Blog Posts

Dreamforce for Newbies: A Recount of #DF11 from Fresh Eyes

Dreamforce '11 marked my first exposure to the wonders of Salesforce's annual convention, and I am recalling my experiences and advice.
Dreamforce for Newbies: A Recount of #DF11 from Fresh Eyes

Dreamforce '11 is nothing less than awesome.

Awesome! Fantastic! Love it! It is incredible how well Dreamforce captures my feelings about using Salesforce and embodies them in a 45,000 person spectacle that leaves myself and others absolutely floored. If you love Salesforce and are questionable about going out to Dreamforce, you must attend for several reasons, and I am about to break them down for you.

Keynotes & Feature Peep Shows

Every conference in the world has a keynote. Dreamforce '11 is the first that I have seen live, and it was incredibly powerful. Marc Benioff and his cohort of executives know how to create a surge of energy through a crowd of thousands and captivate them for two hours early in the morning. The first keynote is arguably the most important, and truly kicks off Dreamforce. I arrived 30 minutes late (a combination of fatigue and jet lag) and tensely sat in an overflow room watching Benioff charge everyone with talk about a social revolution and unveiling tons of new features. Sounds like an average Apple product launch? Perhaps, but as a coffee addict, I managed to make it to lunch without needing any caffeine from the excitement and energy that the keynote instilled in me.

Nerd Herd: Meeting Your Fellow Salesforcians

Let's face it, we are a pretty big group of nerds. Salesforce and cloudy days make us giddy like a kid for a snow day, and all 45,000 of us had four snow days last week. The best part of Dreamforce (for me at least) is connecting with people that I talk to via phone, email, and Twitter. As a consultant, I enjoy meeting clients and talking about things other than business. Also, I engage with many other Salesforce professionals via Twitter and was able to interact with them "offline" at our Dreamforce booth and the various events that Dreamforce had to offer.

Sessions Galore

As a freshly formed consultant and my first Dreamforce experience, it was my job to work our company's booth in the expo hall. A majority of my Dreamforce was spent interacting with our clients, expo attendees, and other booth staff. For the few days, I was able to attend one session, which was about Permission Sets, a new Winter '12 feature, and it was incredibly informational. Not only did the speakers provide a background about the feature, but also use cases, and pros and cons about it. I look forward to attending more sessions next year at Dreamforce '12 and learning more about how to leverage existing functionality and upcoming features.

Booth Buddies

For those of us that worked boothes and for the others that were not able to attend Dreamforce, there is good news! Salesforce will be posting recordings of the various sessions on YouTube, and I plan to spend a week catching up on the ones that I want to see. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @ArkusInc and we will tweet when these become available.

I hope that I was able to convince you to attend Dreamforce '12 next year, whether you are a seasoned veteran, a newbie like myself, or someone that has not attended yet. It is an absolutely fantastic experience and entirely worth your time to head to San Francisco. If you can't wait until next year for a Salesforce convention, check out CloudForce in the nearest city to you. It is a regional convention that lasts a day and exposes you to a fraction of Dreamforce's scale. Either way, I hope that I'll see you next September!

Want to chat more about Dreamforce '11 awesomeness or have comments regarding my post, feel free to comment on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ArkusInc or contact me via Twitter @RogerMitchell.

Dreamforce 11 Survival Guide - #DF11

With over a handful of Dreamforces under my belt and Dreamforce 11 just a few days away, it is time to break down a survival guide for the 30,000+ people about to swarm on Moscone.
Dreamforce 11 Survival Guide - #DF11

Dreamforce 11 Survival Guide

There is an App for That

By the time you read this, there should be a new Dreamforce application available for Blackberry, iPhone and iPad. It should hook right up to the Dreamforce web app allowing you to follow things and stay in the know with Chatter. Not only does this help before you get to Dreamforce, but the application is a great way to connect with people while bouncing from session to session. It might not be real time, but when you get back home you can follow-up on everyone you followed, no need to collect a bunch of business cards. Check the web app for the latest news on the mobile apps as the rumors are saying they are launching on August, 26th.

