I counted. EIGHTEEN TIMES now, since 1998, I’ve participated as an “expert” in the traditional “meet the experts” event at Novell BrainShare in some country or another. EIGHTEEN TIMES.
It goes like this. I sit in a director’s chair next to an easel with an oversized pad of paper and a marker. Anywhere between 50 and 200 Novell employees are in similar chairs with similar easels. We sit, while convention delegates approach us and ask questions, which we deign to answer.
Easy enough. Let’s make it harder.
Instead of questions, per se, let’s have them asking for changes to the product. Since I can’t code these myself, and since they’ll certainly impact project plans if it wasn’t something we were already planning to do, I have to come up with an answer that appeases, sounds vaguely positive, and does NOT mean “yes, you’re going to get what you want in the next release of the product.” THEN I have to collect sufficient information to be able to prioritize these requests (assuming they’re new — only about 20% of them are).
Not hard enough? Okay, NOW let’s run the event in the evening, with finger food, muzak, booze, and enough resulting ambient noise that anything I say has to be said in my “play to the back of the theatre” voice in order to be understood.
Still too easy? Fine. Let’s do it in Europe, where regardless of what I say, I’ll be misunderstood thanks to my high-speed american english, and I’ll be answering the wrong question ANYWAY since it was asked in the second language of someone whose accent I’m not yet familiar with, and who is struggling with the syllables since his/her tongue is very-nearly pickled in free booze.
18 times I’ve done this in the course of the last seven years. Fortunately, six times were in Salt Lake City where accents were less of a problem, but this last one in Barcelona last night… wow.
I’ll spare you the specifics, saying only that last night all 18 events finally ran together in my long-term storage, cranially concatenated into a single, painful blur.
I got back to my hotel room at 11:30, which is too late to take any sleeping pills. They’d just knock me out until 11:00 in the morning. In retrospect, I should have taken the pills. I had insomnia, and didn’t fall properly asleep until 5am… at which point I zonked out solidly for five hours, awakening only when the
cranky wench certainly underappreciated lady fromhousekeeping opened my door and announced herself.
“Meet the Experts.” My nemesis. When I find your weakness, I’ll track you to your secret lair, and exact not only revenge, but permanent solace for myself and Novell employees across the world. Someday…