Has Oracle MIX "Suggest-A-Session" Jumped the Shark???

Jump The Shark: (verb) a term to describe a moment when something that was once great has reached a point where it will now decline in quality and popularity.

Oracle MIX is a social software app to connect people in the Oracle universe. It was launched back in 2007 by The Apps Lab so people could network and stay connected during (and after) Open World. It was at the time the largest JRuby on Rails site out there. It's a decent site, and you Oracle monkeys should check it out...

I believe in 2008, they decided to try something new: allow the community to "suggest a session" for Open World. They had ten slots at Open World, and everybody was encouraged to submit a session for consideration, and vote on what they liked. The ten sessions with the most votes would get to present at Open World.

This was also a great idea... It was the ideal place for sessions outside the mainstream to get a voice at Open World... technology that might be too "bleeding edge" for a general audience, but is the bread-and-butter of geeks who only hit one conference per year. Social software, mashups, open source, installing Oracle on a Roomba... you get the idea. If you want to do a mainstream talk about a mainstream product, then submit it through the normal channels to the Open World committee... If your session isn't picked, then it probably wasn't good enough.

This model worked fine in 2008, 2009, and 2010... but I think something went really REALLY haywire this year...

MIX, being an open community, allowed people to take the voting data and mash it up in interesting ways... Greg Rahn over at Structured Data did exactly this, and presented his data analysis of the votes. Just looking at the data I saw a lot of anomalies, but to me the smoking gun is this:

  • Number of users who voted for exactly one author: 828
  • Number of users who voted for ALL sessions by EXACTLY one author: 826

Well, that ain't right... once you dig further, you see what probably happened: the Oracle MIX community has been invaded by a spammer...

Specifically... somebody out there has a mailing list with a few hundred people, and contacted them all asking for votes. Probably repeatedly. I don't know about others in the MIX community, but I personally got three such emails begging for votes... One of them was so shady it probably violated Oracle's Single-Sign-On policy. The line between self-promotion and SPAM is fuzzy... but it was clearly crossed by a lot of people this year.

I know what you're thinking... must be sour grapes, eh? But no, I did not submit a MIX session. Oracle was kind enough to approve both of my Open World presentations this year, so I thought the gracious thing to do would be to leave the MIX sessions for the community... so I'm very disappointed in the behavior of these people.

The rules as-is are broken... based on Greg's data, 200 people at Microsoft could all vote for sessions like "Reason #6734 Why Microsoft Rocks and Oracle People are Big Fat Stupid Heads"... and they'd win every slot.

All communities have this problem... once they become popular, they become valuable. Once they become valuable, some people try to extract more value than their fare share. Many large sites implement some form of moderation or karma points to keep cheating to a minimum... I think it's about time MIX did the same. I have a few ideas for "guidelines":

  1. promotion via tweets and blogs is allowed and encouraged
  2. mass communication via emails or social networks will be considered "social spam," and grounds for disqualification
  3. "down-voting" like Digg should be enabled to further prevent spammers from carpet-bombing their way to the top
  4. sessions should be outside of mainstream Oracle talks: sessions similar to ones given at Open World are discouraged
  5. a maximum of two talks can be submitted on behalf of an individual, organization, or community group
  6. a maximum of one talk can be selected on behalf of an individual, organization, or community group

Of course, this isn't perfect... the top 10 slots could still go to people with 1000 employees, and therefore 1000 reliable votes! Probably the ideal situation is to randomly select some Oracle ACEs to be the judges every year, based on community input. Not ideal, but really hard to rig...

So... how many of you feel like you were "spammed" this year?

UPDATE: Oracle is soliciting opinions for what worked and what didn't this year. If you have an opinion about what should be fixed, please leave a comment on their blog or contact Tim Bonnemann directly.

The votes were not absolute -

The votes were not absolute - there was still some discretion to not have a session even if it got the most votes. That would have blocked the Microsoft item.

1 and 2 seem contradictory. You can promote via tweets but not social networks ? Do you mean that you can broadcast but not 'narrowcast' so any campaigning is public ? I think it is reasonable to publicise within a SIG which is semi-private.

I could see a benefit in limiting votes to people who attended OOW the previous year or who have already registered for the event (so the people voting are actually likely to turn up to the session). On the other hand, short of winning the lottery I won't be there, but I voted for some sessions in the hope that the material may be made available or the presentation repeated at a smaller event.

Requiring a voter to vote for a minimum number of sessions, I think, was a bad move. Rather than vote for a single session, they just voted for all sessions by the same presenter.

