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The Americans are Coming

This October, two great US events are making their first forays into Europe. O’Reilly‘s big data conference, Strata, reaches London on 1-2 October. Then GigaOM‘s cloud computing event, Structure, hits Amsterdam on 16-17 October. I’ve attended both in the States (see disclaimer), and look forward to seeing how each sets about fusing the best elements of a successful American event with local speakers, local issues, and local sensibilities. Good events don’t always cross the Atlantic (or, indeed, the Pacific, the Rockies, or the Channel!) very well, but I have high hopes for these two.

I’ve never been particularly keen on the huge trade shows that fill Moscone or Olympia or RAI, or that take over large chunks of the Vegas Strip for a week. I’ve rarely been in a position where I’ve wanted (or needed) to buy or sell in that environment. More importantly, I have enough USB sticks, t-shirts, mugs and pens, and no longer use mouse mats, so what use is all the swag? No one seems to give away the large umbrella that I would actually like to receive, to replace a broken one.

Smaller events, more focused upon contact and ideas and connections are far more appealing. The events that Eric and Kim Norlin put on outside Denver are almost perfect examples of this format; Defrag, Glue, and Blur are well worth a look if you’re interested in the topics typically covered on this blog. GigaOM’s Structure is also consistently great, and has managed to stay relatively small despite pressure to admit more people. The Structure team do a great job of attracting some of the industry’s principal stakeholders, and putting them in an environment where they talk and share for two days. VentureBeat‘s new offering, CloudBeat, got off to a strong start last year (but I’m biased; see my other disclaimer), aiming at similar numbers but focussing on getting the customer stories told; a nice example of two potentially competing but actually complementary events. O’Reilly’s Strata started small and strong, but I’ve heard some suggestions that more recent years (which I haven’t managed to attend) have been bigger. That doesn’t mean it’s become a bad event. Just different, and less interesting to me.

While it’s perhaps unfortunate that Strata and Structure are choosing the same month for the start of their European adventure, both seem to be taking steps to ensure that they preserve the attributes that made them great, whilst also evolving to meet the needs of a European audience. European ex-pats and people based in Europe are closely involved in the programme and logistics for both events. They know, in a visceral way that otherwise excellent American event organisers might not, that you have to cut the crusts off the cucumber sandwiches, that Kuchen matter, that the morning break serves coffee and the afternoon break serves tea, and that ‘England’ and ‘United Kingdom’ are not synonyms. They also know that there’s an ‘me,’ an ‘m,’ an ‘ma,’ or an ‘a’ on the end of ‘Program.’

Neither event makes the mistake (oh, how I hate it when people do it!) of parachuting in a bunch of American ‘names’ to show sad old Europe how it’s done. Yes, there are Americans on the programme. But they’ve got valid international stories to tell. There are also a whole load of Europeans, some of whom are only doing stuff over here, whilst others are collosi on the international stage.

So. If you’re in Europe and interested in the Cloud, take a good hard look at Structure. If Big Data’s your thing, check out Strata. And if you’ve worked out that neither matters much on its own and that the fusion of the two is where interesting things start to happen? Well, you’ll just have to attend both. And for my American readers (about 60% of this site’s traffic), why not cross the pond and see how events that you already know to be great shine some light upon the ways in which Europe’s issues are similar to and different from your own?

Disclaimers: I have previously received free admission to GigaOM and O’Reilly events in the United States. I have accepted an offer of free admission to GigaOM Structure in Amsterdam, and have requested a press pass for O’Reilly Strata in London. I am listed as a GigaOM Pro analyst, and undertake paid work for GigaOM from time to time.

Along with Ben Kepes, I am once again advising VentureBeat on the programme for their CloudBeat conference in November.

Picture of Amsterdam by Flickr user Jesus Solana

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More Stories By Paul Miller

Paul Miller works at the interface between the worlds of Cloud Computing and the Semantic Web, providing the insights that enable you to exploit the next wave as we approach the World Wide Database.

He blogs at www.cloudofdata.com.