Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dreamforce aka #df09

Mr Dreamforce
It has been a while since I traveled for business, and I've somewhat lost the knack of it. There's no glamor in business travel, although I did get to improve my Foursquare points ranking. Being in a time zone a half day different from your native place, where they serve breakfast at lunchtime and dinner is at bedtime left my system completely frazzled. I'd intended to end my days with a blog update but was so tuckered out  I couldn't; so here's my updates now for Wednesday's sessions:

The keynote came off like a pep rally for the AV club. Benioff talked at length about cloud computing as a revolution in IS, the disconnect between knowing more about your friends through social media than you might know about your co-workers and direct reports, and then moved on to chatter. There's plenty of better summaries of Benioff's remarks, so read those if you're so inclined. I'll share instead my reaction: chatter, in summary, operates somewhat like a Google Wave for the organization members who participate in Salesforce's app; and thereby they can chat to each other as well as see posted updates regarding documents, apps, and from outside systems. "My apps are talking to me" said Benioff and that is wonderful, truly. I wonder though how we'll separate the garrulous ugly bums of the apps from the sexy pretty ones that you want to hear from. Similarly, if you're pulling in updates from the public internet - for example, based on searching for tweets which use your company's name - how do you keep known spammers and pornographers from shoving their data into your CRM? As an individual, if I get something distasteful I delete it and go on with my life. But as an enterprise, I figure I'm liable if I inflict such trash upon my coworkers and offend their sensibilities. And if not liable, still it is inefficient and not in the spirit of teamwork to let such nastiness pass through to my coworkers. Salesforce will have to get a grasp on this spam/porn issue with their chatter before adoption can be widespread.

I next went to Hands-On: Building Reports to Analyze ROI  - which was a waste of time for me, and the others I spoke to in the session. In 10 minutes I'd gotten the point that reports were obnoxiously simple to build in Salesforce compared to the sometimes esoteric permutations one goes through to put together a crystal report. Similarly, the session Hands-On: Giving the Right People the Right Information was also dry - more of a basic how-to whereas I was expecting more advanced tips and techniques. I left for the expo, and wish I'd spent more time there! I also spent some time reconfiguing my schedule to avoid the hands on sessions during the rest of the conference - I wish they'd been billed as novice sessions from the beginning.

Another session I attended was The Self-Healing Database: Advanced Data Quality for Busy Administrators. This session was of much better quality, with great tips for running automatic batch processes to keep the data sanitary.

At the expo, I checked with 3 Salesforce staff and none knew how to deal with the filtering issue I mentioned. Finally I found a cheerful gent with a Salesforce tag who was able to answer my question; unlike the developers I'd been pestering for an answer, he'd formerly worked as a salesforce admin so he was familiar with the practical issue I was addressing. His recommendation was to import all the trash as cases, then run some processes to automatically close inappropriate cases and suppress them from user views. Still that would require someone to make a list of nasty terms for us to use as the basis of a filter; but I suppose that's what interns are for.

I had lunch at the Birds-of-A-Feather luncheon, and despite the goofy name it was a great event for me. I had lunch Wednesday with Colby from Exact Target, and he kept a full table engaged in swapping implementation stories and tips. I felt like that open exchange of ideas toward a directed topic was such a benefit - there's no teacher like experience, and hearing other's experiences offered lessons a plenty.

Wednesday night's gala event featuring the Black Crowes got off to a rocky start. In keeping with conference precedence, they started late. But rocking with the Crowes was a highlight for me, I loved being able to see the guitarist's technique from up close - it definitely had a small-club feel in spite of the thousands of people in attendance. I ended up closing out the venue with a group of half-drunken chess players; I'd never been kicked out of a place for playing raucous chess before, but now I have, so I can cross that off my life list.
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