I did get some requests through various mailing lists. I didn't feel coerced into voting, and I'm quite prepared to unsubscribe or block when I get overloaded.


"The votes were not absolute"

Thanks for the clarification! I kind of figured that this was the case, but it makes for a funny anecdote...

"1 and 2 seem contradictory... I did get some requests through various mailing lists. I didn't feel coerced into voting, and I'm quite prepared to unsubscribe or block when I get overloaded."

Yeah, I'm wasn't sure about them either... but I was subject to a pretty targeted and relentless SPAM campaign, and I know I wasn't the only one. Given that our community is nice by default, I know that some of them probably voted halfheartedly just to be left alone. But, like all SPAM, the people who respond are in the minority, so a down-voting system like DIGG or Reddit should enable "burying" the spammers.

Maybe we need an "ACE's Picks" list? You could have 2 top ten lists: what the Oracle ACE's picked, and what the general public picked... and then you could make your decisions based on both lists? The ACEs would be tougher to bully around, especially if "down-voting" is enabled.

I think the system should be changed ...

Hello Bex!

Thank you for raising the discussion around the subject. I was one of the persons who participated in the Oracle MIX voting process and feel that to some extend fall to a "social spamers" category. I did send an emails during the 3 days I had to get votes. However I sent those to the professional communities who know me and I am sure if would know about my participation in the Oracle MIX voting would vote for my sessions as they seen my presentations many times.
I did wrote a blog post about the way to got my votes:

I do feel that the process wasn't fair and need improvements. From my point of view the UKOUG have got much fair way to choose presentations for the annual conferences they are organizing. I was part of selection committee several times and I enjoyed the process (it taught tho to go through all 200+ sessions, read through the abstract for each of it and evaluate).

As for this year. I didn't want to participate from the begging but in last minute decided to jump in and used professional networks of people who know me to get the votes.

Not sure if public open voting can be fair anyway. As for previous years, how may people voted? How many Oracle Professionals know about the Oracle MIX? Was the results representative? I assume that just very small fraction of professional community participated.

Anyway I am glad that you raise the discussion and would like to see more people participating in it.



"I do feel that the process wasn't fair and need improvements."

So... what rules would you personally add to make it more "fair"?

I have nothing against people using their networks to boost their sessions... as long as these people have "skin in the game," meaning they are actually going to attend your session. If not, then they're just taking away sessions from people paying real money to go to Open World. Naturally, there are exceptions... but these are the minority.

Also, I personally would prefer the MIX slots to be reserved for stuff you can't normally see at Open World. It's the one chance we as a community have to tell the Open World committee what attendees want. I might be misreading, but your talks on SCAN and AWR seem fairly mainstream: the Open World committee probably would have accepted them (or something similar). If not, somebody more famous beat you to the punch ;-)

"As for previous years, how may people voted? How many Oracle Professionals know about the Oracle MIX?"

Don't know... Oracle has a highly aggressive no-spam policy, so I think the suggest-a-session angle is not widely known. This is a shame. Next year I'm going to promote it more in hopes of getting more voices out there.

by the way...

Thanks for commenting! It's nice to see that even tho you got in the top 10, you understand that something about the "scoring" is unfair and needs fixing.

One talk per person...

I believe point (6) is true anyway. You could submit as many as you wanted, but only one session per person would be selected.

Your blog makes an interesting point, but I would hate to be the person that was tasked with coming up with a "fair" method for voting. :)



not "officially"

According to the MIX FAQ, it just says that they reserve the right to balance top vote getters across tracks... one person could submit 10 papers in 10 tracks and still win all slots. But, there was a recent update, and it seems they have enough leeway in the rules for the committee to simply pick who they want in the top 100 if needed.

2 sessions max per participant

The Events team ended up choosing a maximum of two winning sessions per participant.

Oracle Mix Team

begging for votes part..

Hi Bex,

I got the "Vote for me" emails as well, about 3 as well. It seems some people are desperate to get into OOW sessions. I thought it was a bit of a stretch so I did not give him any votes. Hope it will be changed next year!

I'm hoping it will be changed THIS year...

I see no need to reward the cheaters at all. I think Oracle has enough leeway in the rules to fix this problem. If not, I plan to continue with this public "shame" campaign until the top-10-three agree to abide by some "sane" rules for this year. Yury -- to his credit -- agreed that it was unfair, and some additional rules should apply. I look forward to his opinion of what those should be.

