Monday, May 19, 2008

The Power of Complaining

Complain (Verb) - To express feelings of pain, dissatisfaction, or resentment

About three years ago I went to the yearly National Instruments Technical Symposium. Held every fall in Massachusettes, it is a mix of companies selling things (roughly 20 booths), programmers getting in touch with each other, and NI showcasing the newest updates to LabVIEW that they promoted at NI Week the previous August.

Well, three years ago I was disgusted with the state of the symposium's presentations. Without fail, all the presentations had a high percentage of marketing and a low percentage of actual technical content. And the technical content seemed to be pitched at either a) a beginner's level or b) extolling the great new things that had been added to LabVIEW (in other words, more marketing).

Most of the seminars and conventions I've attended over the years have a comment/rating sheet where you can grade your experience. Usually I check off a few things, write one or two sentences on what I liked, and that's it. This time, I roasted them. I wrote what I really thought of the day's events, and it wasn't pretty. I went into graphical detail of each talk I attended and why I felt it sucked. I also wrote that other people I had talked with had a similar opinion.

It must've hit a nerve. I received a call from a NI marketing guy in Austin a couple of weeks later. He wanted to talk in more detail about what I disliked (his wording - mine was stronger) and felt should've been done differently. The next time I talked with the local NI rep he mentioned that he had heard about my comments.

Well, over the last couple of years the LabVIEW symposiums I attended definitely had more technical content. A couple of weeks ago I attended the LabVIEW Developer Education Seminar. It's similar in spirit to the technical symposium but without the booths. And I have to say that this time NI did a great job of presenting good technical content. Every seminar I attended had solid information that I can use. Even better, there are actual notes with the presentation materials. I may have to keep that booklet.

So sometimes it pays to complain.

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