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UKOUG 2011 - Cary Millsap's Keynote

Without question the best presentation of the conference for many attendees was Cary Millsap's Monday night Keynote. I know this for certain because they told me so at length, grabbing every opportunity to talk about it for the rest of the week! Seriously, you couldn't talk to anyone over drinks for more than a few minutes for the rest of the week before the subject cropped up. A feature of the conversations was how disappointed those who missed it were. That tells you everything about what those who were there had to say about it!

I've lost count of the number of times I've heard artists discuss the importance of producing work that elicits a reaction, whether positive or negative. Whilst we don't have to spend our entire lives being controversial, I think it's important to say something sufficiently meaningful that people care enough to form an opinion about it. No-one I knew shrugged their shoulders and said - 'Erm, it was *ok*'. Personally, I didn't imagine I'd still be sitting in a presentation at 19:45, immediately after my own, unless :-

a) Lisa Dobson needed to use my laptop to charge her mobile phone.
b) I found the presentation captivating.

So what was it *about*?

I suspect that if you asked 10 people you would probably get 10 different answers (unless they were very high-level summaries) so I hope that the UKOUG get around to publishing the video of the presentation so more people can see it and judge for themselves. If and when they do, I'll publish a link here.

In the absence of that, what I took from it personally was that perhaps we're all a little too wrapped up in those things that we think make us happy - material possessions, job security and stability - and don't understand the value to us of other factors that might be less obvious - the most difficult achievements, the freedom of moments when you appear to have lost a lot (but have less remaining to lose) and coming through more difficult times. One phrase that jumped out at me (forgive me if memory mangles this) was that happiness is not a state but a state change. It's probably unrealistic to expect a perpetual state of happiness and perhaps the happy times can only be truly appreciated because there are contrasting hard times?

As British men go - and I've met a few now - I do wear my heart on my sleeve to an unusual extent so I didn't find it too personal although I know at least three people who did (because I asked them). A German, a Scotsman and a grumpy old git. (Actually, now that I think about it, the latter description is almost implied in the first two descriptions ;-)) I can understand their perspective but I don't think the presentation would have worked as well if Cary had been less personal. Although it might have been too much for some people, for me and others it was the honesty of another human being that made it easier to connect to the messages because we've probably had a lot more shared experiences than different ones.

Not everyone's prepared to admit that though and personally I admire Cary for being open-hearted enough to communicate the ideas without turning it into a counselling session. I, for one, particularly enjoyed hearing someone even use the word despair at an IT conference! ;-)

I hope people can see it and judge for themselves and I'm very interested to hear what other attendees thought via comments below but I'm glad Cary had the b*lls to do a presentation that struck me as very personal and honest for someone who has never come across to me as being an open book in public settings so I imagine it was quite a big step for him. I'm glad UKOUG looked within the Oracle community and didn't fly in a 'celebrity' although whether they'll find too many speakers quite as accomplished as Cary using that approach is another matter!

The final discussion I remember having about Cary's presentation was in
the pub on the last afternoon before heading home and I mentioned the Randy Pausch Last Lecture*.
I remember when I first saw it (a couple of years ago?) that I sent a link to Cary because it
reminded me of his presentation style (although Cary is perhaps a little
more reserved and relaxed) and I think those who enjoyed the UKOUG
keynote are likely to enjoy this too. It's 76 minutes long, so perhaps
something to watch in down-time at home ...

Of course, the afore-mentioned grumpy gits who I count as friends had best steer clear of it!!!

*Watching it again, though, I found it a little amusing how many times he 'talked to his mates' ;-) I suppose the context and audience were different, in fairness to him.