Lotusphere can be a scary place for the first time attendee. I remember my first time there in 2003. Didn't know where I was or what I was doing. Didn't know that the shuttle to get me directly to the Swan and Dolphin was right outside the front door of my hotel. Instead, I took one of the Disney buses from the All-Star resort to Downtown Disney and transferred to a bus that got me back to The Dolphin, only to find that registration had closed for the night 10 minutes before I got there. So in the spirit of collaboration and helping others, I started an "Andy's Guide to Lotusphere" post that I put up on my blog each year in hopes of helping other first timers feel more at ease with their journey south to Lotusphere. So, dear traveler, I hope that this helps YOU get the most out of your week.
(And now, the yearly disclaimer:)
What you will not find here is who the special guest speaker at the OGS . (In the past, my money was always on "The Shat", and it payed off a couple years ago! So now my guess is either Optimus Prime or Dale Earnhart, Jr.) What you will find is what I've learned from making the pilgrimage south each January and from what others have contributed to the comments section from my previous posts. My perspective on the Lotusphere event is that of a customer and blogger. I'm not an IBM employee, vendor or business partner. If you've stopped by in the past to read my thoughts on the event, you may notice some copying and pasting, but there is some new stuff. So here goes!
Chapter 1 - The Prep:
First things first. If you are an Domino administrator, Domino developer, someone that manages a Sametime environment, someone that manages a Connections environment or someone that wants to see that there is other life out there beyond Failpo...I mean Sharepoint, the Lotusphere conference is the place to go to learn from IBM and others what their software CAN do and how people ARE using it. It is also the place to get the inside track on things to come! So, if you haven't already, GO ASK YOUR BOSS! I'll wait.
Oh, you're back. And the answer was...yes!? Great. Okay now that you are allowed to go you have to prepare yourself for a week of drinking from the fire-hose of knowledge. This will be my 10th Lotusphere and every year when I get back it's the same thing. Soar feet and brain overload.
Here are some of my usual tips that have not failed me yet! Remember, preparation can save you some time and money later.
1. Internet Resources
The official Lotusphere website. 'Nuff said.
Get to know, The Turtle. For many years, Scott "The Turtle" Wenzel has put together numerous resources regarding Lotusphere on his website The Weightless Dog. Last year in addition to his site, Scott penned an article for the LotusUserGroup.Org’s website on how to economize your week in Florida. You can check it out here. Very helpful if you are footing the bill for the week.
Bill Buchan wrote and excellent post, "A Cynics guide to Lotusphere". A fantastic no-holds-barred look at Lotusphere. A must read!
The Power of the Lotusphere Community - The Lotusphere blog! Back again this year is another great center for information from the four corners of the web regarding Lotusphere.
Planetlotus.org - The list of lists for the Lotus blogsphere. If you have not yet dipped your toes into the vast ocean of knowledge that is there for the taking on this site, then you don't know what you're missing. As Lotusphere grows closer, I'm sure that the site will come alive with Lotusphere related rhetoric and information.
If you’re on Twitter, follow the hashtag #LS12. That’s the official hashtag for Lotusphere 2012. Also, follow @lotusphere on Twitter for updates about the event.
Keep an ear open for Podcasts, too. The Talking Notes podcast, This Week in Lotus and the Lotusphere Podcast are all excellent resources for information about the conference too.
2. Go and get yourself a new pair of tennis/walking shoes NOW. Wear them and break them in. If you can, get two pair so you can switch back and forth during the week. This will save your feet some pain after the first day of walking around the conference. And you will do a LOT of walking around while you are there. You may also want to get a new pack of white socks at Walmart or Target. The real cushy kind. Those help a lot too. 3. Before you leave on your adventure, stop by that section in cosmetics or pharmacy at the Walmart or Target that has all the neat little travel sized stuff and pick up anything you can think of that you may need! Aspirin, Advil, Tylenol, Nyquil, baby powder, Qtips, etc, etc. But most importantly PEPTO-BISMOL. I got REALLY ill once and had to dish out a lot of money at the little store in the Dolphin for supplies. Bringing a small drug store with you can really save you some bucks. It's usually 3-4 times more on site. After all, you are staying at Walt Disney World. Also PRESCRIPTIONS! If you have some that you need to maintain your quality of life, make sure you bring them with you! When you stay on-site and you don't have a car, it can be a real task to get to a pharmacy.
4. Download the Lotusphere 2012 Agenda Lotus Notes application! This is a FANTASTIC tool by Ben Langhinrichs that is been based on the Notes Journal database that contains the sessions, their descriptions, location and times. It has a handy add to calendar button that puts the session right in your Notes calendar. And if you have a BlackBerry, Traveler device or something else hooked up to your Notes calendar, it's on there too! Very useful when planning your time.Cannot stress enough how much this tool can save you time with what sessions you want to attend.
