “dying language,” Perl seems to be pretty alive and well.

I also expected to see a lot of people who wanted to learn more about Rails and Ruby (is this redundant or what?). Maybe they were all eyeball deep in training.

We did build a 5 minute Rails app to show the winners of our drawing for the book “Practice of an Agile Developer” by Andy Hunt. Little did we know that wed have the pleasure of being two booths down from Andy, so its been fun dragging our winners down to Andys booth to have him autograph the book. I wonder if Ill see signed books popping up on eBay. We want 10% of the profits! 🙂

We did hire two promotional models and a licensed massage therapist to help out at our booth. First off, all three of them are phenomenal! Kudos to Kelsey and Susan (our direct marketing consultants) and Pamlin (our LMT)!

I had expected the flow of people through them to be much different than it wound up being. I thought that we could send Kelsey and Susan out on the floor and stage them at the exits to sessions and have them find people and drag them over to our booth. What they quickly ascertained was that they had no connection to people (after all, if youre looking to exit the session as quickly as possible to either go smoke or connect to the Net, youre not going to want to talk to anyone). From a conventioneers point of view, they were just another set of people to walk by en route to somewhere else. So, they came back, hung around the booth, and did a great job of engaging people and bringing them in to talk to us. Also, they were both incredibly quick studies and can now give our elevator speech better than we can!

We also expected Pamlin to be a hit and for a line to go around the corner for her services. What we have discovered is that people are pretty reticent to have their feet rubbed. If we come back next year, were going to have her bring a backrub chair instead of the footrub recliner. However, Pamlin is also very bright and engaging, and while I doubt that she did massage services for more than 6 people (outside of the OSC team), I doubt there was more than a total of 30 minutes out of the 600 that the exhibit was open that she wasnt talking to someone.

If youre ever going to exhibit in Portland (not for OSCON) and want to hire people who can help you out with your booth, then drop me a line and Ill put you in contact with them. One caveat: you cant have them for OSCON 2007. Theyre ours!

We also conducted a vendor presentation yesterday, which well put online shortly. While I initially felt pretty unahppy about the results, after talking to Eric, I realized that it served its purpose. It was free advertising. Never turn down a chance to give a 20 minute spiel about what you do, even if the audience is pretty small. You never know whos going to hear the few key phrases that they need to hear to perk their ears and ask a few more questions.

Finally, the two conversational topics that I discussed the most are Agile Development and business process analysis. Theres definitely a hunger for good information and training about Agile Development. Additionally, in my discussions, I think that I can safely say that, in general, IT managers have trouble convincing their business counterparts of the business case for changes in software systems. Knowing that a change is necessary is a first step, but being able to frame the discussion in the terms that the business managers understand is critical. A part of me is a little disappointed that the range of discussions wasnt a little wider, as I feel like our real strength is in our distributed development capabilities, namely our ability to take on projects and ramp up and integrate extremely capable teams in a rapid timeframe, but you go where the market demands, and it seems that business process analysis and Agile Development are the main pain points that Im seeing, at least of the attendees Ive spoken with.