Stay Fueled

Living in the clouds is tiresome work and takes a lot of energy. Don't get caught falling from the skies because you ran out of fuel, make sure to hit the breakfast and lunch offerings, the mid-afternoon snacks and all the coffee you can drink. If you time it right, your caffiene level will never dip below half a tank. The tip is to remember that the free stuff is only out for limited times otherwise you will end up paying for that mocha-chocalatta. In a pinch, walk the expo floors and scrounge up some good candy SWAG from mints to chocolate. Don't worry, you will work it off in the mosh pit at the Metallica concert.

Dress to Last

To dress for success is the saying, but success is surviving Dreamforce so dress first and foremost for comfort. The days and nights are long and you are almost always on your feet or sitting in rows of other people. Make sure you are packed light with a good bag that you can sling over your shoulder. Leave everything heavy from books to laptops behind. Test out a good pair of shoes with support before getting on that plane and remember you can always do laundry in the hotel. Everything from the keynote to a consulting company pitch will go over better if you are cool, clean and comfortable.

Not for Noobs

For those attending Dreamforce for the first time, read no further. This is for the people who have been to more than one rodeo. Remember last year and how Dreamforce felt so spread out? That was nothing. This year it will be held in all of Moscone, two hotels and will take over an entire street. Don't just think you will arrive and get to work in "same-old-dreamforce" fashion. Get there earlier, get a lay of the land and add 20 minutes to anything you want to do for travel from place to place.
Whether you are a first timer or a lifer, Dreamforce is a blast and a blur all wrapped up into one. If you have tips or tricks for Dreamforce survival feel free to tweet them to me at @JasonMAtwood or hit me up in the Dreamforce Portal App.

Perspectives on Attending Dreamforce

I have attended Dreamforce the last three years making this year my fourth in a row. This will however be the first time I am attending as an employee of the same company for back to back years. I have a unique outlook on the Dreamforce experience ranging from Large Enterprise to Startup Consulting partner.
Perspectives on Attending Dreamforce

Four different perspectives on attending Dreamforce

For the first time ever I am attending this year's Dreamforce with the same company that I worked at the previous year. It's amazing the perspectives that you can gain from attending such a large and engaging conference by attending it as an employee of such diverse companies. To set the stage this is my fourth Dreamforce which puts me in the semi-veteran category. My first Dreamforce I was attending as a system admin of one of Salesforce's top five customers in terms of licenses owned. If you listen to the CloudFocus Weekly podcast this is the company that Jason (@JasonMAtwood) and I talk about as being that large financial services institution. My second Dreamforce couldn't have been more different as I was attending as part of a not for profit organization that I was working for as their Director of Salesforce Strategy. Last but certainly not least at last year's Dreamforce I had just recently started Arkus, a Salesforce SI partner. What a whirlwind and what a difference a year makes. The special thing about Dreamforce is that no matter what size or type of organization you are a part of the event always delivers the goods.

Rolling with the Big Boys

As a part of that large financial services institution that shall continue to remain nameless I got the opportunity to meet some high powered executives and hob nob at some really cool after hours parties (which of course is what Dreamforce is all about afterall - wink wink). Aside from the great relationships I was also afforded the opportunity to attend the Salesforce offices and get a special roadmap session which I still miss getting to this day. We also were awarded an Appy for Customer Innovation which I was very proud of - it's too bad that they no longer do the Appy Awards - I miss them. One of the coolest parts about being from a large financial services firm is walking the expo floor. Everyone takes a look at that company name on your badge and they are itching to talk to you about their product or service - lots of attention and networking opportunities.