5. If you need to, order more business cards now, if you still use them. You can go through a lot of them. Downside - Your phone will ring for a couple of weeks afterward. (Yes, people still use business cards)
6. Pay attention to the weather forecasts leading up to Lotusphere. Orlando can be really nice and warm in January but it can also get downright cold at night. Pack appropriately.
7. Dress for Lotusphere is casual. Jeans, shorts, polos and t shirts seem to be the norm. Even kilts for some! But no mankinis, please.
8. Bring a plug strip with you. Most hotel rooms are limited on power outlets and having several outlets extra can always come in handy.
9. And don't forget all of your accessories power cords for charging your stuff! You don't want to show up Saturday and realize that you are short a power cord for your iPhone. Not that I've ever done something like that, ever.
10. If you can, get a portable charger like this. I brought one of these with me and saved my phone from running out of charge during the day.
11. If you have access to a Mi-Fi or cellular wireless card for your laptop, bring it. Yes, wifi is made available during the conference for your use. Good luck trying to get on it. There are several thousand other geeks there with you all trying to get connected at the same time during the day. Access points can only do so much.
Chapter 2 - You're There!:
So now that you packed all your power cords, plug strips and comfy shoes, you arrive in Orlando to hopefully warm, sunny skies and are ready to begin drinking from the fire hose of knowledge that is Lotusphere.
1. Since Orlando is a tourist mecca, there are several ways to get to and from the airport. The most expensive option is of course a private car or taxi. But those can be a little costly. For $34 (plus tips) round trip, you can take advantage of the Mears Shuttle. This will get you to the hotel and back relatively easy. But, you do need the coupon. Click here for coupon. It does appears that if you want to book transport to and from the hotel early, you can go to Mears site and schedule your trip there. AND, you can save another $4 so it's $30 round trip. Check it out here. If you are staying at a Disney property (non-Swan or Dolphin hotel), you can also look into using the Magical Express for free. See your hotel information for details. However, I'm not sure about the Swan, but I know the Dolphin has car rental drop offs available which is important to note further down the list.
2. If you are staying at the Swan or Dolphin, great. You're right where the action is. The Yacht and Beach is the next closest official hotel right within walking distance of the event. If you are staying at one of the other Disney properties, get to know early where the conference shuttle pick up and drop off is at. It's usually right out front of the hotel and you can always ask an ever helpful Disney cast member where they are. My first year down there, I missed Saturday night registration by 10 minutes because I used the Disney transportation to get me to Downtown Disney first, then back to the Dolphin.
3. To go along with point #2, don't be afraid of getting stranded at the Swan or Dolphin after the conference shuttles run. You can use the Disney buses to get around. From the hotels, they go to Downtown Disney and from there you can catch a bus back to your hotel. (Disney properties only)
4. Once you checked into the conference DO NOT LOSE YOUR CONFERENCE BADGE! There are no mulligans. You are Gollum and that is your precious. You loose it, you either go home or buy a new one.
5. Meet people and make contacts. Very useful and fun. Sitting in your hotel room at night is no fun. There are not a whole lot of cable channels anyway. So, get out and mingle, network and collaborate! Get social, dangit! If you arrive on Saturday and have nothing to do, wander on down to the Boardwalk area and stop in to the Big River Grille & Brewing Works. On Saturday afternoon, the Bloggers -and friends- Annual Lotusphere Dinner, BALD, takes place. It's nothing more then a bunch of Lotus geeks hanging out for a few adult soda pops and enjoying each others company. Very family reunionish without that odd aunt nobody likes anyway. Then later in the evening on Saturday, wander on down to the ESPN bar for The Turtles get together. Always a fun time! The Lotus community is one that is very accepting and social. Very social. Make some friends, dang it! Seriously, get out and have fun. You will meet people from ALL over the world and they will become your friends. But watch out for "handsy" Australians. That's right Mat, I'm talking to you.
6. While we're on the topic of getting out and having fun, go to the vendor sponsored events usually on Tuesday night. They are always a lot of fun! (And saves you from having to find something for dinner that fits your expense account.) Seriously though, if you are a customer of a vendor there, ask them if they have anything going on that week. Remember, you are spending money with them normally.
Also, there is always a party or event to be found on either Monday or Tuesday night. Work the show floor and you can usually score an invite.
7. Your first time at Lotusphere is like your first day at college. You will be wandering around wondering where in the hell SW10 is. Ask people! Or if you look lost enough, (like I did my first year), someone will help you out.
