The first two years of Warpstock, by Esther Schindler
In March of 1997, Indelible Blue and the Phoenix OS/2 Society Inc (POSSI) sponsored The OS/2 Marketplace, a conference for OS/2 software developers and anybody building OS/2 solutions. The OS/2 Marketplace focused on getting down to business, and had sessions on acquiring funding, on getting your software onto computer store shelves, and establishing a marketing plan. As a result, the conference was attended by most of the OS/2 "names" you'd recognize, representing the products that OS/2 users rely on every day.
One of those "names" was Felix Cruz, then in charge of the OS/2 products at Gammatech. Felix approached me during a rare quiet moment at the conference, to make a suggestion for an OS/2 user conference. His way of describing it was, "Like Woodstock: three days of peace, love, and OS/2!" I thought that a celebration of OS/2 was a great idea -- I still do -- and we quickly involved several other vendors and POSSI members in brainstorming. By the end of the weekend, we had come up with the idea of Warpstock.
Little was accomplished, though, until several of us had the opportunity to gather in May at the IBM Technical Interchange, held that year in St. Louis. At a breakfast meeting, which also included Larry Finkelstein, Rollin White, Paul Hethmon, and another participant whose name has mysteriously disappeared from my memory, we hashed out when-and-where the event could and should take place. Over the next several weeks, we began to meet online, using the Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and we began to spread the word in the OS/2 community.
The first year, we started with a team but no idea where to hold the event. The OS/2 community was incredibly enthusiastic about the idea of Warpstock -- as long as it was within a 3-hour drive of home. Because Southern California and the southwest had (and has!) so many OS/2 users who were reachable by marketing means (such as POSSI's extended attributes magazine, which had been mailed to every OS/2 Magazine subscriber in California a few months previously), and because members of the Southern California OS/2 User Group (SCOUG) stepped forward to find free facilities, we arranged to hold the event at the Air Quality Management District in Orange County.
The first Warpstock was a golden moment in the history of the OS/2 community and in grass roots organizations of any kind. Everybody chipped in. People stepped forward at the right time with the right knowledge or resources. The whole event was conceived, constructed, and organized through the Internet. The event chair was in Tennessee, the program chair was in Cinncinatti, and most of the "team" didn't see the facility until the day the show began. SCOUG members really deserve an enormous amount of credit for the work they put in --which they did so smoothly that they made it look easy.
And the show itself was a success by any measure. At 8:00am, the registration line snaked out the door. In fact, the registration table was so overwhelmed that they quickly lost cont of the number who attended; we think that about 375 people showed up, but we have no way to be sure. Exhibitors weren't done setting up before attendees shoved a credit card in their faces, demanding to buy their OS/2 software. Vendors who thought they'd brought more products than they could possibly sell for the weekend were sold-out by Saturday afternoon. The presentation rooms were packed. And the attitude was completely upbeat: we achieved our goal, which was to celebrate OS/2.
In fact, the event was such a success that nobody knew what to do, afterward. Exhausted and happy, we hadn't even thought about "what will we do next time?" A few months after Warpstock, we finally pulled ourselves together to hammer out a proposal form for a 1998 Warpstock. With three solid proposals in hand, we chose Chicago.
Now, one could mumble or arm-wave over the events that followed, but history requires unemotional truths. The original Warpstock team ran into communication problems with the original Chicago team. It became clear that each group had different expectations for the roles and responsibilities. Matters went to hell in a handbasket, and in June the old team's leadership was replaced with Stan Sidlov, from New Jersey, and several other volunteers who found themselves in the position of "uh, I'm in charge? me?" Yet again, the event was organized by people who didn't necessarily live in the area where Warpstock was held.
However, yet again the OS/2 community managed to create a delightful weekend in Chicago, despite the challenges of a leaky roof, erratic network connections, and frantic solution-finding. (It's one thing to succeed when everything works right. Stan Sidlov deserves a great deal of credit for pulling a magic event out of hat when so many problems conspired against the team.) Again, about 380 people attended, filling the presentation rooms and the coffers of the OS/2 vendors in the exhibit hall. Most importantly, OS/2 users had the opportunity to gather and to celebrate the operating system we appreciate so much, and the attendees were delighted with the event.