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March 2000

It’s better to give and receive

NewsWire Editorial

More than a few guys got caught away from their soulmates in February, but I wasn’t one of them. I was one of the lucky ones, getting to spend Valentine’s Day with my wife while on the road; I didn’t have to wire flowers or read a love poem long distance on the day of hearts. We collected one of the fringe benefits of working with your spouse, traveling together to the HP e3000 shows in California in mid-February. The trip showed how two very different kinds of meetings can work together — like two very different lovebirds — to make the 3000 community a richer place to work.

The community had a bounty of meetings last month, and nearly all of them took place around Valentine’s Day. The Solutions Symposium and the SIG3000 summit were within a few days of each other, days that many spouses and lovers had to spend apart from their sweethearts. The days between the two conferences in California included Valentine’s, and we made plans to spend time in a favorite retreat in Mendocino, a half-day up the coast from Silicon Valley.

I’d been to the annual IPROF programmer’s forum many times in the past, but always without Dottie. This year we sampled the recent Solutions Symposium and SIG3000 summit together, and we saw how giving and receiving are natural parts of running a publication — and a mature computer community.

We spent our time in Mendocino at the Sea Rock Inn, a collection of cabins and suites atop the big rocks that mark the coastline with sprays of surf. Mendo, as the tourists and its fans call it, has been the site of many a movie and TV show. I told our Worst Practices columnist Scott Hirsh I’d be spending Valentine’s in the town with my wife, and he said, “Why not? I proposed to my wife on that movie set.”

We had sampled the Sea Rock a few years earlier and were keen to return to Room 12, the one with the tub for two where you can watch for whales from the bath. The grey whales migrate within sight of shore at Mendo, so it’s worth some study as you sit in the bubbles. They take their watching seriously at the Sea Rock, where the breakfast nook has field glasses and a telescope.

February means rain for the Sonoma County coast, and a lot of our three days was punctuated with steady wet. Deep in the night before Valentine’s, a terrific downpour swelled the Russian River and knocked out the power for awhile. There’s no dark like that of a seacoast without moon or any other kind of light — not even the black skies of West Texas.

In the daylight that followed the storm, the sun chased off the rain at last. Our time in the tub, and cuddling in front of the fire after a splashy sunset, was the perfect refresher after days of technical training sessions and management presentations. The Solutions Symposium was the 3000 community’s first exclusive setting in years that let managers receive what its greybeards knew. Bill Lancaster, who led the four-day meeting with affable self-ribbing humor, called it a collection of “old farts,” seasoned programmers, administrators and HP developers who were sharing skills about e3000 technique and experience. Lancaster took a poll at one point to see how many of the 200 attendees were under 30, and counted just four of them. The Symposium drew a more experienced audience than expected, a good measure of the value in the training.

In the same way that the 3000 community expanded its spring meetings to offer a place for customers to receive instruction, we were extending our own presence by having the entire NewsWire employee roster there. (One developer met us at the SIG3000 show and said, “I called the NewsWire yesterday, but I didn’t get an answer.” We laughed and said that was because all hands — both of us — were at the shows.) In years past I’ve attended the show to gather news and discussion for articles. This year Dottie came along to add the element of giving back, arranging for our free SolutionStore 3000 screen-swipes, engineering a Dove ice-cream bar refreshment break, and giving me a way to be in two places at once: writing in our room, and getting notes from meetings she attended.

Where we once had only received from the spring 3000 shows, now we began to give. e3000 customers opened up their experience too, taking in the training of the Symposium before giving back the input that makes HP’s products better.

Many of us who had made the IPROF conferences a regular spring stop wondered how a symposium just three days before would affect this year’s SIG3000 summit. The name of IPROF may have changed, but its tradition of sparking lively technical examination of HP’s product is the same as it ever was: remarkable for its candor and contribution. SIG3000 is the meeting where the customer community gives back to HP, in the form of critique about what the e3000 engineers should do next with languages, databases, the operating system and more.

Because this community now has a forum to receive as well as to give, it’s a better place to work and grow as a computer professional. I rubbed elbows at lunch with many managers at the Symposium, and every one said they were learning. Lunch tables cleared promptly to get seats in hands-on labs or in seminars. Days later, SIG3000 volunteers put in long hours delivering the input HP needs to keep improving your computing platform. The SIGWEB meeting lasted until almost 10 PM on a day when the first session began 12 hours earlier.

That kind of passion to give feedback and accept instruction shows the depth of the e3000 community, how its two very different sides work better together. I felt lucky to have a great seat for it all, alongside my partner, each of us doing what we love best, with the one we love best.

— Ron Seybold 


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