Simple solution - only people who have OOW pass can vote

I think the solution is quite simple - the voting should be open only to people who registered to OpenWorld.
Hopefully this will mean that only people who are going to be influenced by the decision, in terms of the content they'll get, will be able to have their voice heard.

And yes, Oracle should still keep the possibility to veto sessions that are purely not appropriate.

As long as exceptions are allowed

Some very important "community builders" with good ideas might not be able to attend Open World... so that rule would block their opinions. As long as that was the general rule and people could apply for an exception, I'd agree to it.

public open voting cann't be fair anyway

My thoughts are for now:
- “Not sure if public open voting can be fair anyway.”, “From my point of view the UKOUG have got much fair way to choose presentations for the annual conferences they are organizing.” – Oracle ACEs involvement seems to me an idea that may bring OOW selection process closer to UKOUG one. I am sure that any other attempts to prevent “unfair” activities will fail anyway. E.g. you can remove all votes given for a single author then next what you will see on the top are authors who working for the same companies or projects who have common networks. Greg’s data analysis clearly shows it. I don’t see at this stage that any limits that you may put would make the voting fair.
- IMHO OOW presentations’ selection process isn’t opened to public and we (I) have no idea what principles they put in place to select papers during the official call for papers. Therefore I wouldn’t treat Oracle MIX voting just for “Special – None traditional” titles. Here let me disagree with your comments on “mainstream” presentations. Oracle MIX gives technical geeks an opportunity to get the presentations they think deserves to be on OOW to be selected. I wouldn’t put any limits here.
- LET OOW participants to choose: Well it may be another good/”ideal” option. However people are not that responsive. I am sure that most of OOW participants have very/very busy life style. I just afraid that if you put that condition in place you will get suggestions accepted with 5-10 votes (unrepresentative count anyway) unless OOW team would make the papers selection part of the registration process ;-)
PS Please do not moderate comments for this post. If you want an open discussion then let all comments through.

it can be with a TON of software ;-)

1) That's tricky... if ACEs are the judge, then they will pick stuff interesting to ACEs, which might not be what's interesting to the community. But, it might be an improvement, so I'd support testing it out.

2) I disagree strongly. I feel that MIX talks should be outside the mainstream.

Let's say you have a great talk about RAC performance tuning. Its better than anybody else, and you're a better speaker than everybody else. There will be DOZENS of such talks submitted via the normal channels... and for whatever unfair reason your talk is rejected. What would I as an attendee want? Yet another talk on RAC Tuning which is slightly better? Or something completely different that is thoughful and unusual? I agree, you giving your talk to prove you're awesome is better for you... but is it better for the average attendee who payed thousands of dollars to attend? I say, everyone is better off if you propose something slightly weird on MIX, you win, you speak, you rock, you then leverage your positive speaker ratings to earn a mainstream talk next year. You seem smart and thoughtful; don't settle for ordinary.

3) I agree a bit... if we make a rule that "only attendees vote," then voting will plummet. But... if Oracle sends a link to "suggest-a-session" to all paying attendees, I'd wager participation would be in the THOUSANDS. Any rule like that would require a bit of co-ordination.

4) regarding moderation... for whatever reason I get a freakish amount of human spammers regardless what comment system or CAPTCHA I use... but I will always allow posts if they are germane. Just Google my blog for people calling me an idiot if you don't believe me ;-)

Voting is a popularity

Voting is a popularity contest. Popularity is influenced by marketing. Spam is marketing that has gone over the line. So draw a clear line. Otherwise the winners will be lolcats.

The other option is a cabal (TINC). But isn't that what user submitted presentations was meant to avoid?

The original idea worked because there was an homogeniety to the population, and a set of implicit behavioral norms. It stopped working when more heterogenous social networking was added.

Ball of Confusion: "Vote for me and I'll set you free."

Face it, one of the big uses of databases is spamming. It's an obvious thing to do. Facebook is worth billions. I agree with visitor there isn't much difference between 1 & 2. Downvoting isn't any better than upvoting (and is arguably worse).

There isn't a single good answer. Perhaps a combination of Ace's picks, something really random, and a small number of cliques pushing their own might be interesting.

downvoting is very effective...

If SPAM is the enemy, then downvoting is your best weapon.

Most people who get spam ignore it... they may love it or hate it, but they are not emotionally stirred enough to take action.

Now... amongst the people willing to take action, more people hate spam than love it. So the goal is to make it as easy as possible for the SPAM-ies to down-vote the SPAM-ers.

