Elkie Holland caught up with Martyn Phillips on his return from the USA Revelation Conference 2015 to find out what went on.


What was the turn out like for this year's Revelation Conference ?

Attendance from around the world was good this year, with around 100 delegates but Europe was noticeably lacking.  We get a reasonable turn out at the European RUGs, but there is no compromise to the main conferences and this one was no exception.  In my honest opinion, it was a mistake for any professional Ope

nInsight Developer to miss this one and it’ll be the same for the next conference when OpenInsight 10 is released.

How does that compare with the last conference back in April 2013 ?

I don’t have the exact numbers from the last conference, but I think that there were 70 to 80 people at that one.  Attendance was therefore up this year and that is probably down to our VARs doing better and the topics covered this year.

What is the format and duration of a Revelation Conference ?

It's generally over three days, with two and a half days being for the main event.  There is a welcome reception the evening before the first full day and this enables delegates and Revelation staff to get together for an initial social or networking opportunity.  It is really nice to pass the time with old friends and make new friends ahead of the long days and learning.  This is then followed by two days of conference sessions which include an initial opening address by Mike, a keynote address from a guest speaker and then a number of technical breakout sessions.  The second full day is all technical or business related sessions and then this is repeated on the Third day in the morning.  Mike then closes the conference around midday on that third day of the conference.

Was it mainly USA people or was there a UK / European contingent too ?

I am always disappointed by the attendance of European developers and users.  Of the hundred or so delegates, there were only six Europeans, including Carl and myself.  The reason given is usually the cost to attend but there were a good number of people from Australia and the surrounding area which negates that reason.  The main conference provides an enormous amount of value that easily outweighs the cost of attending.  This year was no exception with some invaluable insights into the OI10 release.

Whilst Mike also visits Australia for their RUG meetings, I think that most Europeans are happy to opt for the cheaper option and meet with us in London and hear what Mike has to say there.  However, there is no way that Mike can cover what the whole US team covers at the USA Conference and therefore it is nowhere near to a reasonable compromise.  After all, at conference you hear from the actual developers working on the area of the product that is the subject of the talk.  Plus, with 100 likeminded developers in the room, the level of discussion is much higher and the depth of reply much deeper than we can offer during a time limited RUG.

What topics were covered ?

As usual the topics presented at the conference were varied and wide reaching.  However, the single and most important theme was OpenInsight ten.  This looks like being a real game changer for both OpenInsight developers and MultiValue developers in general.  With connectors for numerous flavours of MultiValue we are seeing an increased interest in people wanting good, solid, rich tools for both desktop and web (mobile) based applications.  OpenInsight has that now, but version ten is going to give so much more.

The keynote speaker was Dan Lier this year.  Dan is a motivational speaker and his address really set a great positive tone for the whole conference.  His words moved  many of us into a different mind-set and it was just perfect for all of us selling tools and software solutions into difficult markets and facing increasing competition for free and low cost solutions.  Reading between the lines, it was a rousing address that reminded me that we have a great technology and our VARs produce some amazing solutions that prove to last the test of time and business change.  We just need to feed on that success, be positive and focused and get out there and celebrate what we do and share it with more people.  Taking a more positive outlook will not only enlighten our personal lives and help us to be more successful in our business lives, but it also helps to brighten the days of those that we interact with.  The presentation was dynamic, engaging and it was not to be missed.

Just looking at the technical breakout sessions the options and topics covered included:

  1. Mike Ruane             Technical overview of OpenInsight 10.  What to expect and how the new version will enhance the developer and end-user experiences.  With over 1,000,000 lines of code touched and in every single part of the toolset, this is clearly the biggest OI release that I can recall.
  2. Carl Pates                OI 10 Form Designer and Presentation Designer.  There are some big changes to the product in this area and Carl’s presentation was actually split over two one and a half hour sessions – and because of the delegate reaction and questions posed, he still ran out of time.  Carl looked at important changes to some functions and the addition of some new functions – something that every OpenInsight developer will need to know about when moving to OI10.  We won’t break existing applications, but it is really important that people know what is changing under the hood.  To give people an idea, Carl has written around 500 pages of documentation on the new APIs and this is looking like tripling over the coming weeks.  He and Mike also took a look at the new GUI interface changes, the use of panels and easy set properties that will greatly enhance and speed up application development and some of the new controls.  Again, you had to be there to full appreciate the breadth of change that is coming.
  3. Bob Carten              Indexing and Selection Changes in OI 10 – I am often asked about performance and how OpenInsight can be best configured for optimal performance.  Bob explained what Revelation have been doing behind closed doors and also working with some of the Revelations VARs on profiling OpenInsight.  Some good performance gains have been made within indexing and selecting and OI10 will include some new system profiling tools to help everyone to get the most from their systems.
  4. David Hendershot    Took a look at the new OpenInsight 10 management console.
  5. Bob Catalano           Ran through GIT integration which is greatly enhanced in OpenInsight 10.  GIT will effectively replace the Check-In and Check-Out feature in OpenInsight currently.  Bob and Kevin showed how GIT can be used within OpenInsight development teams using real examples of how it is being used at Revelation for the OpenInsight 10 release and how it supports a distributed development team spread across the USA and into Europe.
  6. Bob Carten              Took a look at OpenInsight and the Cloud.  I did not sit in on this presentation, but I understand that it looked at the new Cloud Data Connector and support Couchbase.  I’ll be reviewing his presentation shortly and I’ll no doubt have some questions for Bob over the coming weeks as we get closer to the OI10 beta release.
  7. Bryan Shumsky         Discussed the Engine Server in great detail.  Whilst much of this was over my head, the information shared will help anyone working with the OEngine Server to get more from the system and make best use of the feature.
  8. Bill Reynaldos           Revelation will be introducing R/List into the Banded Report Writer in OI10.  With the help of Dave Hendershot, this presentation looked at how the feature is being introduced and how it will benefit developers and end users using the BRW.
  9. Bill Reynaldos           Authentication seems to be a hot topic right now and during this presentation Bill delved into the OpenInsight Authentication Module in OpenInsight.  This was another highly informative presentation and a much watch for anyone wishing to include authentication in their solutions – and that is most people.
  10. Bryan Shumsky         Brian’s talks are always entertaining and this was no exception.  Talking about the Universal Driver can often be a dry subject but Bryan brought the subject to live with some interactive examples of the secrets and changes coming in the UD5.  Those include performance gains and better data encryption handling.
  11. Bob Catalano           Many OpenInsight developers want to include feature rich controls in their applications, an example being a rich text control that offers font formatting, spell checking and the like.  Using some clear examples, Bob showed how HTML can easily be embedded in some OpenInsight controls to deliver this level of rich content right out of OpenInsight forms.
  12. Mike Ruane             The OI10 release is huge, as I have mentioned before, and it is more than just a simple upgrade.  The move from 4.0.3 and above to OpenInsight 10 will involve a system conversion.  This topic was covered in some depth during Mike’s presentation as he explained what is involved and why and how the conversion process (if done in the right way) can also be used to better optimise your OpenInsight based system. 

As Mike pointed out, Revelation are opening up OpenInsight and keeping the numerous options open to developers.  There are often six ways of doing things in OpenInsight – Two are the best way, Two are OK and they will get you to where you need to be and two will still get your there but not in an efficient, coherent and recommended manner. 

Developers need to attend these events to learn about the options and then to make their own decisions on what works for them  In my honest opinion, this sort of knowledge being shared at the conference will help Revelation’s VARs to work smarter and avoid numerous self-made problems that often make IT people (not just Revelation VARs) look bad, unprepared or unorganised in front of clients.

The conference was closed by Mike Ruane thanking everyone for taking the time to join Revelation in Houston.  He thanked the whole Revelation team who put on a spectacular show throughout the conference and he then ran my slideshow which tried to tell the story behind this year’s conference.

What was best received ?