Doing Some Good In this World

Shifting gears to a much more modest not for profit organization was something that I was a little unsure about as far as the Dreamforce experience was concerned. I couldn't have been more wrong. The experience was absolutely amazing. The Salesforce Foundation makes you feel right at home, the special keynote speech by Colin Powell felt even more empowering, and the people on the expo floor were genuinely just as excited to talk to me a year later without my highfaluting corporation name on my badge. There was a special kickoff for not for profits hosted by the foundation to get us all acclimated to the sheer size of the conference. It felt really special to be able to stand up at that point in Marc Benioff's keynote where he says all the non profit organizations represented here please stand up and everyone give these folks a hand - I literally had goosebumps. I actually felt even more embraced by the Salesforce community during this go around.

Doing My Own Thing

Last but most certainly not least is last year's Dreamforce where I attended as a founding member of a startup Salesforce implementation partner. A totally different ball game attending Dreamforce as a partner. In some respects you get some great insights at the Partner Keynote where we heard from the ever present George Hu about the Salesforce partner program and got a sneak peek into the future of some platform innovations prior to the main keynote. In other respects walking around the expo floor without that customer ribbon on your badge is not at all the same as walking around with the partner ribbon. Not to say exhibitors aren't as friendly or engaging but they do tend to wander away as soon as someone with that customer ribbon walks over.

This year I will take another step in the evolution of my Dreamforce attendance. Arkus is now a sponsor and an exhibitor ourselves. I went from wanting to talk to every exhibitor on the floor to being someone that others will hopefully want to come talk to. It's amazing that in one year we at Arkus went from startup to sponsor and I'm looking forward to taking in Dreamforce from this brand new angle and perspective.

I want to hear about your perspectives on attending Dreamforce from year to year. Go ahead and comment on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/arkusinc or start up a conversation on Twitter at www.twitter.com/justedelstein.

Ten Reasons to go to Dreamforce '11 - Revisted

Here is a look at the top 10 reasons to attend Dreamforce 2011.
Ten Reasons to go to Dreamforce '11  - Revisted

10 reasons not to miss "The Cloud Computing Event of the Year!"

In about 4 weeks time, Dreamforce 2011 will be here. Last year I wrote a top ten reasons blog, so here is the 2011 edition of the 10 reasons to attend "The cloud computing event of the year." This year will be bigger then ever so if you are on the fence about registering, here are some reasons to put you over the top.

#10 California in the Summer

As mentioned in my 2010 blog, San Fransisco is a beautiful city that offers a lot to do. Alcatraz and Fisherman's Wharf are great sights to see. Since Dreamforce 11 is in the Summer this year, why not take the opportunity to visit AT&T park and catch a ballgame. The Chicago Cubs will be in town and what better way to kickoff the first night of Dreamforce then watching America's past time.

#9 Salesforce Acquisitions

Over the last year Salesforce has made a bunch of acquisitions that have led to new product offerings. Information on these products like Radian6, DimDim, and Heroku have been hard to come by so here is a great opportunity to take a deep dive. Dreamforce promises to have many training and demo opportunities to dig right into these products of the future.

#8 Metallica

Dreamforce always promises some great afterhours entertainment and this year doesn't dissapoint. I don't care what type of music you like, Metallica is a legendary band that anyone with the opportunity should see live. Even if you arent interested in seeing them live, the party itself is worth it. With great food, drinks and fellow Salesforce evangelists; its a party not worth missing. Did I mention will.i.am will be the late night DJ again?

#7 Extended Hours

Dreamforce is a goldmine for networking and this year will be better then ever. The Expo Hall will now be open for all four days and for 8 hours each day. Those are long days for us exhibitors but great for you. With extra time, you can now spend an extra few minutes checking out a new product or service that you didn't have time to last year. The number of exhibitors this year is expected to be over 300.

#6 Philanthropy

Marc Benioff is very vocal about his dedication to philanthropic efforts. Each Dreamforce is filled with opportunities to give back. I had the opportunity to participate last year and it was a lot of fun. In about 30 minutes I got to meet people from around country and make about 50 meals to be delivered to the homeless. There is nothing better then feeling like you did something for the community.