Now... I'm not sure I follow your transcendental rant, but I believe you're saying that somebody could do a anti-spam campaign, or a pseudo-spam campaign. Like send out a million emails saying "this guy is a jerk! down-vote him for spam!" Or even more nefarious, they could mask their email address and send out a spam blast supporting someone they hate in hopes of an aggressive down-voting campaign. The latter is more viable in a two-person race, but not in a top-ten race. The former could be a problem, but could be fixed with a simple pop-up saying "do you SWEAR nobody put you up to this???"

We're slowly getting closer...

As you don't know the criteria you can't strongly disagree :)

We both agree that the official OOW papers call criteria is unknown. Right?
In that case you can't strongly disagree on a subject there one of the important variables is unknown :)
Just make it "disagree" rather than "strongly disagree" this is a discussion end of the day.

Just my .02$


The MIX sessions should be -- by definition -- the things outside of what the OOW committee would agree to. The unknown outside of the norm. The bleeding edge. The "next big thing" that the squares don't get.

Anything that sounds like an OOW presentation in the MIX sessions should be looked upon with a jaundiced eye...

UPDATE: I should clarify... If its a talk that's nearly identical to something already selected by the Open World committee, then we certainly don't need a duplicate in MIX. If it sounds like something that could or should be a standard session, is not a duplicate, and was unfairly rejected by the committee, then by all means it should be submitted to MIX. In my opinion, that's what MIX is for: to send a message to the Open World committee "more stuff like this please!"

Ah, ok: it should continue to

Ah, ok: it should continue to be an avenue for java duhvelopers in la-la-land to drop their "valuable contributions", against the expressed will of the rest of the Oracle database user community.
Or in simpler words: more of the same "closed club" crap that has been going on since Oracle became the dumping ground for failed java companies.
OK, the show must go on...

not necesarilly java

Just something different.

Do we need yet another session on RAC performance tuning basics? Or perhaps instead we should do something more specific like a story about tuning Oracle Secure Files 11g to make it faster than a Veritas cluster... Or maybe something on Times Ten? Or something on pushing Coherence to the limit?

I know everybody want to give the "general" talks because they are well-attended, but how many do we need???

About Seemingly Trite Topics


You raised an interesting but vital question.

>> Do we need yet another session on RAC performance tuning basics?

I assume you used that particular topic only as an illustration of a certain category. The simple answer is overwhelmingly YES. Why? If this "basic" was that basic, we won't have RAC performance issues.; at least not as much, would we?432

Now the long winded answer. The topics and abstracts themselves do not speak volumes about the actual content itself. However the scope of the topic is endless. There is virtually no limit on what you can consider for RAC Performance. I teach a two day course on RAC Performance Tuning. I have been doing that for last two years; but every time my material is changed. I modify the material because I learn something new and try to adapt it in the course if I find that interesting and useful. I learn these from conferences I attend and articles/blogs I read. I have learned over years that as long as I keep my eyes and ears open and brain hungry for information, I find something of value in virtually *every* session I attend. So, yes, we do need sessions which may seem trite; but amazingly underexplored.

Case in point - over the period of several years one of the most popular sessions in IOUG Collaborate has been, believe it or not, on a seemingly "rudimentary" topic - Indexing. Last year I had to sit outside the door of the room to push people away since the room filled way over capacity permitted by the fire marshall. Why would a lot of smart folks consider it worthwhile to learn something about indexing, especially when they have a lot of other choices? Part of it is that people know that they don't know a lot and they hope to either learn new things, reinforce what they know and unlearn a lot.

Of course, the how much you can get out of the session depends on the speaker's knowledge, preparedness and willingness to share. This is where the reputation of the speaker comes in. The speaker for the above mentioned topic was Richard Foote, a very well known and well respected speaker in the user community. Most folks probably logically assume that Richard will likely put his best effort in getting his point across to the benefit of the attendees.

But it does not have to be Richard. Anyone, with a right bent of mind should be able to produce a session with insights into areas where others have not explored, or not in depth.

So, yes, IMHO we do need another session on indexes and performance tuning basics.



Re: About Seemingly Trite Topics

Firstly... it appears that you posted this same post a few times... I published the most recent revision, and removed the extra ones. Hopefully that's OK.

"So, yes, we do need sessions which may seem trite; but amazingly underexplored."

But why post it to MIX? Why not post it through the normal channels and get approved that way? I am not saying that the "basic" courses have no place in Open World: simply that they probably don't have a place in MIX.

