Nordic ACE Tour 2014
26 Oct 2014 by Simon Haslam (in Events)
Last week I was a speaker on the OTN sponsored Nordic ACE Director Tour 2014. It's well over a year now since I was kindly invited to take part but, as an "ACE Tour virgin," I wasn't really sure what to expect, so hopefully this non-technical article will help others in a similar position. Heli Helskyaho, a fellow speaker, has pipped me to the post so you can read about her experiences too.
The tour consisted of 4 one-day events in 4 countries on consecutive days - given my distance from London Heathrow this meant I was away from home for 6 days. I had offered 5 abstracts, most of which I'd actually presented elsewhere, but I also included the new EDG presentation that my good friend Jacco Landlust and I have submitted for a few conferences this autumn/winter. Each speaker delivered 2 presentations per day and the 4 user groups chose the sessions they wanted - for me that meant 4 out of my 5, for others it was the same 2 presentations given 4 times. What surprised me was that the event in each country had a different feel.
We started in Sweden in a Japanese-style health spa, in the countryside about an hour's drive away from the airport. This was a very peaceful setting for meetings though all guests were provided with kimonos and seemed to wear them around the hotel. Being almost the only one in the restaurant without one on Sunday evening I hopefully redeemed myself by spending the whole of the following day in one (over my normal clothes I hasten to add!).
After a couple of taxis and a flight we ended up in Oslo. We had a very pleasant dinner courtesy of OUGN (I had reindeer - a first for me!), and I started the following morning presenting across tracks about EDG. I knew the audience would be database-biased so tried to include as much database commentary as I could - I'm not quite sure how well it worked, but hopefully showed how many interesting technical challenges there are in middleware platform design and administration. Nobody walked out anyway!
The OUGN leg was a much bigger event - around 80 or so delegates, including partners exhibiting in the foyer - so it felt more like a day from their annual conference. I later ran my SSL session - using a flip chart which I thought might be useful for data flows - but at 45/50 minutes ran out of time without being able to fit in the demo. I concluded that the subject really needs 2 sessions - one for PKI and encryption concepts, the second for WebLogic configuration and demos. Although you can set up WebLogic SSL without necessarily knowing what's happening underneath, I think the more you know the easier it is to debug when configuration goes wrong (which it invariably does in my experience!).
One benefit of being on the tour is that you can attend most of the presentations at some point - here's Jože talking about 12c database upgrades and new features (like hybrid histograms):
Next: on to Denmark. Copenhagen is actually very close to the border with Sweden (via a bridge) and curiously you had to get the right sort of taxi (Danish or Swedish) at the airport, depending on your destination. Anyway, we arrived at the hotel in Herløv at 9pm and went straight to a "surprise" gourmet dinner which included some very nice fish, and even nicer dessert medley. The OUGD event had a different atmosphere again. This one was held in the Oracle office in Ballerup, so for me was much more like a large SIG. I gave my presentation about WLST tips, though have to say I wasn't very satisfied with it - partly the format of the room (wide but shallow, with twin screens), partly because the 4:3 projector wouldn't play very nicely so I ended up trying to type into the screen behind me, and partly because my material didn't flow very well. The audience had some good questions and comments though which always makes a session more interesting, and hopefully it gave people new to WLST a helping hand.
Later in the afternoon I gave my "WebLogic for DBAs" presentation which I hadn't actually done for a couple of years. When updating my slides one thing that struck me was how many improvements Oracle has made in recent versions, most notably the bundling of WebLogic for EM 12c, and the various changes to administration in WebLogic 12.1.2+.
As you can see from the photo the famous Miracle beer also made an appearance!
Finally, after a quick but tasty early dinner as the guests of Mogens Norgaard (if you don't know him try Google!), we took a flight to Finland. This time we stayed at an airport hotel, which was a good job as, in crossing a time zone, it was 11pm by the time we checked in. This was the first time in the week however that I was happy to be lugging round a thick coat, hat and gloves - the air temperature was definitely several degrees lower and there was some snow on the ground.
The Finnish event was held in a converted factory on a river, complete exposed stone walls, wooden beams and roaring log fires, giving it the atmosphere of a company retreat. I thoroughly enjoyed delivering both of my sessions, especially the SSL one - and this time, with an hour long session and a bit of "extreme typing" at the end - I got right through the demo! Heli wrapped up the day with a useful session on SQL Data Modeler, then the event ended with a dinner. Due to flight timing I had to stay over in Helsinki another night so after dinner I went into the city centre with some new Danish friends and had a very enjoyable evening (best to leave it at that!).
Photo by Jože
On Friday night I arrived back home: 8 sessions, 6 days, 5 hotels, 4 user groups - and a lot of new friends - later! For anyone who attended the sessions slides should be available soon from your local user group. Otherwise Jacco and I are giving the EDG session again in a few weeks at DOAG 2014 in Nuremberg and then at UKOUG Tech14 in Liverpool.
Finally, here are a few tips for anyone about to embark on a similar tour:
- Even though you're away for a week you want to pack super light and have cabin baggage only. It might be good idea to pack then re-pack and remove any non-essentials (for me that would have been camera, noise cancelling headphones, second laptop battery, and second casual shirt!).
- Assume you won't have the time or inclination for ironing so take non-iron clothes (or a jumper to cover shirt creases like I did).
- On the first night re-pack your casual stuff to the bottom of your suitcase as you'll be in work clothes for the rest of the week (you get very good at sliding a few items out of your case without actually unpacking!).
- Make sure flight and hotel details (for waving at the taxi driver) are either printed out or copied into the calendar on your phone. If you enter all flights as appointments (as it's much easier to have them right in front of you) be sure to use the correct time zone as the phone will probably change zone automatically.
Overall, the Nordic ACE Tour was quite a tiring but very enjoyable experience. I'm very grateful to all the user groups (Orcan, OUGN, OUGD, OUGF) for inviting me, and a huge thanks too to the Oracle ACE Program for funding our travel and hotel costs. Hopefully I'll now have a quiet few weeks until the next Oracle event...