Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Oracle self-education budget

I'm contemplating how hard to hit my budget.

My AUSOUG membership is due for renewal, and registration for the conference in Melbourne is open too. The membership is about $150 and gives access to their quarterly magazine and (most) of the conference presentation material. There's also the occasional meeting in Sydney.
The conference, including travel and accommodation, would be in the region of $1000. While the experience last year was good, I don't think I can justify the dollars.

Part of the problem is the conference format.

Firstly, there are some things that are simply best explored in a written format, either a book or a white paper. You have plenty of time to take the material in at your own pace, maybe testing examples or exploring any ideas that are prompted.

Workshops can be valuable, but you really need to be able to get stuck into that new area before the knowledge gets stale. I attended Penny Cookson's Apex workshop last year, but had forgotten a lot of it by the time I actually started using it. If your organisation intends to use Apex as a development platform, I'd recommend the session though.

Presentations have their place too. A good speaker can be entertaining, but a presentation has to have some intrinsic value. Sales presentations are an obvious example, but the value there is for the presenter more than the audience. The value of a presentation can be identified by a few questions.

  • Does the attendee get the presentation slides or a white paper at the end ?
  • If so, could they get the same understanding from the handouts without attending the presentation ? Is there 'added value' with the presentation, or is it an introduction to the real material ?
  • If not, how much information will they be able to remember two days later ? This last point is especially relevant to conferences, where people might attend a dozen different presentations in quick succession.
  • If the presenter starts editing the material to act solely as a reminder to those at the presentation, then are they more interested in 'being a presenter' than 'disseminating knowledge' ? Also a 'reminder' may work for a few days, but is unlikely to be effective a couple of months later and a presentation at an annual conference probably won't coincide with when the knowledge will be applied.

In all, I'm not convinced that a conference is worth the money from an education point of view.

So then I noted that Jonathan Lewis has penciled in an appearance in Sydney in March (and Melbourne too). That means no travel or accommodation issues for me. That counts for something as the AUSOUG conference last year are the only days when I haven't seen my kids. No news on costs for Jonathan seminar yet, but I've expressed an interest.

Finally, there's always a few books out there worth picking up. There's a book on Apex due out in a week or so. I'm also hoping that Tom's quietness is due to him working on his next book and Jonathan originally promised three volumes on the CBO and there are rumours that Harry Potter dies in the last book (but I may have got that confused with the evil Buffy Cash-Hitz).

1 comment:

Unknown said...

A really interesting post for me, because I find myself performing the same mental dance constantly.

I tend to use a conference as a very quick tour of several subjects that I might want to look at it in more depth later. I just need to remember to keep notes because things do slip out of my head so easily these days :-(

I suspect Jonathan's workshop is likely to be a much more useful and intense educational experience, though.