18:51 PM

I missed the first day of Software 2006 but I made it to the reception and dinner

By Tom Foremski for SiliconValleyWatcher

It was late in the day when I got to the Software 2006 conference on Tuesday and some people were already leaving. As I walked the short distance from the car park to the Santa Clara Convention Center I kept running into people I knew and so it took me an hour or more to get into the conference area.

First, I run into Fred Vogelstein, who is now independent and I had just an hour earlier emailed and he is with Andy Lark, the former Sun Microsystems comms chief and one of my topten media/communications professionals.

Andy really understands how to use this new media and figured things out a long time ago. I catch up with Andy then I meet Shanker Trivedi, from Callidus Software who turns out to be the cousin of Edward Luce, a former colleague at the Financial Times.

[Edward is a raconteur in the classic style--marvelously entertaining and will tell stories for hours as long there is an adequate supply of red wine and cigarettes. His father was once Governor of Gibraltar so Edward's stories illuminate a unique section of British society.]

Then I run into Jean-Baptiste Su the French correspondent for La Tribune, who now also is running a restaurant called Gervais on 14560 Big Basin Way in Saratoga, CA 95070. Then I walk straight into Jim Finn comms chief at Ingres, then Tom Berquist, the Ingres CFO and former star Wall Street analyst walks up and chats for a few minutes. Then Bruce Lowry, comms chief at Novell walks by and I taunt him a little bit about Novell's open source business and how come it has gotten so badly out of whack.

I think Novell should take a look at how Wind River did things, and adapted to open-source. Wind River used to be very anti-Linux then they swung the other way and embraced it and made money for the first time in years.

Bruce got away with a minor ribbing, and then we walked into the reception. I ran into Ross Mayfield, from SocialText. Dan Farber of ZDNet was there, of course, loaded with camera and other gear. One of these days I will see Dan with a satellite transmitter in a backpack so he can upload his blog, his video blog, his photos, and his podcast simultaneously. I think Al Franken style though would be a lot cooler looking :-)

So Ross and Dan and I manage to grab a few minutes of secret blogger conversation before we get split up by vendors wanting to chat. I remember that Ross said his company had just launched a mobile wiki, and he was calling it a Miki. I told him I could sell him the domain name WalkAbout Wiki dot com for a reasonable price, but he said he preferred Miki.

Turns into a big production

Then we go into the Gala dinner and it's a big room, beautifully decorated and with Cirque Du Soleil type performers gamboling around. I sit with Emma McGrattan from Ingres and her colleague Dev Mukherjee.

The evening turns into a big production, MR Rangaswami gives out half a dozen awards. Each award seems to be for a great social cause which means we have to sit reverentially through a ten minute video commercial for the charity--usually with Robert Redford narrating.

I had to pop out in during the awards ceremony and make some calls to my kids and came back and it looked as if it were safe to eat dinner. And it was for a while, but then the awards started up again and the videos and I noticed there were still another 4 award sculptures to go. And because I had to drive all the way from San Jose to San Francisco in the pouring rain -- I slipped out and went home. Although I had missed the conference sessions there was a good buzz in the air, and in the hallways, which is a good sign.

I'm a big fan of MR and his Sandhill.com online enterprise software magazine, and the gala event was a bold idea but it didn't quite work out. I'm sure most people would have been happier chatting over dinner than watching charity videos. And MR could have saved a few bucks on the glitz. But I like the way his awards emphasized the importance of being involved in a social enterprise.

This is very important these days: your organization has to have a strong social enterprise focus because people don't want it all to be about money. There is a tremendous amount of juice in being involved in ventures that have ambitions for creating a lot of positive social value.

It is not enough for a company to offer money and options--there has to be a bigger picture, there has to be a better story. Microsoft is finding out that it can be difficult to retain people if you don't have a big pitch.

By having a strong social enterprise vision--a company has a higher motivated workforce--which makes it more effective in its social enterprise role--and its commercial role. And if you need a social enterprise project I urge you to pick education. Get involved in your local schools.

Silicon Valley cannot run around the world saying "We are inventing the future here" when the world sees broken down public schools on our doorstep.

Silicon Valley public schools are basket cases -- when they should be showcases.