I probably ought to say a bit more about the camp rather than just focus on the various amenities of Google. That is not, after all, why I was there.
(but for all ye employees of Google: congrats!)
This “conference” was exactly the way every conference ought to be, IMHO. Set aside for the moment the very appealing pricetag of
free, which is unheard of in the world of conferences. As a matter of fact, I can’t even call it a conference. It was more of a gathering. A meeting of minds. One big orgy of idea-swapping (and more than a little ass kissing, but more on that later).
There was no specific structure for this event. There were rooms set aside for it and defined parcels of time within which one could address a topic, but that was about it. If there was something you wanted to discuss or present you either put it on the schedule on the wiki or, if it was a spur of the moment sort of thing, you wrote it on one of the white boards which were set up near the food and coffee.
Unlike your usual conference, there weren’t really any corporate sponsors. Yes, Google provided the venue and the food/beverage. Yes there was some company buying a whole lot of beer for the replication session this evening (which is going on sixty miles or so away from me right now). But there weren’t big logos splashed everywhere. There weren’t tote bags and t-shirts and vendor displays and schwag. No, no free flashing bouncie balls. Though I must admit that I absconded with a Bic pen from the check-in desk, but it hardly counts as I didn’t have to get my badge swiped or hand anyone my business card to get it. I just needed a pen.
What there was is a bunch of people (OK, in truth it was almost entirely men; ladies, if you’re looking for a promising eligible bachelor geek you ought to hit one of these things) sitting in rooms discussing and presenting information. Any little ol’ piece of information their hearts desired so long as it pertained to the general topic of MySQL. Questions were asked. Opinions were solicited. Information was passed. Passive voice was used. It was such a refreshing change of pace from the usual BS and balderdash spewed at your average tech conference. It was, dare I say it, quite useful.
It helped a lot that MySQL itself lent a lot of support to the endeavor. They sent developers and visionaries to answer questions from the unwashed masses (do 200 people count as the masses?) and this was the source of the most useful information. Unfortunately a number of that mass arrived with dollar signs in their eyes. The amount of schmoozing and boot-licking going on was bordering on pathetic as people attempted to impress the muckety-mucks (both from MySQL and Google) in an effort to get their name recognized and perhaps get their foot in the door. I don’t think of myself as an unnecessarily proud person, but I certainly can’t see myself acting this way before the ‘celebrities’ of this piece of the industry. It’s just demeaning.
Aside from that fairly small smudge it was a good experience and one I’m eager to repeat. I hope that this sort of thing catches on and other sub-groups put on similar events. It would do everyone a lot of good to help foster open discussion amongst users and gurus.