It is genuinely hard to answer that question.  The big interest was in the work that Carl has been doing on the presentation server and the new forms designer.  After all, this is where most developers spend most of their time.  However, performance remains a key hot topic and performance ripped through the whole conference.  If pushed, I’d have to say that the Forms Designer and Presentation Server presentation was the best received.

For me, that presentation single handily demonstrated the enormous amount of work that he gone into the new version and how those enhancements will benefit both Developers and End Users.  There really is something for everyone this time and that will be music to most VARs and their account managers.

Any highlights ?

It sounds ridiculous, but the whole conference was full of highlights.  Every technical session had something new and exciting, the keynote address was truly inspirational and the evenings were perfect for relaxing and socialising with like-minded people.  For me ( a non developer ), the highlight was the delegates faces throughout the conference.  There was a real mix of interest and excitement about the new version and maybe a hint of short lived trepidation at times.

Were there any interesting questions raised ?

The questions flowed and they kept coming and kept coming throughout the conference.  Every question was constructive and well answered, often on a forthcoming slide and showing that both presenter and audience were well and truly on the same page.  I lost count of how many times presenters called out to a colleague to make a note of that and I know that several of the results of questions and suggestions have already made their way into the product and others will find their way into the final release.

Any Lo-Lights ?

Just one and it was one that, to be honest, I was expecting.  Many people were hoping to go away from the conference with a beta of OpenInsight 10.  The whole Revelation team have been locked away working on the project for long hours but there is still work to be done.  Several of the presentations had large red blocks on the forms, which are where the new Edit Table will be utilised, but alas it is not yet complete.  Mike got this bit of disappointing news out of the way early in the proceedings but developers know what software development is like and sometimes timescales have to slip and the rest of the conference really underlined why this slippage is a niggle more than a problem.

Any drunken orgies you'd like to share gossip about ?

I am afraid not.  Whilst there was a free bar at the welcome session, during the first full days evening event and also the second days, everyone was very well behaved and I think that most people wanted to keep a clear head and make the most from the education that was on offer.  Everyone appeared to be bright and rested each morning and eager to learn more.  For me, that is the real purpose of the Revelation conferences – learn, network and get as much as possible from the proceedings.

I know Mike always likes "take aways" from his conferences to go and work on... did he get any good ones ?

Lots.  Mike mentioned that the UK RUGs are always an invaluable source of ideas for the toolset.  I also know that he is often making some of those changes as he and I drive the country when he is over here for the RUGS or calling colleagues in the USA asking them to look into area of the toolset that someone has asked for a modification or enhancement.  This seemed to be the catalyst for the conference delegation to go one better and the presenters were constantly calling out to colleagues to “Please make a note of that”.  I don’t honestly know how many good ideas were captured this time, but I’ll bet that Mike has a good few pages of notes to work through.

When's the next one and in which country ?

During Mike’s closing address, he offered up the possibility of another conference in about a years’ time.  Revelation usually run conferences every 18 months, but we are considering an earlier conference shortly after the Oi10 release.  This will enable a more thorough transfer of Oi10 knowledge building on this conference and providing an opportunity (second chance) for those who could not make this conference.  Where and when are open for discussion.  We have done Vegas a few times and many people liked the Houston venue and the warm weather, especially given the cold weather recently.  We will, have to watch this space for more news over the coming months. 

However, I would very strongly urge every OpenInsight developer, or OpenInsight development team manager, to set aside some of next year’s training budget to send at least one person to the next conference.  The amount of knowledge and change is something that really can’t be missed this time.

It sounds like you had a good time there.

We did.  It was hard work, there was a lot to see and learn and there was opportunity to network.  I gave myself the added challenge of documenting the conference in pictures and the presentation show was extremely well received on the final day with some people trying to hold back their emotion.  The whole conference, and I mean the lead up as well for the Revelation staff, was an emotional journey for some people and I might just have tipped them right at the end.  The slideshow captions will not make much sense if you were not there, but it can be viewed online here .


Thanks and credits to:

Martyn Phillips for taking the time out post conference to spend time with me.

Martyn Phillips for the photo.