First CloudCamp Frankfurt

September 29, 2009
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Well, it’s the day after the first CloudCamp in Frankfurt. All in all, it was a solid success, I thought. We had roughly 140 people attending, which is a remarkable turn-out for a first ‘Camp, and I was quite pleased with the mix of people that we got.

One of the strengths of the CloudCamp idea — perhaps its greatest strength — is the way it mixes up various “demographic” groups and puts them in chairs next to each other at the same event. Where else do you see startup hackers in clever t-shirts rubbing elbows with executive VPs from Deutsche Bank? We had a lot of that vibe going on last night.

I was also startled (and impressed) by the depth and breadth of knowledge in the audience. Germany gets a less-than-enthusiastic rap from the (largely Anglo-Saxon) cloud computing vendors as a slow-moving, risk-averse market. That stereotype, like any such, may have some kernel of truth in it, but you wouldn’t have known it from looking at about half our audience last night. We had a fair amount of people there who understood the domain, and had plenty of hands-on experience working with cloud computing. Sure, there was a contingent of newbies, eager to learn and understand,



Well, it’s the day after the first CloudCamp in Frankfurt. All in all, it was a solid success, I thought. We had roughly 140 people attending, which is a remarkable turn-out for a first ‘Camp, and I was quite pleased with the mix of people that we got.

One of the strengths of the CloudCamp idea — perhaps its greatest strength — is the way it mixes up various “demographic” groups and puts them in chairs next to each other at the same event. Where else do you see startup hackers in clever t-shirts rubbing elbows with executive VPs from Deutsche Bank? We had a lot of that vibe going on last night.

I was also startled (and impressed) by the depth and breadth of knowledge in the audience. Germany gets a less-than-enthusiastic rap from the (largely Anglo-Saxon) cloud computing vendors as a slow-moving, risk-averse market. That stereotype, like any such, may have some kernel of truth in it, but you wouldn’t have known it from looking at about half our audience last night. We had a fair amount of people there who understood the domain, and had plenty of hands-on experience working with cloud computing. Sure, there was a contingent of newbies, eager to learn and understand, but there were also some serious experts in attendance.

The downside of expert audiences is that they can be quite demanding, and I feel personally like I let that demographic down, somewhat. The Lightning Talks were not what I wanted them to be. We had two problems — we had too many talks, and we had too many sales pitches. The former problem was a combination of miscalculating things, as well as a beginner’s eagerness to pack as much content as possible into the time we had. The latter problem, which in my view was the more serious one, was a consequence of too much trust, and too little oversight.

We accepted talks from vendors who were CloudCamp veterans more-or-less sight unseen, and that was a mistake. Our assumption here was that CloudCamp veterans needed less oversight, because they knew the rules, and could be trusted to abide by them. That didn’t work out so well, unfortunately. And it was particularly frustrating to me for two reasons: one, I’ve been quick to criticise other ‘Camps in the past (as an audience member) for failing to get this right, so ha-ha, the joke was on me; and two, we were quite aggressive in turning some people down, or forcing others to modify their talk. By letting the other sales pitches slip through, we betrayed those other people’s trust in us, and I feel awful about that.

By all accounts that I heard, the latter phases of the ‘Camp (Unpanel and workshops) worked well, and were very successful. I know I sure had a hard time getting the “Business” and “Security and Legal” workshops to wrap up — those were conversations that could have gone on longer, and that’s always a good sign.

Things that I screwed up or otherwise wished had been different:

  • I didn’t realise in time that Tim Cole wasn’t wired up with a microphone. That wasn’t a problem for the ‘Camp audience itself — Tim’s an excellent speaker, and he did fine projecting without a mike. But the mikes weren’t really for the local audience — they were to ensure that the video footage that we taped of the Lightning Talks had a soundtrack. Because I didn’t realize the consequences of not getting Tim wired up in time, we effectively lost the video footage of his excellent talk. Ouch.
  • It was too hot. The room we chose for the main talks (which has elsewhere been both criticised and complimented for the oddity of its layout) wasn’t well ventilated, and it got brutally warm very quickly. By the middle of the Lightning Talk phase, every time a speaker made a reference to this or that technology or idea in cloud computing being “hot”, I cringed. 🙂
  • Not for the first time at a German event, I found myself wishing the audience would leap up and participate more aggressively. We need to think hard about how we can enable and encourage that at any future events.

Highlights for me were Simon Wardley’s keynote (as always — and I may be the only person who actually liked the kitten jokes at the end), Thomas Uhl’s talk on the Open Source Initiative (my personal favourite of the talks held in German) and Cédric Hüssler’s talk on data persistence (I am a geek, after all).

Bottom line: the overwhelming majority seemed to like it, and I had fun. I will certainly be arguing to my co-conspirators that we do it again — and learn from our first try, to make the next one even better. If you came to the event last night, and (literally) sweated it out with us, thank you. I hope it was worthwhile for you. And also major props to all of our gracious and generous sponsors, who ensured excellent swag, great giveaways, super press coverage (and more to come), and last but certainly not least, good grub and lots of cool drinks.

Keep an eye on the CloudCamp Frankfurt web site for links to photos from attendees, video footage of the Lightning Talks, and roundups of blog reviews, Tweets and whatnot.