It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it ws the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.
That’s pretty much how I felt entering SAP Teched Berlin 2010. It is always a whirlwind of a conference. One wakes up on the first day and then runs right through until the flight home. TechEd Berlin 2010 was no different and yet we all felt that there was something missing.
In any conference there are always winners and losers. Things which improve from the year before (venue, food, logistics), and things which becomes inexplicably less pleasurable. In Berlin this year one such example was the SAP Community Clubhouse. Gone was the Clubhouse of Berlin 2008 and Vienna 2009 with its vibrant community and orchestration team that kept things on schedule.
True, the expert network lounges remained but they were largely a chillout zone. But for a few excellent exceptions, like when fellow mentors Sergio Ferrari, DJ Adams and I started an impromptu expert networking session discussion such items from QR codes to NetWeaver 7.3, it was a bit of a dead space.
Amongst the mentor community and wider, we discussed this to be a major factor of a lack of the community clubhouse – and with it, the welcome team that was present in years gone by. This team was especially noticeable in Vienna 2009 and the character at the centre of this was Natascha Thomson. Natascha moved onto a new job in the Social Media Audience Marketing team earlier in the year, working for Ted Sapounzis and she has been missed.
This became a matter of discussion at TechEd Berlin and the topic came up with Mark Yolton (SVP of SAP Community Network) and I. He agreed that Natascha was sorely missed and would like very much to see her in Vegas. I’m not really sure if at that time, he realised what would happen next.
Because I thought it would be an interesting social media experiment to try to get Natascha to TechEd in Vegas, the following week. In the organisation that I work for, if it made sense to have someone at a conference, they would be able to attend, no problem. I’m mindful however that in any large organisation, politics budgets and even personalities can get in the way. And why should Ted pay for Natascha to go to TechEd when he derives no benefit? Why indeed!
So on Thursday 15th October, in the morning, the onslaught commenced. I started to tweet about Natascha and it struck a chord with a number of community members. Jon Reid came to help promote as well as Susan Keohan, Craig Cmehil, aMatt Steiner, Jim Spath and Michael Brenner, who said it should just be #JDFI. I taught Natascha what JFDI meant just a few months back which made that pretty amusing.
By Thursday night we had an idea place thread opened: https://ideas.sap.com/ideas/1519 – Idea Place is a location where you can make suggestions on SAP products to improve them, and they get voted up and down like Dell IdeaStorm. The idea was to bring Natascha to Vegas.
By Sunday night (TechEd starts on Tuesday), Mark Yolton caved and offered to pay for Natascha – leaving Ted in an interesting situation because his obligation remained just to let Natascha take a few days off his team. This caused twitter to go mad with collections of people asking for Natascha’s presence.
This brings the total number of references to #nataschatoteched to nearly 100, which is an insane amount of community involvement. Mark Finnern suggested tongue in cheek that it was a trending topic.
But on a serious note, this is a fabulous story for all involved. It is a SAP Mentor story – for many of those that supported Natascha were Mentors, and it was the Mentors that lobbied Mark Yolton directly. It is a Twitter and social media story – this was the mechanism for generating interest. It is an Idea Place story – I was accused of slight subversion by one colleague but I have been accused of worse. And it is a community story because it is all of us that chimed into this, and we were heard because we were vocal about a positive change.
And Natascha has been particularly cute by running an expert session on exactly this topic:
http://www.sapteched.com/usa/activities/session.htm?id=592 “Why you should care about social media”. It is in Lounge 7 on Wednesday at 3pm. You should be there.
Huge thanks to Mark Yolton for picking up the bill (again), to Ted Sapounzis for allowing Natascha some leave and for everyone else for being so fricking amazing.