As I mentioned yesterday, Lotusphere/Connect is not only technical or marketing/strategy sessions, it is also a very social conference. This was that case long before IBM started talking about “Social”.
Over the years, there have been a number of social activities. It started with the Turtle Party at ESPN, people meeting up Saturday night after they got in. It is named after Scott “The Turtle” Wenzel, a long-time Lotusphere attendant who no longer work with Notes, and thus was not at Connect last year. It is (like many other social activities) not organized, just a bunch of attendees and friends getting together, having drinks, food or just talking. It usually starts around 7pm.
As people started coming in earlier, a spontanious meeting at Big River Grille on the Boardwalk created another long-time tradition, BALD. It stands for Bloggers Annual Lotusphere Dinner, but you don’t need to be a blogger to show up. It is just a bunch of geeks, having a few adult beverages and something to eat after arriving to Orlando. It has been compared to a family reunion, which is a very good description. Reminder: bring cash, the waitresses will appreciate not having to run dozens of credit cards…
Sunday evening IBM arranges the traditional welcome reception on the beach between Dolphin and Swan. Be social, make some new friends, and have some food. You need your badge (or a guest badge) to get in. Afterwards, people often head to ESPN or Kimonos.
Kimonos is the sushi restaurant and karaoke bar in the Swan hotel. For many years it was the place where everyone from geeks to IBM executives were hanging out, having some drinks and perhaps singing some songs. The last few years, Kimonos have been more crowded than usual, as more and more attendees have heard about it. This spawned the unofficial Nomonos, a bunch of geeks hanging out at different places on different evenings, often outdoors if the weather allowed it. The activities included beer tasting, smoking cigars, having apple cake shots, and just talking and hanging out.
But Connect/Lotusphere is not all about drinking and partying. There is also sports, even if that activity often include some adult beverages as well… Between 2009 and 2012, Mitch Cohen arranged Blogger Open, a mini golf tournament at the Fantasia Gardens across the road from Dolphin. This tournament took place after the closing session, and was a great way to decompress and have some fun (and some beer). In 2013, Disney put an end to it, as they could not (or did not want to) grant exclusive access to the course for an hour or two, despite the beer sales in a few hours exceding what normally is sold in months. Bill Malchisky quickly stepped in and organized Soccer Saturday as a replacement in 2013, and this event returns again in 2014. It takes place Saturday before BALD, starting at 10am and going on for 2 hours. This year, Joe Litton is making an appearance as Guest Mai Tai Master. In the past, Joe have hosted a Mai Tai party/reception in a hotel room one evening during Lotusphere.
Other social events are all the national parties. There is a Nordic dinner I often go to, and you also have the traditional UK Night, as well as Australia Night, Canada Night, etc. There is also a showcase reception Monday evening at 6pm, and of course the traditional Wednesday night party, which now have been moved to Tuesday night instead. This year it takes place at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
But you can be social and connect in many other ways. At breakfast and lunch, don’t just sit with your friends or co-workers. Talk to new people! Go to the labs, talk to the IBMers that staff them, learn more about the products and get answers from the people who actually created the tools you use!