Reflections of COMMON Europe 2016

Stockholm, Sweden,  June

I find it fascinating how I feel after each conference. Generally, each one follows a basic template, where there are pre-conference sessions, an opening session, vendor expo and general sessions. Yet, after each one I feel a broad spectrum of emotions, including optimism for the future of the IBM i platform and sadness that the conference itself has ended as I pine for the next one.  Here I recount the events as they unfolded for me.   To be sure, the same conference offers different experiences and opportunities for each person who attends.  In my case I leave with an extremely positive feelings and memories that hopefully will never exit my brain for years to come.  If you would like to see the conference guide, click here.  Here then are some key moments of my experiences.

Arrival – After leaving Friday afternoon from JFK airport in New York, I arrived Saturday morning which included a layover in Amsterdam.  After taking the Arlanda Express to Stockholm’s Central Station  I recorded a brief conference promotional video and then took a cab to the hotel.  As no rooms were immediately available I was asked to wait for a couple of hours. I used this time wisely, battling my fatigue and walked around Stockholm.   To take in some of the local color is to eat the local food.  I remember from a previous trip that tunnbrodrulle  is an excellent street vendor meal.  It’s a delectable combination of mashed potato, shrimp salad, lettuce, onions, ketchup, mustard with a hot dog in the middle, all wrapped in soft bread.   This is how I ordered mine, as we say in New York,  with “the works.”  To say it was delicious is an understatement.   Pure Swedish heaven is far more appropriate.  IMG_1285




Dinner cruise – I finally did get my room and after a brief nap returned outdoors to walk to the dock where several of the speakers were to enjoy a dinner cruise in the Stockholm archipelago.    When I left the hotel I met up with another group of speakers, COMMON U.S. delegates and COMMON Europe Advisory members.  IMG_1287  I assumed we were all on the same boat so I just walked with them to the dock.  When I didn’t see any of my group members and it was 12 minutes to departure time, a quick review of my ticket revealed I was at the wrong dock.   A text from Tim Rowe asking of my whereabouts confirmed my dilemma. Fortunately, the dock was near a hotel and taxis were plentiful. After racing to the taxi stand and finding a willing taxi driver to get me there,  I was able to arrive at my boat with a full two minutes to spare.    Joining me were speakers Scott Forstie, Birgitta Hauser and Tim Rowe.  A delightful dinner and sightseeing tour of the archipelago to Stockholm, a must see if you’re ever in this area.   IMG_1310 IMG_1340



Scott Forstie’s pre-conference session – There is something unique about a speaker who is willing to experiment and be flexible with session content on the fly.  Scott did just this, with his “DB2 for i – Big Animal Pictures and a trail guide” which allowed the session attendees the opportunity to select the topic of the day.  All along with way, as people asked questions the conversation and presentation would tangent off into different DB2 related topics.  It takes a lot of preparation and also knowledge depth to be able to successfully achieve this format.  Scott certainly has the goods and it was easily demonstrated.   Four hours seemed like two, given the content breadth and ease of which it was delivered.   If you should ever have the chance to hear Scott speak it will surely be a good investment of your time.  IMG_1370


Opening event – We were welcomed by Torbjorn Appehl, who is a friend first and marketing director of COMMON Europe.  He is also the President of COMMON Sweden.  In his opening remarks he discussed how Sweden’s Data3 organization was having its 50th anniversary No small feat, as my years as president and board membership of my own user group LISUG has taught me, this requires first and foremost time, passion and dedication for the platform.    Congratulations to everyone at Data3 for a job extremely well done.  The opening session was then highlighted by a presentation by none other than Dr. Frank Soltis.  Dr.  Frank talked about how the IBM System 3 came to be. This was particularly interesting to me since this was the first system I worked on (other than my own Radio Shack TRS-80) and learned RPG and COBOL while in Murry Bergtraum High School .  While this was not my first time ever meeting him, Dr. Frank’s discussion really brought me back with his story and for a brief period I relived my wide-eyed introduction to the platform.  Afterwards I made it a point to tell him how much I enjoyed his story and succeeded in taking a photo with him.  IMG_1374IMG_1388

 Ask the Experts panel – For me, speaking at conferences is a passion and I always make it a point to give it my all.   Yes, I spend a lot of time using RDi and speak about application modernization.   Being asked to join the stage with some of the top people in my industry is another thing.   The group of speakers was a Who’s who in the IBM i industry.   Many of the questions focused on Power 8, language and database modernization and open source.    I’m not surprised, these are hot topics.  Obviously the questions were varied and interesting.  Besides myself, the panel consisted of Aaron Bartell, Alison Butterill, Scott Forstie, Birgitta Hauser, Pete Massiello, Dawn May, Tim Rowe, Dr. Frank Soltis, Paul Tuohy and Steve Will. expert panel


Presenting sessions – one of the topics of discussion amongst the speakers was reducing the session content to 45 minutes, down from the more traditional American session length of 75 minutes.  This takes a fair amount of work, removing content and focusing on the highlights of any given session.  And of course, it’s always important to maintain content continuity.  There was a wide array of session topics as is shown here.  My four sessions focused on application development.  One source of pride for me is how my new session, “Application Developer Technology Jumpstart” was received.  Many attendees joined me and it was great to present the topic.  My most highly attended session  was “The Best of Advanced RDi Topics.”  This session, with its live demonstrations, answers the most frequently asked questions of advanced RDi topics.  I’m encouraged that interest remains so high on this topic.  20160613_153111 (002)


Sweden’s Data3 – COMMON Europe decided to hold their annual event in Stockholm.   This was not my first time in this city as I’ve spoken before for COMMON Sweden.  On my first visit in 2013 I was delighted with a walking tour of Stockholm, a day I will never forget.  During all of my visits I’ve the good fortune to make several good friends there. Actually, much more than friends.  Family, really.  From when I first met them at COMMON U.S.  until now, I always enjoy spending time with them.    And keeping in touch with Facebook is always great.  What an amazing group of people who exemplify what it means to give back to the IBM i community.   It came as no surprise at all that Torbjorn was recently honored with IBM Champion status.  DSCN2869


The European IBM i Community – The COMMON Europe community may not be as large as COMMON U.S., at least not in terms of actual conference attendance, but their passion is as strong as any other group I know.  Attending a COMMON Europe is very different than COMMON U.S., in that so many different countries are represented.  Twenty in this case.  While either attending the sessions or having conversations in the hallway and networking hours, you are the fabric and glue of what keeps us together.    This is the reason I hear so many people tell me, time and time again, why they attend such conferences.  And that’s a huge fact to remember; whether you work in a large group of developers or in a shop of one, you are part of something much larger.   A passionate group of technology professional who are dedicated to their craft, their craft of improving the lives of our users and consumers of technology.

Saying goodbye – Farewell for now, COMMON Europe.  I raise my glass to you and am proud to be part of the group.   On my last day I returned to Central Station with a little message.   And with this message, as always,  I hope to see you all at some point, “down the road.”





Published by Charles Guarino

Charles Guarino believes in the “power” of IBM Power Systems. His career reflects his interest in bringing the platform and its solutions to others. Charles started his professional journey as a department of one. Today, he is serving individuals on a worldwide basis though his consulting work and award-winning speaking engagements. Charles is a true people person and can often be found at conferences sharing his expertise in RDi and other IBM i topics. Reach out to Charles through his company, Central Park Data Systems, at [email protected]. He looks forward to hearing from you.