Demo Jam 2009 Retrospective
Let’s Get Started
Back in April of last year we were working on a project that included tracking of equipment in space. The scenario was centered on tool check-in/check-out. In order to deal with the number of updates we received from our deployed real-time-location system (provided by Precyse Technologies) we buffered the data feeds using SAP Live Enterprise, an event driven architecture implementation, to identify relevant events.
This was an entirely new use case of Live Enterprise, outside SAP’s classic comfort zone of centralized data mining.
When the Demo Jam call for submissions was put out we decided to submit our project… and… forgot about it right away until the last day. Eventually, on the last day before the submission deadline we quickly organized a video camera, (which only recorded 30 seconds at a time – great technology!), and recorded a short video. We used Camtasia to add a couple of screen casts and at 8pm or so submitted the video. When we recorded the video nothing worked. While the demo worked before, whenever we started the camera it just stopped working. We knew we had to put some work into it if it was selected. Little did we know what was ahead of us at that point.
From Toys “R” Us Tools to a Keg of Beer
So far so good: we had a cool idea, a demo that sometimes worked, and a compelling demo video that we submitted for Phoenix, Vienna, and Bangalore… and… we got accepted!
The only problem was that we also showed the demo video to Ian (Kimbell) who was looking for keynote demos. He saw it, he wanted it, and because an executive keynote is more important, we agreed to give it to him.
By the way, he did quite a good job demoing it: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x81vrg-gaVQ.
Again, we sat together and tried to come up with a cool demo that visualizes our idea but this time without toy tools. We thought about other customer scenarios and decided that our demo should be based on one in the oil and gas industry. We wanted to do show how the oil flow can be controlled based on data coming from sensors. But, how can we get a pipeline on stage (though which oil is flowing) of which we could control the flow? As result, we decided we need a model that has a container with pressure and a valve that we can control. After a few thoughts, we found it: a beer keg and a sprinkler valve!
Of course, we had to do a few changes on the software side and we needed to buy some hardware, but the biggest challenge was to convince our manager to provide us a keg for testing and debugging.
After being selected to present at a Demo Jam your mailbox will quickly fill with more information than you can or event want to process. There are congratulation emails; there are rehearsal and feedback sessions; and finally, there is an email from the event team. Watch out for that – Bill Buxton and Jen Abrahamson really make magic happen when they are producing Demo Jam.
In that email you will also be asked to provide a detailed list of requirements for your demo. For some reason our “Keg of Beer” requirement was not taken seriously until we arrived 😉 But thanks to Jen and Bill (and team) we got it within hours – and in time for our rehearsal session.
After an intense feedback session from Bill, Jen, Craig, and Ian, we were ready to quit. You have no idea what you can do wrong on stage, but I feel we did it all. After 30 minutes and 3 dry runs (well, we used a live keg of beer, so they were not that dry), we got more relaxed and the demo was rolling smoothly. Eventually, even the electric sprinkler valve worked perfectly fine.
Then it started: The hall was crowded, beer was served, the music was rocking the stage, and the spotlights were on. They told us, “With the lights on full it is hard to even see the first row of people,” but that’s a lie! You see them all and, of course, you can hear the crowd. Craig made the introduction and the time started… pulse and adrenaline levels skyrocketed and with shaky hands, hardware and software were assembled on stage. Once people saw a Swiss Army knife (great last minute idea), a keg of beer, and a bunch of wires that made the entire setup look like a bomb, we saw people from the back of the room coming closer. After 5 minutes and 30 seconds, the demo was assembled and the beer was flowing out of the remote controlled beer keg – just in time. Better than in any rehearsal. A great audience was cheering loud and long and we made it into the recall… and got first place.
Sophisticated European Beer Kegs
While we tried to pull off the same demo in Vienna, it turns out that a European beer keg requires a much more sophisticated setup than a hand pumped ice cooled American keg. After an entire afternoon of tinkering, (We could not even go to a hardware store since Austria had a public holiday), we finally came up with a setup that would not produce a fountain of beer on stage. (Thanks for all the help we got!)
After a shower, (Smelling like old beer really does not make a day better), the rehearsals and the presentation took place. We came in second. Still an amazing experience and this time we really enjoyed our six minutes of fame on stage.
No Beer in Bangalore
To show our demo in Bangalore, SAP would have to buy a license to pour beer on stage. Since such a license is not trivial to get, we had to change our demo again. Furthermore, this time it was only one of us which makes the whole demo scenario a bit more complicated. But to shorten the story we spent another night in Bangalore (and a day in Palo Alto) on creating a demo scenario that contains no beer and is different from the keynote demo. But we did it, and Bangalore was an amazing experience!
We spent quite a bit of time on our demo, but it was worth it! Personally, it was a great experience for the two of us, especially meeting and chatting with all the people in Phoenix, Vienna, and Bangalore. And our project got so much visibility that we were quite busy during the last 10 months…
Sebastian & Tobias.