IBM’s October Conference – WoW, not World of Warcraft!

I’ll once again be attending IBM’s October Conference in Las Vegas. I can remember when it was focused on DB2, and the year they started calling it Information on Demand (IoD). Then they changed it to Insight, and this year it’s normally called World of Watson (WoW), though I’ve seen some references to it as “Insight at World of Watson”. Maybe I’ll understand what that’s all about after the conference.

This is not a deep DB2 technical conference like the IDUG ones. This is a giant, broad conference that it’s easy to get lost in the crowd at. I have spent several hours understanding the the structure before going, and this is what, my third or fourth year attending it.

There are some great deep DB2 technical sessions at this conference, but there isn’t one in each time slot, and the conference organizers don’t seem to have seen fit to have separate tracks for LUW and z/OS. My strategy at this conference has been increasingly to diversify and see what else is out there. If there were any recent DB2 certifications available that I didn’t already hold, I might work on them.

Networking is another big aspect to this conference. Not just in my little geek comfort zone, but making connections in other disciplines and with less technical IBMers. Last year, I ran into someone I shared an office with my first year or two at IBM – he was working in a completely different area.

There are many vendors with evening parties – most of the evening events are “unofficial”, invitation-only affairs in suites or bars or whatever in the hotels near Mandalay Bay. This conference is usually about 13,000 people, and I hear it fills both Mandalay Bay and Luxor hotels. I heard rumors (last year) that this year there might be sessions held at another hotel, but so far the only ones I’ve seen that for are the big keynotes, which are at T-Mobile Arena (Which is near the NYNY). They do have shuttles to several other hotels this year, leaving from the “back” entrance of Mandalay bay nearest to most of the conference.

The conference officially starts on Monday, October 24, and runs through Thursday, October 27.

Advice

First, a few tips if you’re attending. You will walk a lot. Miles per day. Wear comfortable shoes! Seriously, forget cute heels or anything that you’ve ever found remotely uncomfortable. Your feet will likely hurt even if you wear tennis shoes. I’ll be in Birkenstocks most of the week.

Second, bring one or more jackets. I frequently freeze at conferences, and you’ll always find me with a sweater or jacket.

Third, if you have time, scope out the conference center ahead of time. Having some idea of the layout will make the conference so much smoother for you.

Schedule at a Glance

The on-site schedule is often the most accurate and comprehensive. Check it out:
2016-10-22 09.03.14

Registration

Registration hours are:
Sunday 8 am to 8 pm
Monday 7 am to 8 pm
Tuesday 7 am to 8 pm
Wednesday 7 am to 7 pm
Thursday 7 am to 2 pm

Assuming you registered ahead of time, you received a QR code in email that will make on-site check-in speedy. If you’re new to conferences or to IBM WoW, you’ll have to get a badge at the registration booth prior to participating in most conference activities. The badge has your name prominently displayed so that people who are completely horrendous with names like me can do a better job of recognizing people and using their names. There are bouncers who will keep you from many areas of the conference if you are not wearing your badge. Badges also have rfid, and you’ll see rfid readers everywhere if you look. I’d be interested to know what data analysis IBM does after the conference based on the data collected.

Meals

Breakfast and lunch are provided. They are often in huge rooms in which it is nearly impossible to intentionally meet up with people, so gather any groups before you go in. This is also an opportunity to meet new people, just depending on who you happen to sit near. Here are the times and locations. I’m not sure what the deal is with multiple listed locations – if they’re just different doors into the same room or what.

Monday

Breakfast is 7 am to 9 am in Bayside E, Oceanside, and Tradewinds.
Lunch is 11:30 am to 1 pm in Bayside E, Oceanside, and Tradewinds.

Tuesday

Breakfast is 7:30 am to 9 am at T-Mobile Arena.
Lunch is 12 pm to 2 pm at T-Mobile Arena.

Wednesday

Breakfast is 7 am to 9 am in Bayside E, Oceanside, and Tradewinds.
Lunch is 11:30 am to 1 pm at T-Mobile Arena.

Thursday

Breakfast is 7 am to 9 am in Oceanside and Tradewinds.
Lunch is 11:30 am to 1 pm in Oceanside and Tradewinds.

Keynotes

For the first time since I’ve started attending, the conference does not start with a keynote. It looks like the main Keynotes are Tuesday morning and Wednesday afternoon at T-Mobile Arena. My favorite speakers in the various keynote sessions of the last few years were emphatically Kevin Spacy (his speech prompted me to start watching House of Cards – highly recommended), and Fredi Lajvardi, the coach of the high school robotics team that the movie “Spare Parts” is based on.

Certification

Some IBM certifications are available for a reduced rate. I’m a huge fan of certification because it pulls me outside of my day-to-day comfort zone and makes me study areas of DB2 that I might not otherwise study. The hours for the certification center are:
Sunday 12 pm to 5 pm
Monday 8 am to 5 pm
Tuesday 12 pm to 7 pm
Wednesday 8 am to 11 am and 3 pm to 5 pm
Thursday 7 am to 2 pm

If you’re seated for an exam at least 15 minutes before the closing time, you should be fine – they won’t rush you out or force you to stop early. Remember to have your Pearson Vue ID handy, and it’s never a bad idea to know your candidate ID if you’ve taken a test before.

Certification exams will be $30 each, which is an 85% discount.

Details on certification at IBM World of Watson

The location of the certification center is in Banyan A/B Level 3, just left of the escalator.

Hands-On Labs

At other technical conferences for DB2, there are no hands-on-labs. I try to participate in at least one each year. Even if they’re on a topic I already know something about, I find that they cover details and provide a lab environment to play with things in. Check out the conference schedule for the labs this year – searching on ‘DB2’ and then filtering on a session type of

The Mobile App

Download the IBM Events mobile app from the Google or Apple app stores. This year it integrates with any agendas you have created on the IBM WoW site. I don’t know how stable it will be. We’ll see as the week goes on. There are some interesting features this year I’m looking forward to trying and seeing if they make much of a difference.

The Cognitive Concourse

I think that this is what they’re calling the expo hall this year, but I’m not sure. There does seem to be more of a focus on interactive experiences with IBM products as a part of this. If it is a replacement or renaming of the expo hall, there are often drinks or food in this area, and it is a good place to mingle and run into people.

The Concert

Every year IBM brings in someone fairly big for the Wednesday night concert. This year it’s Imagine Dragons. They’ll be playing at T-Mobile Arena, which I believe is at the NYNY. Shuttle buses will take people over there. Usually, you’ll just need your badge to get in. If you want to bring a guest, you’ll have to purchase a guest pass at registration.

Hope to See You There!

If you’re at IBM World of Watson this year, let me know – I love chances to meet blog readers. Also, if you see me wandering around in my iconic braids, please, please walk up and introduce yourself. You’re not interrupting me, you’re usually making my day if you tell me you read the blog, and I love to talk DB2 geek any time.

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