Opening Acts: Double-clicking on the premise of words in IT Marketing

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I think the Opening Acts panels that we’ve hosted for the last few years as the daytime part of the VMunderground event might have become my favorite part of the day. One of the fun things we get to do with the community is decide the topics that we are going to host, and as usual, this year there were lots of great suggestions and lots of lively internal debate on which to choose.

One that stood out for me, for a number of reasons we’ll discuss, had to do with language, and specifically how marketing teams can use language in all sort of ways, both for good and for evil.

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In my experience, there are two kinds of ways that people get pedantic about language in our industry. First, there are the people who constantly correct people on the use of there/their/they’re (@millardjk), the people who lament the lack of an edit button on Twitter, and the people who freak out about the improper use of words whose spellings are close but whose meanings are completely different, like premise and premises (@ucs_dave).

The second kind of person, of which I admit to being one of, sees how the definitions of words and phrases can be deliberately and systematically changed over time. For me, this is a far worse offense, because it’s designed to deceive. Back in the day I wrote an entire blog post about this phenomena, and while it’s a much more devious use of language, it doesn’t seem to get the same level of scrutiny and scorn as the poor person who dares to use “premise” incorrectly.

In either case, language is a powerful thing, and how it’s used, where it’s used, and the patterns we create and reinforce can have a significant impact on perceptions and buying habits. If you are interested more in this idea, there’s a lot of great academic articles out there, but here’s one of my favorites.

Join us at Opening Acts to talk about language, buzzwords, bullshit, marketing and the power of words. This should be fun!

OpeningActs 2017—How Failing Made Me Better

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zero-UHave you ever been out socializing with your IT peers, and somehow the topic shifted to some data center horror story? Whether it’s the “zero U switch” that was only supposed to be temporary; or the accidental “rm –r /”; or that time you deleted the wrong LUN (raises hand, hangs head). We all have one or more in our collective history that we occasionally bring back out, dust off, and (hopefully) share to the amusement of all.

There are also those failures that you never bring up. You know, the ones that other folks call “RGEs” (Resume Generating Events). The “cautionary tale.” The sort of thing that, in hindsight, you can’t imagine why you thought it would be a good idea.

And then there are the failures that you were sure would be successes: the exam you almost passed, the project you declined, the proposal—or VCDX defense—that you poured blood, sweat and tears into only to have it rejected.

Aside from “fail,” what should all of these things have in common? All should have been learning experiences.

With a nod to the old saw of “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” we present a group of panelists who have risen to personal and career success, not through a string of only positive achievements, but through reasoned risk-taking, occasional bad luck… and failures.

OpeningActs 2017—The Awkward Teenage Years of the VMware Community

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awkward-teenage-yearsOne idiom all IT professionals know to be true is “the one constant is change.” Nature adapts and changes over time. TV series shift over time. People come and go into your life. Enterprise IT is always chasing a more efficient and simple solution.

As we humans mature from childhood into adolescence, many changes occur. We get bigger and our internal systems change. Our interests change. We struggle to find purpose. Our friend groups change, sometimes turning friends into enemies and enemies into friends. The IT industry and the companies within it also go through similar growing pains.

Another common idiom that seems to ring true in multiple facets of life is “it takes a village to raise a child.” In the IT industry, most companies start with only one or two products and very few of them can make it from startup to self-sustaining (or a marriage to another company) without a system of support around it. This system is usually composed of other vendors, customer advocates, and third-party industry “watchers” who help to promote interesting products/concepts.

As these companies mature their one or two initial products, they almost always find an inflection point where they find the need to diversify their portfolio in order to remain competitive and maintain the growth they experienced before. This often leads to changes in interest and a struggle to find new purpose (often referred to as a pivot). Sometimes these pivots create friction with their old partners and friends. Sometimes they draw closer to and create partnerships with old enemies.

VMware appears to be in the midst of this awkward adolescence-like growth phase. They’re creating a bunch of new products far from the core hypervisor. Their primarily purpose is now cloud and management technologies. They’re directly competing with companies that have ridden in the wake of VMware’s success (see: Veeam, Cisco, every storage vendor). They’re even creating significant partnerships with old enemies like AWS.

