Thursday, August 21, 2008

I just finished giving my presentation. Time to relax.

My official duties at the conference in Louisville are over. Now, I can just sit back and enjoy stuff.

You'll recall that a few days ago I was checking out a room. This morning, I was there - and it wasn't empty any more.

This morning, I gave a one-hour presentation that looked at my particular vertical market (and application) from an information technology perspective (rather than from a practitioner perspective). While the presentation itself is owned by my employer, and while my vertical market is of no interest to most of you, perhaps I can share some portions of the presentation that were more general in nature.

  • In my case, I emphasized that the software is a tool that lets a trained practitioner do his or her job. The software does not do the job for you; it let you do the job in a better way.

  • The application can be affected by both technology concerns and connectivity concerns.

  • Several technologies can affect the way in which one performs his or her job. For example, the very act of computerization can affect how jobs are performed. Previously, many jobs could only be performed by searching through file cabinets. Conversion of the "file cabinet" to electronic form not only lets you perform these searches more quickly, but also lets you perform searches that you couldn't have performed 40 years ago.

  • As I noted earlier, one of the technologies that has had a great effect on many vertical markets is the emergence of wireless mobile capabilities. Rather than bringing material to a central site in which the application is housed, the application can now be brought out to the field, where the material is located. If you look at your own business, you can see how this has affected how you do things.

  • While technological change, Moore's Law, etc. have increased our computing capabilities, our lives are not any easier. In many cases, as computing power has increased, our responsibilities have also increased.

  • There is a lot of talk about architecture, but there is no single "correct" architecture for everyone. The software application that I discussed is deployed everywhere from small cities to large international entities. If I were to go to a small city and insist that this application be deployed on an SOA platform, they'd laugh me out of the room.

  • A web browser application has its advantages and disadvantages. The chief advantage is that you can perform the work anywhere; you aren't restricted to going to a single computer where the data is located. The chief disadvantage is speed; if data is resident somewhere else, it's going to take some amount of time for the data to get to your computer. (In this case, I'm not just talking about textual data, I'm also talking about image data, in which each image could be multiple megabytes in size, and in which there may be dozens of images that need to be downloaded.)

  • The database is critical. While my particular vertical application is defined by certain processing steps that take place, those processing steps cannot take place if you can't get to the data. Because the conference which I am attending frowns upon endorsement of any one particular product, I was unable to say the word "Oracle" in my presentation. However, I named some particular data storage issues which just so happen to be ideally solved by Oracle Database 11g. (Heh.) [NOTE: SEE THIS POST FOR MORE DETAIL ON THE DATA STORAGE PORTION OF MY PRESENTATION.]

  • RoHS has affected you, even if you think that "RoHS" is the complement to "CoLUHMS." For those who haven't heard of it, RoHS stands for "Restriction of Hazardous Substances," a European Union mandate that controlled the level of lead, cadmium, mercury, and (as I said in the presentation) "three elements which I will refrain from pronouncing". With certain exceptions, all computing equipment sold in the European Union after July 1, 2006 has to be RoHS-compliant. Other jurisdictions are passing their own versions of RoHS. The net effect of this is that you are probably getting RoHS-compliant computer equipment, even if your jurisdiction does not have RoHS or similar mandates.

  • As has been well-documented elsewhere, computer manufacturers have moved away from the speed race and are now concentrating on efficient use of energy resources by the computers (e.g. "performance per watt").

  • In 1969, the Internet (then ARPANet) consisted of just a few nodes. I observed that I probably had more connectivity in my hotel room (EVDO, wi-fi, Bluetooth, television) than the entire Internet had 40 years ago.

  • If there are four standards, there is no standard at all. Enough said.

  • I have been involved in this particular vertical market for 14 years. Based upon the changes that have happened in the past, there is no way that I can predict what this vertical market will look like 14 years from now.
Well, there you have a generalized version of my presentation. While this talk was designed to shed light on a particular vertical market, it's likely that some or all of these things also affect you in your own vertical markets.

Which only leaves one question - did my presentation suck?

Before I answer that question, I do want to note the expectations of the crowd. The crowd expected to receive handouts. The crowd expected that the handouts would, in and of themselves, let people know what the presentation was about. Therefore they could take them home and share them with their co-workers.

Because of this, it would not have been appropriate for me to have no slides at all, or to have slides with single words such as "Change" or "RoHS." Most of my slides had text, ranging from a single phrase or bullet point to a slide with over a dozen (short) bullets/sub-bullets (e.g. "Passport and visa holders").

That having been noted, I'll say that in the majority of cases, I contributed significant verbal information in addition to what was printed on the slide. I'll grant that portions of the presentation could have been better in this regard, but for the most part the text on the slides let the attendee know what was happening, then allowed me to delve into significant additional detail. (To let you be the judge of whether my slides were too detailed or not, I'll let you know that the presentation had 39 slides not counting the beginning and concluding ones, and that the presentation took exactly 60 minutes to deliver. As I said, you be the judge.)

However, my greatest success was the fact that at my 8:00 presentation, I only noticed one of the two dozen attendees who was sleeping. For an 8:00 presentation after a huge evening event, that's not too bad.

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