With one exception... In my opinion MIX is the only opportunity for the community to say two things to the Oracle Committee:

  1. we want different topics, or
  2. we want different speakers

IMHO, MIX is a critically important feedback loop to make sure that the Open World Committee "gets it." The only reason to submit a duplicate "basics" course in MIX is if the speaker selected by the Open World Committee is a complete and total dud. Either he doesn't know his stuff, or is a very bad speaker... and a similar talk offered by a very dynamic speaker was unfairly rejected by the committee.

In this case I'd agree that the dynamic speaker should submit a "basics" course to MIX. If the MIX speaker gets a bigger audience and better speaker ratings than the "dud", then the Open World Committee should take note and approve the MIX author through the normal channels the next year.

But... this doesn't seem to apply in your example above. Richard Foote would not have to go through MIX to get approval, would he? He's already well known as a good speaker.

MIX is the only place to highlight topics and speakers that are unfairly unpopular. Intro-level courses by well-known speakers don't qualify, IMHO.

Yes, I posted the reply more

Yes, I posted the reply more than once since it did not appear the first time. I assumed I did something wrong and posted again. After three attempts, when I did not see it appearing, I gave up. thanks for removing the other two.

>> But why post it to MIX? Why not post it through the normal channels and get approved that way? I

Why not post it to Mix? Do we know the preferences of the folks behind the "normal" channels? We don't even know who the folks are, let alone know their preference. How would an abstract submitter know how the selector would select from the pool of submitted proposals? The selectors may have their own preferences, which may not be what the majority of attendees want. That's where Mix comes in. It's a way for Oracle to demonstrate that it still cares about the choice of the attendees. In my opinion that's a very nice gesture by Oracle. But just because a topic is considered popular does not mean that the selectors at Oracle would pick it up. There could be several reasons:

(1) It may not agree with their general theme
(2) they may have already surpassed their quota of non-Oracle speakers
(3) They obviously prefer Oracle's marketing message. So new features and products take a center stage for them

It's due to #3 above, a topic considered "basic" will not be attractive to the selectors; but if the general population of attendees want it, they can choose. Oracle seems to agree with that democratic approach. So, I don't see there is a reason to choose only those non-basic sessions. If a session is too basic, the Mix voters will reject it. If they do elect it, OOW is only too happy to choose it as a popular topic. I don't see a single thing wrong with selection of a topic through Mix which was not selected through regular channels.

I have seen abstracts by several good speakers rejected by OOW selectors but picked up overwhelmingly by Mix.

>> Richard Foote would not have to go through MIX to get approval, would he? He's already well known as a good speaker.

Actually Richard did go through the Mix and his session was one of the most voted. He did not go through the "regular" channels.

Re: Yes, I posted the reply more

"Do we know the preferences of the folks behind the 'normal' channels? We don't even know who the folks are, let alone know their preference."

That's why the MIX select-a-session is open AFTER people are made aware if their session was selected for Open World or not. If your talk sounds similar to something given at Open World 2010, then odds are pretty damn good the selection committee will pick something like it for Open World 2011. At first glance, 90% of the MIX sessions sound similar to stuff selected by the committee last year. I see this as a problem.

"It's due to #3 above, a topic considered "basic" will not be attractive to the selectors;"

Not in my experience. Yes, Oracle marketing will heavily lean towards what's 'hot' that year -- remember the Beehive push in 2009??? -- but sessions on the 'basic' stuff make it in there every time, because they are always popular. Naturally, there's a lot of competition amongst people for the "prestige" of giving these intro-level talks... but if that spills over into a popularity contest on MIX, I think that's going too far.

"I have seen abstracts by several good speakers rejected by OOW selectors but picked up overwhelmingly by Mix."

Fine! That's what it's there for... as long as the sessions are not duplicates. If somebody wants to submit a duplicate, then they had better be twice the speaker as the other guy... otherwise they should perhaps be considerate of other speakers, other topics, and of the attendees paying real money to go to the show.

"Actually Richard did go through the Mix and his session was one of the most voted. He did not go through the "regular" channels."

In my opinion, if he could have been selected through the "normal" channels, then it makes no sense to submit it through the "alternate" channel... if the purpose of MIX is to give sessions a chance that are "unfairly unpopular," then popular speakers are just clogging the pipe.

and btw...

Since Java is a big part of what Oracle does now, you're gonna have to play nice and share sessions. Java and Middleware are already under-represented at Open World by a wide margin. Some say that this is OK, because that's what Java One is for. I'm unsure what the "proper" balance should be... but the Oracle MIX folks did say they reserved the right to balance sessions across tracks, so they're in charge of that.

Can you provide a good refrence ?