#5 The Keynote(s)

The Keynote will always make the list. This is time to see what Salesforce has planned for the upcoming year and Marc never dissapoints. Whether its a new product line, an acquisition or enhancements to the core, the Keynote delivers. Just make sure you get there nice and early to get a decent seat.

#4 Social Storm

The big theme this year is the social enterprise. No matter what industry you are in, the impact of social media on your business is crucial. Dreamforce is a great place to get educated on what others in your industry are doing and also hear from industry leaders themselves. Representatives from Facebook, Twitter and other community sites will be on hand to provide insight into a good strategy. One person in particular we are excited to see is Gary Vaynerchuk, author of the New York Times Bestseller "Crush It! Why Now Is the Time to Cash in on Your Passion".

#3 Arkus will be an Exhibitor

If you havent had a chance to meet us already, here is a great opportunity. We will have a booth at the expo this year and would love for you to stop by. In addition we will be showing off our brand new application coming to an AppExchange near you. Can't give anymore details so you will have to stop by to check it out. Look for the Arkus logo on the Expo Floor, we will be at booth #30.

#2 The Cloud Expo

The Expo is a great place to meet new people and hear about new products that can potentially save you time and money. The biggest names in cloud computing are there to speak to you directly and in most cases gave you great takeaways to bring back to your office to share with your colleagues. Salesforce will of course have a big presence on the floor but a new addition will be the Salesforce MVP booth. This is your chance to talk to experts in Salesforce but experts from the community. Our very own Justin Edelstein has been selected as an MVP and will be at that booth so feel free to stop over there and try to stump him!

#1 Education

The most important thing you will get from the conference is an education on the cloud. Whether its hands-on training, client success stories or just walking around the expo, you are going to learn something new about the cloud. It's the largest focus group your company could ever put together. With extended Expo hours, more training offerings and more breakout sessions, your opportunity to learn is better then ever.

So there is this year's edition of my top ten. Salesforce always trys to make each year better and from the sounds of it they have. With additional hours, training, product deep dives and huge list of industry experts in attendance, this year's Dreamforce should be better then ever. As mentioned, we will be an exhibitor this year so feel free to stop by Booth #30 to say hi!

Google Chromebook Review: Caveat Emptor

A review of Google's release of Chrome OS on Samsung's Series 5 Chromebook. Includes a full scope review of use cases, pros and cons, and recommendations.
Google Chromebook Review: Caveat Emptor

Google Chromebook Review: Caveat Emptor

Look, in the sky! What's that black slab falling from a 12th floor office? It's a netbook! It's a browser! No, it's a Google Chromebook! Over a year of work has been logged by Google's developers to the Chromium OS Project, which was used to adapt their Chrome browser to function as an operating system. At the beginning of last week, my hopes were higher than my expectations; now, that relationship is reversed.

Overview

As a Google Chrome, Apps, and Android user, I had high hopes that the Google Chromebook would provide a great user experience and would demonstrate a new layer of innovation in the cloud and mobile marketplace. I have tested the Chromebook for a week in a variety of settings, experimented with different use cases, and have come to a bleakly optimistic conclusion.

Integration, Longevity, Replication: A Few Pros

Similar to Google's model for its mobile operating system, Chrome OS integrates very well with Google's web-based services. A decent portion of my week exists in Gmail, Google Calendar, Docs, and Wave. The Chromebook manages to handle these very well, especially the awkward properties of Google Wave's user interface. Google Talk also has a constantly running background process so whenever I am online with the Chromebook, any new messages would pop up at the bottom of the screen. However, this integration is possible for anyone that uses the Google Chrome browser, available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

As a commuter, the Chromebook offers 7 hours of battery life between charges with the display at its full brightness. Its longevity and ability to sear my eyes with its powerful LED backlighting positions it as a contender for literal fieldwork, where outdoor lighting environments and absence of powercords begin to winnow the pack of laptops. Another hazard for laptops in the field and corporate workplace is accidental damage, leaving them behind, and theft. With the Chromebook, all or some of your data can be sent to the cloud, allowing you to login to any Chromebook or Chrome browser and recover your bookmarks, preferences, passwords, and apps. This proved to be a very successful feature last Friday when I threw my Chromebook out the window of our office to the concrete of Times Square below.

