WSO2 Ten Years: Conflicts Con-quered! – Tales from the Other Side of WSO2Con (as told by the Crew)


Ten years in business and (almost) ten WSO2Cons later, you’d think we would have learnt bitter lessons from potential disasters, but we like to play cool – until some disastrous consequence is staring at us right in the face. And it happens in the nick of time too, usually on the eve of the event, a few hours before, or just after kick-off. So, yes, despite the months of planning, Murphy’s Law somehow manages to raise its ugly head and bite us in the rear-end when we least expect it.

Behind all that glamour that our conferences are better known for there definitely are some deep, dark secrets that have been tucked away and only unraveled when we need a good laugh. Most of all, they serve as a reminder that these crazy, unnerving moments have most definitely made our conferences even more memorable and fun for the WSO2 Marketing Team. Here are some of the best ones yet!

Wi (without the Fi) on name tags

If you attended this specific conference (and no, we’re not telling you which one it was), we hope you didn’t save your name tag because it had what we term a ‘classic typo’ that’s unforgivable on many levels. How and when did we discover? The night before the conference, the crew, as usual, gathered to painstakingly insert each name tag into the plastic pockets and attach the chords. While chatting over pizzas, one of the crew members was in hysterical laughter and just continued to say “oh gosh, oh gosh, there’s nothing we can do now!” And then it was revealed – the back of each card had the WiFi code written

Wi – <code> (and no Fi). Because we couldn’t fix it, we had a backup plan to counter this major oversight; quickly distract all attendees when they attempt to turn the tag over and shout out the WiFi code, and make sure all attendees wear the tags showing the side with their details and not the other. We’d like to think our counter plan worked well.

Keynote speaker goes missing

Nope there were no abductions or kidnappings, but we were having spasms trying to locate the next keynote speaker (due to speak right after our opening keynote) who had mysteriously disappeared and wasn’t contactable either. The clock was ticking fast and, as a last resort, and thanks to one of our team member’s ability to combine miming and ballet skills, we were able to non-verbally communicate to Sanjiva (founder, CEO, and chief architect of WSO2 who was on stage delivering the opening keynote) to do whatever he had to do to keep going until we located our next speaker. The missing speaker magically showed up just in time. And no one dared to ask where he was (even though we had assumed at least a dozen reasons for his sudden disappearance), but the show went on.

Sri Lankan devil mask dancer trips on steps of the stage

For those of you who are familiar with Sri Lankan traditions, devil masks are typically used in many ways to ward off evil. In this instance, however, there was a moment when we feared that the devil himself had dawned on us to ruin the opening act and cast a bad spell over the entire event. While everyone’s eyes were on what we hoped would be an unusual and interesting opening act, the crew was standing at the back with our hands to our hearts and praying that our good luck charms will overshadow this devil’s evil plan. It’s a good thing that opening acts last only about five minutes and the worst was soon behind us; we sent the devil back to where he belongs.

Failed effort to live stream another opening act

This was yet another attempt at showcasing ‘papare’ – a very lively genre of music encompassing a type of clarinet and drums, and popular at sports events in Sri Lanka. We weren’t able to find a good opening act in time in London, so we decided to let the famed papare play in Colombo and live stream the music. The last-minute plan would have been fantastic if we had paid a little bit more attention and hooked up the correct microphone to stream the sound too! Instead, there was a deafening silence in the room with video footage of a group of guys playing a bunch of instruments. And that was an epic failure. Sigh!

Fashion faux pas

We don’t expect tech folks to be fashionistas, but when you have a techie with a not-so-great sense of fashion and feels the need to flaunt, you have a problem. And if this diva is your opening keynote speaker, it’s a much more serious problem. It’s a good thing that the crew can also double as the fashion police and avert a would-have-been major fashion disaster by rejecting and confiscating scary clothing and directing the individual to the nearest clothing store on the eve of the event. Or else the audience is sure to have been distracted by either a weird shade of pink that looks like someone barfed after eating a really bad strawberry mousse or the green goblin was melted in the ocean and splattered all over. Trinny and Susannah would be so proud of us!

Banner arrives after tutorial session

When we look back at this episode, we think of the phrase ‘that ship has sailed’; however, that’s not what we told the person who had painstakingly wrapped the banner and hand-carried it on a flight all the way to the US from Sri Lanka because the item seemed too fragile to check-in and too important to risk losing (as per our brief to him). Well, what we hadn’t considered was that the extremely cooperative and helpful person was in fact flying in the next day. Was this revealed at the time of reclaiming the goods? Of course not. Who’d want to upset a completely jetlagged individual who needs to catch up on much-needed sleep after travelling halfway around the world. Again, we had an awesome backup plan; we picked our most alluring crew member to stand at the entrance and greet the participants with an inviting smile – better than a boring banner right?

Speaker booked to fly back home before his talk

And if you thought the late arrival of the banner was bad, here’s another episode of packing off a speaker even before he makes an entrance. So, we’d like to blame our awesome travel team for the blooper, but we had to eat humble pie this time and write an apology to the irate speaker and explain the mix up and cancel and rebook him (and incur an additional cost plus a good telling off from the bosses). We’re generally pretty good at giving fantastic reasons and explanations for such screw ups and somewhat soften the blows (we’re the Marketing Team after all); however, we couldn’t spin a good enough story around this one so we bit this bullet and moved on. We also had another incident where the speaker showed up at the airport (for departure) a day after he was supposed to fly out. This was way beyond our borders, and thus beyond our control, but we had to make some quick amends to the agenda to fill the vacant spot.

Possible use case for WSO2 Connected Bathroom Manager

Remember this April Fool’s prank that was suppose to help enterprises implement more effective “swipe before you wipe” bathroom use policies? Well, we now have a great use case to showcase to our engineering folks and convince them that they have the first potential customer in-house! The Marketing Team’s requirement is very simple – alert individual to finish up ‘business’ (and wipe of course) ten minutes before they need to introduce the next speaker in the technical track they’re responsible for. The speaker had to intro himself in the end, but at least an unpleasant emergency at the session was averted. Phew!

See more on our road to ten years here