Wednesday, 26 September 2007

MySQL Heidelberg Developer Mtg: Looking back

As noted already in March and described more closely in July, we had a MySQL Developer Meeting in Heidelberg, opened up for selected members of the MySQL community. Since yesterday, I'm back and reflecting upon how it all went.

The first reflection is that I'm biased, since I was organising the meeting together with above all Patrik Backman (for the agenda) and Georg Richter (for the lion's share of all real work, such as the coordination with our venue, Marriott Hotel). But I would still like to concur with the many MySQLers who think it was "the best MySQL Developers Meeting ever".

So what made the meeting a success?

We got plenty of work done. Our motto was "Working Together", making use of finally being together while going about our already defined goals. We had next to no overall one-to-many presentations (the type where each VP in turn preaches his favourite themes and people doze off waiting for the status report to end). Instead, each small development team met with other small development teams, based on detailed advance planning on which teams really need to meet. And we had plenty of seemingly random one-on-one corridor interactions, many of which were carefully pre-planned by goal-oriented meeting attendees.

We had lots of fun. We met in five-six different restaurants in the Old Town of Heidelberg. We had a great river boat cruise. We had a good team event seeing the Falconry close to Heidelberg. We went to the Kulturbrauerei to see how beer is brewed. And we concluded the team event by a superb evening in the old castle of Heidelberg. We ended that evening by some country-wise singing, started by the Ukraine and including the largest (employee-wise) countries of Germany, Russia, the US, Canada, Sweden, Finland, Australia, and Italy.

Our infrastructure was working. Heidelberg Marriot was our best-working hotel so far. Excellent food (including edible, healthy options, but not totally forgetting the mandatory junk). Internet worked all the time, even in the rooms. And this was no coincidence. Hey, this was Germany. And we have plenty of locals in Germany, and in particular, Georg met plenty of times with whomever needed to be seen locally from an organisation standpoint -- right in front of his doorstep. (No wonder Georg got standing ovations at our closing Gala Dinner at Heidelberg Castle.)

We improved our meeting practices. We followed through on some of our innovations from smaller team meetings (like the one last December in Berlin). Team Leads were in charge of the days being but to productive use -- with over 150 people, no single individual can ensure that time is used efficiently be all Developers. We insisted on good meeting preparations, and good meeting notes being talked. We spread the last-minute notes in outdoor roll-calls each morning, and in the daily Heidelberger Nachrichten ("Heidelberg Chronicle") handouts.

We had Team Exhibitions and MySQL University Sessions. Nearly all thought that the Team Exhibitions invigorated all of us -- where proud MySQLers demoed what they themselves had identified as Cool Stuff to be highlighted for their fellow MySQLers. And the twelve University Sessions spread the knowledge of the intimate details of how to code MySQL.

We had external guests, both customers and community members. Both categories gave us positive feedback for having been invited. We are deeply thankful for the input they gave us, Keeping It Real. But not only did they keep us real -- they also made us a lot more polite and courteous than at some previous internal meetings. I heard very few negative comments or raised voices. Concerns were not wiped under the rug, but they were raised in a very constructive manner.

Thank you to all participants, external and internal, which made this event possible!

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