Akademy 2010: Wrap-up (with travelogue!)

As promised, I’m finally getting around to my final post on the Akademy 2010 experience in Tampere, Finland.  For those interested, I’ll cover most of the journey start to end.

My participation began with a request from Claudia Rauch to the community council for submissions from the maemo.org community.  The chair at the time, Valerio, posted a plea at the discussion forum… which went unanswered.  So, volunteering idiot that I am, I decided to give it a shot.  My proposed talk on user engagement was accepted, and I began an open presentation development process at both maemo.org and Meego.com forums. 

Design-by-committee tends to be the wrong way to achieve stellar results, but the goal here was to identify my audience and their expectations.  Plus the solicitation of feedback fit the theme of the talk.  There were the usual conflicting suggestions but this only served to underscore the importance of an ultimate single voice making final decisions.  But more on that later.

I worked on the presentation right up until flight time.  As for the flight itself, I really owe Claudia for going beyond the call of duty in helping with arrangements.  Current circumstances prevented me from being able to purchase my ticket in advance and she was very patient in making it happen.

The flight over to Europe connected through Charles De Gaulle (CDG) airport in Paris, one of my favorite stops on international trips if I’m in need of a puke-inducing marathon run.  Rarely do I pass through without some incident and/or delay, and this time was no exception.  We were too late getting off the plane, there was only one officer checking international passports at a very long line, and the Finnair passenger check was clogged beyond belief.  Suffice to say I missed my connecting flight to Helsinki Vantaa.  $#@%^$!!! to put it mildly.

Amazingly, the Finnair agent was unusually rude.  She insisted I needed to pay $250 extra to get on the next flight out.  Excuse me, but WTF???  She sent me back across the airport to the American Airlines service desk, where my experience turned around 180 degrees.  The agent there was extremely helpful, apologized profusely for the inconvenience, and promptly printed a new boarding pass for the next flight.  No charge whatsoever.  THAT, my friends, is delightful service.  Moral: do not connect through CDG.  Take ANY other option.

Unfortunately that delay screwed up other arrangements.  I had prepurchased a ticket for the Helsinki-Tampere train trip over the Internet.  The gentleman at the station refused to refund or honor that ticket.  Oops.  $34 in the trash.  Moral: don’t buy the train tickets over the Internet.

By this point I was feeling frantic.  I was supposed to meet Valerio on the train to receive a local SIM card provided by another friend, Carol.  Without it I was incommunicado.  No problem though, because I knew I could find wifi somewhere in Tampere, and had VoIP setup on my N900 and E71x.  Simple plan: debark the train at Tampere station, find wifi, call Carol, join group at Plevna for beer and joyful comraderie.

Not so fast.

I could find no free wifi, surprisingly, and had difficulty getting a paid service to work.  Fourth time was a charm though, and 10 euros later I was finally talking to Carol.  Yes!  Long story shortened, she met me there, we got a ride to Plevna, and the rest fell into place.  Moral: order the Plevna house dark beer.

I’ve already described parts of the conference here, there and elsewhere so no need to repeat.  The main takeaway I got regarding my presentation was that I oversold the audience on the concept.  I’m so used to marketing-driven proposals that I reflexively stuff the first two-thirds of any slide set with justifying charts and data bits.  In hindsight, I should have realized the savvy KDE audience didn’t need to be convinced of the basis and I could have spent more time on the meat of the topic: integrating user input/feedback into mobile device operating systems and applications.  Moral: get out of marketing mode!

The KDE folks were extremely tolerant of my missteps.  It was a bit disconcerting though to only have one question after the talk… until later, that is.  Several people approached me during the next few days to say that the talk didn’t trigger anything at first but as the subject percolated a bit they began considering possibilities… some of which (like a Bugzilla wizard on cell phones) I could have covered had I downplayed the marketing spiel.  It was really cool to be walking down the street and be hailed by several people at a restaurant table, who had all experienced that delayed resonance and now wanted to tell me how much they were inspired by the talk.  That was the shot I needed!  Moral: don’t sweat the small stuff.

I had to leave before the conference officially ended but I did get to go on the day trip.  It’s been way too long since I enjoyed the great outdoors and, mosquitoes and all, I had a great time.  Fortunately we just missed a bear’s visit.

The trip back home was largely uneventful.  I took an early bus back to Helsinki airport, sailed through security there, and successfully navigated Frankfurt airport despite its incredible size.  Kudos to the operators for their efficiency!

I want to thank KDE and the Akademy 2010 sponsors for making this such a wonderful event.  On a more personal note, thanks to Timo, Valerio, Carol (who graciously provided a place to stay), Jens, Henri, Leinir, Miia, Toni, Knut and especially Claudia for their wonderful hospitality in Tampere.  I’m sure I abused it in my state of hyperexcitement.  Looking forward to doing so again sometime.  MeeGo Conference 2010, anyone?


10 responses to “Akademy 2010: Wrap-up (with travelogue!)

  1. Joseph Charpak

    “Moral: order the Plevna house dark beer.”

    Best line in the whole post.

  2. re: “don’t buy train tickets over the internet”. you got that right. there is just nothing to gain by buying VR tickets over the internet. sorry you had to experience that first-hand.

  3. “And, man, do I miss visiting Finland. If I ever get the chance again I hope we can meet.

    – 4 May 2009 at 14:33”

    Well it was close, because I was there in Tampere also with my family at the same time. We stayed at Hotel very near to Plevna. My son wanted to visit the Sarkanniemi amusement park. Perhaps next time.

    It was very fascinating post.


  4. It was awesome having you here and catching up with you again. Thanks for the Honorary Texan mug, it’s getting good use between Arnim and I 🙂

  5. allnameswereout

    “don’t buy the train tickets over the Internet.” I don’t know about Finland, but in Germany you can even order the seat. However, you are ordering your travel for on a specific date and time. If you are not sure you are going to make it do not pre-order. Given you have no experience on CDG airport and such, you should take into account you’re not going to make it.

    If however you order a train ticket in Netherlands you get a ticket pre-signed for a day. This means on that date you are allowed to travel to(/from) A to B. You can also order a ticket which is unsigned, and then sign it on the day you are traveling making it valid for that day. To make it easy for travelers they accept all kind of payment methods. Ordering it from a receptionist costs 0,50 extra fee but you get a ticket for that bill too to reimburse. You cannot order a specific seat, but you can pay extra to travel 1st class (with yuppies and other folks who get ticket reimbursed by their employer or what not).

    Both systems have their own advantage, and in Germany if you order in advance you can get a big fat cut from the original price. Up to 75% for 4+ weeks, and I believe 50% for 2 weeks.

    • I actually do have experience with CDG, so I’m confused by part of your statement.

      I factored some delay in, and I had some leeway– but I had gone to great lengths to make sure I would make my connecting flight. There were just too many elements conspiring against me on this one. Lesson learned.

      On a related note, you sure are visible and argumentive lately. 😉

      • allnameswereout

        Yeah, had a fever/insomnia…

        I didn’t read some part of your post well. Seems like an unfortunate occurrence on an airport you have good experience with otherwise. See it positive: it is only an anomaly 😛

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