8. If you are certified take advantage of the Certification Lounge. Hang out, get some eats, and get a chair message.
9. Don't miss breakfast and lunch. I've really enjoyed the food that the catering folks put out for us. Especially at breakfast, drink lots of OJ, eat a bran muffin or two and have a bowl of cereal. Really pays off for the rest of the day. Also, be sure to thank the nice folks that are there taking care of us. They are always real nice people and seem to appreciate someone thanking them. Also, do not be wary of approaching anyone there. Make yourself sit at tables with those you do not know and engage in conversation. Sometimes you meet awesome people. Sometimes it doesn't work. Either way it is how the community grows.
10. Speaking of food, one thing I did different this past year was rent a car to get to and from the airport. One of the reasons why was that I wanted to stop at the store and grab some room snacks. Pop tarts, pork rinds, green tea, etc. Just general munchies. There's nothing worse on one of the nights getting the munchies and not wanting to spend $8 bucks on something that's $2 at Walmart. The rooms in the Dolphin have a fridge, so there's a plus right there.
11. During the morning and afternoon, there are break stations set up throughout the conference. Usually coffee, water/juice and a snack. Grab couple extra waters and snacks and throw them in your bag for either a late night snack (if you don't have a car) or just to have the water around.
12. Keep yourself hydrated while you are on the go down there. A full day of sessions and running between hotels can be draining.
13. Stop into the developer labs and have all your burning questions answered! All of the top folks from IBM are there to help you through all of those tough questions you've been meaning to ask! Also, if they have the User Experience lab again this year, it's really cool! Check them out! They are there to listen to us, the customer! Do not be afraid of them, they won't bite, mostly. You can have some very open and honest dialogue and work through your problems.
14. Take Visio's with you of your environment. What better way to explain the layout of your environment than to have the graphical representations of it with you.
15. When Lotusphere is over and you're getting ready to jump a plane home, be sure to check your receipt from the hotel. The Swan and Dolphin are notorious for charging you for things you didn't use, like the mini-bar in the hotel room. They almost got me one year. I'm sorry, $3 for a Snickers bar is just insane!
16. When you see me, buy me a beer! Oh wait, that doesn't belong here, moving on.
17. IdoCheckin is back for year #4, so finding everyone around the conference is even easier. Visit the site, get yourself a Foursquare id and make friends. Lotusphere has an account as do myself, IdoNotes.
18. Just because the closing session ends on Thursday doesn't mean things are over. Sure, they start cleaning things up the minute the conference is over, but you're still there with all your new friends. Go do stuff with them. One fun event has been the Blogger Open mini-golf across the street from the Swan.
19. Like to get social with your fellow Lotusphereians via a hog? Masters Mooney and Buchan are the people you want to link up with to ride bikes across Florida. The past couple of runs have proven to be a great time from what I have heard. Of course, I'm not allowed to do that. My wife won't let me. But, if you're up to it, check out the information here.
20. Let's not forget about the Nerd Girl content once again offered at Lotusphere this year. I reached out to friend, fellow admin and Nerd Girl extraordinaire, Marie "The Exorcist of IMAP" Scott on some bullet points to share with other Nerd Girls
- Are you up for the Challenge?
We are very excited to present the Great Geek Challenge .com . Celebrate your nerdy side and gather your LS12 friends to create a team to challenge those neurons for fantastic geek prizes!
- And don't forget your Nerd Girl button -- show your support for the Nerd Girl community! They'll be available for distribution at several locations throughout the conference.
- Be sure to check the Lotusphere schedule for the Nerd Girl sessions - as we've submitted several sessions this year!
- Show your Nerd Girl pride at Lotusphere and order your t-shirt today! http://www.zazzle.com/nerdgirls
Thanks, Marie! 21. Lotusphere is about getting social. And sometimes, social can lead to hi-jinx and tom-foolery. When you are out and about with friends, enjoying conversation and libations, it might be a good idea to make sure your smartphone is password protected. Not that ANYONE I know might ever do such a thing, but, an unlocked smartphone can lead to possible emails, tweets, Facebook postings or pictures that you just didn't make. Just something to keep in mind. Thanks for the reminders, Kathy.
Chapter 3: The REALLY, REALLY, REALLY important stuff!:
Now here is the MOST important thing you can take away from this blog entry/guide/maifesto:
Lotusphere is what YOU make of it! It's the event and it's the people. Take advantage of everything that you can, but pace yourself. You will be absorbing so much knowledge and sometimes by Wednesday, you may start burning out. Take it easy, take care of yourself, but just have fun! Be Social! Party like there will be no Lotusphere 2013! You never know. Wonder if Nostradamus wrote anything about this?