WebEx, Offline Use, Printing: Even More Cons

As with any praise, there must come some (constructive) criticism, and the Chromebook receives scoops of this for every teaspoon of praise. As we continue to rely upon web-based meeting services like WebEx, GoToMeeting, and ThatOtherConferenceService.com, users must be able to have access to meet with their peers easily. All of the major services provide meeting spaces based on client applications, none of which work with Chromebooks because they require either Windows or Mac operating systems. Without the ability to meet on one of these services, the Chromebook will not be successful; the worst part for Google is that it is up to the conference service providers to migrate to HTML 5 web apps.

Another deficiency is the Chromebook's reliance on Internet access. It is not a secret that Chrome OS is just a browser on a stripped down Linux build. Without access to the web, the Chromebook is slightly more useful than a paperweight (I was able to play Tetris going under the Hudson River). If this ultramobile device is supposed to be something that companies or universities provide their employees or students, it will not work when they are flying to a client site or sitting on the quad without WiFi access. All of this means that Google Docs does not work unless you have Internet access, and is plainly scary to use when you have intermittent coverage.

Printing is the third largest failure. Google's Cloud Print is still in beta, requires a user to have Google Chrome installed on an actual computer with a printer configured, and is specific to that user's Google account. This is not a scalable solution for companies or universities, and is even difficult to work with as a person that uses their Mac at home and work, with printers at each location. The unfortunate reality is that we have not transitioned to a fully paperless work environment, and will unlikely get there within the next few years. Printing is a must, and it has not been well documented how this will work for those firms that opt to use them for their workforces.

Use Cases, Recommendations

While testing, I tried to ponder some use cases for the Chromebook. My thoughts lead me through inside and outside salespeople, field technicians, interns, and students. Each one of these cases has a cheaper, faster, and more scalable solution: Windows netbooks. Almost any existing Windows netbook is as cheap, if not cheaper, than the Chromebook. They have the exact same hardware specifications as the Chromebook as well (an Intel Atom processor, 2GB of RAM, 2-3 USB ports, a external display port, SD card slot, etc).

My argument for the Chromebook with my associates was reminiscent of the Battle of the Alamo, where I embody the Alamo. Even with all my attempts to defend it, the Chromebook simply cannot beat the price of standardizing cheap Windows (or more expensive Mac) laptops across your workforce. These laptops are true computers, and can handle functions that exist outside of a web browser.

Going forward, my use case for the Chromebook will be occasions where or when I would not want to take my MacBook Pro; these places would include the beach, pool, or a picnic, or occasions when I need just a web browser and full keyboard to last me for the weekend. If I had children, it would be a great starter laptop for them. The bottom line: I would not recommend the Chromebook to clients at this time.

Conclusion

Even though this review has been largely negative, and lacks support for the Chromebook, it does come with a glass-half-full chaser. Chrome OS and Chromebooks have been available for a little more than 1 month for the public, and Google's leasing program has not started yet. All of the quirks with the device and "operating system" have been well documented across the blogosphere, and Google is working to provide offline access to their services and to get more developers creating offline-usable HTML 5 web apps.

The adoption of this new technology reminds me of my annoyance with the iPad during the few months following its launch, and yet it is something that I rely upon heavily today after numerous firmware updates. I do not doubt that Google will provide updates to Chrome OS and will start fixing some of these issues, but for now I will have to live with its limited abilities.

As always, if you are interested in learning about the Chromebook or have comments regarding my post, feel free to comment on our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/ArkusInc or contact me via Twitter @RogerMitchell.

Disclaimer: no Google Chromebooks were damaged, destroyed, or otherwise bludgeoned in the production of this blog post or during the week of testing.