On October 22-24, I attended the (first?) October Rules Fest. I think something like this is long overdue. In fact, it is so overdue that I’m working to overcome my instinctive cynicism that the event will be unable to continue.
Here are some of the reasons why I think the conference was/is valuable:
- It can be a place for papers and presentations that are deemed “too technical” and not accepted at the Business Rules Forum.
- It can be a vendor-neutral (or vendor-agnostic) forum that is not driven completely by marketing.
- It can be a place for knowledge sharing among those building the tools, and the systems around them.
- It can work towards building a rules community and provide opportunities for networking.
In hopes that this event can continue, I’m laying out some of my general thoughts on the conference. (All of which is being provided to the organizers as well.)
- Length. Three days is a great length.
- Price. Keep the price low. This encourages the attendance of students, independent consultants, hobbyists, and other interested parties. My rule of thumb: it should be cheap enough that I would be willing to pay my attendance fee out of my own pocket.
- Organized lunches. Organize something for lunch. I understand the difficulties of needing to use the hotel’s expensive food service – I realize that is a problem. However, a two-hour lunch break to roam the streets of Dallas in small groups really breaks up the flow of the day/conference and doesn’t facilitate networking well. For contrast, compare the lunch discussions each day to the discussions in the hotel bar(s) each evening. Let’s find a creative way to keep the day flowing.
- Single track. For now, at least, I’m in the single-track camp. One track ensures a unity of experience and makes for more interesting conversations. I like that we may have to hear talks that we don’t agree with. And as a potential speaker, I like the idea of having the entire conference audience captive.
- Keep the focus narrow. Tech talks. Keep the demos to a minimum. The reality is that we could all attend the BR Forum to see demos, and every product represented is available for trial download if not for free. I don’t need to see a BRMS repository demo – if I needed to, I could just download the tool myself.
- Keep the focus wide. There are useful discussions here besides algorithms. Presenters like Rolando Hernandez, Jason Morris, John McQuary and David Butler bring valuable real-world perspectives that are sometimes overlooked.
- Encourage the less traditional perspectives to present. Presentations on sequential algorithms and other tools can serve to broaden people’s horizons. (For example I enjoyed watching Rick Hicks espouse his “Inference Without The Engine” philosophy.)
- Engage the academic community. There is tons of research in this space over the years and plenty of opportunity for good presentations about current or past research.
- Build mind share. Every commercial vendor and every open source tool should want to send a representative every year.
- Carefully manage the relationship with vendors/sponsors. I heard some talk of sponsors and potential sponsors wanting guaranteed speaking slots. This needs to be carefully policed less this turn into a marketing event.
Overall, this was a valuable event and I’m glad that I made the time to attend. I’ll blog in more detail about some of the conference specifics soon.