The community is also being affected. Newer technologies that VMware isn’t reacting to quickly enough (e.g. containers) are drawing people away from the VMware community. This is causing a reduced focus in the ecosystem sponsors on organizations like VMUG and the myriad of VMworld community events, causing struggles to find sponsors to keep VMware-focused events afloat.

This is a topic hitting us directly at VMunderground and vBrownBag, so we decided to have an open discussion during Opening Acts. One of our panels will be dedicated to discussing how the industry matures and how technology, ecosystems, and communities are affected when vendors mature or move from innovation to sustaining.

VMunderground 2017—Ticketing

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We’ve had a number of questions about the availability of tickets for the VMunderground 2017 party; apparently, the Early Bird tickets we made available at the end of April were confused with the General Access tickets that we’re going to make available later this month.

July 26th, 2017 at 8am PDT, to be precise.

As we announced on the Eventbrite site for the party, the Early Bird tickets would be lower-cost than the General Access tickets when they became available. That hasn’t changed, either, and when they go on sale, they’ll be $40US each.

Opening Acts is still a free reservation, just as in previous years, and is really meant to help us keep track of how many to expect in attendance…

And no…we’re still not telling you where things are happening. It’s still our little secret.

It’s that time again.

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It’s on.

August 27 may seem like a long time away when you’re looking at it from March 27, 2017, but VMworld 2017 US is going to be here sooner than you think. This small band of geeks has kicked off the work that goes on behind-the-scenes in order to stand up the community’s longest-running pre-conference party…

Make your plans.

We’re planning another round of Opening Acts panel sessions. And as before, we’ll be reaching out to our community to provide direction on topics. Like 2016, we’ll start before lunch on Sunday, 27-Aug, so when registration is open, you’ll want to take that into consideration when booking flights and hotels.

We’re also planning a bit of a party. It’ll happen sometime after Opening Acts concludes, but will definitely happen on the same day. And because this is VMunderground, we’re not going to tell you where or when until much, much later.

The Community Approach to VMworld

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I’ve been around the VMware/VMworld community for awhile now. Pretty much since the beginning. The community began in the very early VMworlds, when guys like myself and Jase McCarty were paired up for a lab session, and while hanging out in the beanbag chairs on the last day when a random group of us discussed the logistics of getting the beanbag chairs out of the conference center and through the airports and airplanes to home.

While I did not help to start VMunderground 11 years ago (all credit for that goes to my good friend Theron), I got involved early on and helped it grow and keep on going.  During that time, several other community events got started using a similar model: create an opportunity to give vendors an opportunity to support the community. This has led to vRockstar (the European cousin of VMunderground), vBrownBag TechTalks (an amazing way for individuals to help educate attendees and non-attendees), Spousetivities (which has given so many of us, including myself, a way to try to maintain a better work-life balance even at conferences), and Opening Acts.

Two years ago, all of these groups got together to see how we could support one another.  We all run on shoestring budgets (trust me, none of us are getting rich, and some are even injecting personal money), so there wasn’t a possibility of financial support.  What we decided to do was to create an easier (and cheaper) path for sponsors to sponsor all of us. Thus was formed the VMworld Community Sponsorship package, with the intention to make it very simple to find and sponsor multiple events at VMworld in order to get their company name out in front of the people that have the largest collective influence at VMworld: the vCommunity.

If you are a vendor, VAR, or community group and are looking to make a mark in the VMworld community, or simply want to give back to the community for all they’ve done for the industry, this is your best opportunity.

If you are an end user, blogger, or vExpert, make sure the vendors, VARs, and community leaders you work with understand what the community really does for one another and how big a part of the VMworld experience these events are for you (and could be for them).

We’ll have more info about our events announced soon, but we’re already getting budgets set, venues picked, activities narrowed down, and most importantly, getting sponsors lined up. If you’d like to help sponsor, please let us know: sponsorship@vsquaredb.com

-Brian

Wrap-up, 2016-style

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The day (and night) passed without so much as a hiccup, and VMworld 2016 US has come and gone…

We’d again like to thank our generous sponsors, without whom these events couldn’t occur.

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Of course, without attendance and community interest, the sponsors wouldn’t have any reason to help out; so without further ado, photos documenting Opening Acts and VMunderground attendees can be found here.