>> Anything that sounds like an OOW presentation in the MIX sessions should be looked upon with a jaundiced eye...
Can you please provide a reference where it is defined on Oracle MIX?
It seems like I missed that point somehow.

As for now I was under impression that "no mainstream" titles is your personal invention.


IMHO: It you Bex who deffined "no mainstream"

I just reread the official Oracle MIX OOW FAQ. The only relative bits to the discussion I found are provided bellow. Who told you that we suppose to submit "no mainstream" titles? Can you provide references where it was defined?


REF: https://mix.oracle.com/events/oow11/faq
1. What is "Suggest-a-Session 2011"?
This year you are invited to submit a paper for Oracle OpenWorld 2011 through Oracle Mix. If you missed the OpenWorld Call for Papers, here is another opportunity to submit your proposals. Voting is open through June 19; after voting closes we’ll take the top voted sessions across OpenWorld tracks and include them in our program. Please note that Oracle reserves the right to reject any session that is not appropriate for the conference. This includes subjects that are competitive in nature or sessions that cover outdated versions of products.


22. Do you have any examples or recommendations for submissions?
Our recommendation is to be clear in the title and abstract on what your session will cover. We love catchy and fun titles, however if the voter cannot really understand the session’s direction, it may not get the votes it deserves. So make sure that if you use a catchy title, the voter can still determine what that session will be covering. Check out the tracks offered at Oracle OpenWorld and make sure that your session can fit into a track.
We do not have any other requirements other than the submission being appropriate content for the OpenWorld attendee.

Tim Bonnemann asking for the Oracle MIX OOW voting feedback

Check this out:
Tim posted it just yesterday


strongly disagree :)

>> Anything that sounds like an OOW presentation in the MIX sessions should be looked upon with a jaundiced eye
strongly disagree :)

PS it sound like you personal definition and I wouldn't advise to anyone to take it for granted


"non-mainstream" is there but unclear

But I guess the FAQ could be more clear in section 4:

1. Only sessions with complete title and abstract were considered
2. No Oracle sessions
3. We limited the number of submissions per person to 2

I take that to mean "don't suggest sessions that are already accepted as sessions at Oracle Open World." It could also mean "no sessions by Oracle employees." But both suggest that these be community sessions, and not stuff that an Oracle employee would offer.

Put another way... this is an alternate channel for sessions to be accepted. A good mainstream talk by a good mainstream speaker should have no problem getting accepted through the mainstream channels. Rigging Oracle MIX suggest-a-session to guarantee a spot seems untoward.

"non-mainstream" NOT there. It is clear ;)

"2. No Oracle sessions" = "no sessions by Oracle employees."

the spirit, if not the letter

Until now, non-mainstream was an "unwritten" rule. It just made sense. Up there with "don't spam your way to a session." Neither were explicit in the MIX rules... but here's a handy technique I use to discover unwritten rules:

Since there's no rule about it, imagine there was. Would the rule encourage your behavior, or discourage it?

Should the MIX rules encourage you to submit copycat sessions already at OOW? No? Then the "unwritten" rule is "be original."

Should the MIX rules encourage you to email blast non-attendees with SPAM in order to win a slot? No? Then the "unwritten" rule is "be nice."

I'd also add, the most accurate indicator of a repeat offender is their insistence that they did nothing wrong... I can't tell whether you're mitigating or remorseless. I hope it's the former...

is the un conference still on this year?

There are ( apparently ) several alternatives at OOW 2011.

Last year the un conference stuff was still going on.

Plus apparently Moans and the Oakies had there own set of hidden sessions etc.

I hope so...

The problem with the un-conference is always scheduling. First it was like a pure un-conference and it was all on a big board. But then it was tough to add the sessions you wanted to your day. Then it was online, but then it filled up really quick, and attendance was still low.

If it's not in the schedule builder, people don't plan for it... and the only folks who attend are usually other speakers.

was it worth it?

Assuming that most of these consultants (Tariq, Pythian) do this to generate business,
is this an effective strategy?
Very few of these presentations convey any deep expertise as they mostly rehash knowledge easily found elsewhere, but the firms behind them position themselves as the top experts.
Do companies actually hire them based on these presentations?
I was just wondering if this is worth all the trouble ...

I didn't go to any...

The "intro" level talks are pretty well attended, so there's a lot of competition to score a slot. Yes, these are usually re-hashing of stuff that's freely available on the web... so it's difficult to know whether or not the speaker is truly an expert, or just a newbie sharing their war stories. You can't say one way or the other.

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