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The Net Takeaway: Do User Conferences count?


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Do User Conferences count? · 06/23/2004 02:23 PM, Analysis

So, I complain that SPSS has no “reach out” program. But, they do have a user conference (more info here) in October (24-27th). Its the traditional tech way; IBM has had user confabs since the 60s, and companies large and small throw user group meetings or parties. Some try to make a profit out of them, others accept it as part of the cost of doing business with a specialized audience. In the past, you could latch them onto other more general shows, but most of those shows have dried up (though some of the BI shows are starting to pick up steam again). (As an aside, note that Comdex 2004 has been canceled. Talk about the drying up of the old guard).

So, does this conference make up for the lack of community efforts that I’ve whined about elsewhere on this blog?

Well, frankly, no, in my opinion, though its a start. Here’s why:

To be fair, this conference does have some very interesting speakers. I suspect the SPSS product managers will be in attendence so we can beat them up (nicely, now!) about features and bugs. It might be nice to have a hard-core tech session so we can talk about memory management, row-to-row time to speed up counts, and hard core byte-twiddling tricks to get the most speed out of SPSS; I don’t see much mention of that in the invitation materials I looked at. The training classes look about “middle”: most are not aimed at SPSS-wizards, nor at beginners, so that’s probably about right. So, I can’t really complain about what I can see so far about the conference; its a pretty basic large show in the middle of the desert.

Now, SAS also has big shows as well… but SAS also has regional user groups who put on smaller conferences. What’s nice is that SAS supports these groups, helping them put on pretty professional get togethers. The materials are often published on CDs or made available on a site, so if you didn’t attend, you can still get access to them. There is often a mix of practitioners and academics, and often some “SAS official” is there to spill the beans on some sort of new offering, or get feedback on things.

In fact, speaking of SAS, they have their Data Mining conference (guess where? guess when? Ok, just before SPSS’s show. One could stay and make a long few weeks out of it.) Some sharp folks there as well, good list of speakers.

I am not going to either of them. No, mohammed will not be going to the mountain; instead, in this world of Webex and pdfs, I expect to be able to access the infomation to help me use the product (and therefore keep paying for it) on a web site, virtually to my desk, and at rates affordable for small companies as well as large ones.

So, easy for me to complain; I’ve never been to either SAS’s nor SPSS’s large conferences. I would love to hear from those who have attended to let me know if I’m totally missing it; perhaps these shows are the perfect way to start building a sense of community, and perhaps physicality and hand-shaking is a necessary part of building a group. You see the comments link, so let ‘em fly.

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