Shawn Bass at Geek Speak Live 2008

Earlier this year, Citrix created a new track as part of Citrix Synergy in Houston.  This track, which was called “Geek Speak Live”, was intended to address the more technical aspects of Citrix products.  Not only that, it was intended to be largely driven by outside speakers.

The new model was very successful and addressed a gap in the standard Citrix events.  Traditionally Citrix has not satisfied the needs of the most technical administrators, analysts, and resellers.  The typical statement heard is that Citrix events are too marketing based.

“Geek Speak Live” was Citrix’s first serious attempt to bridge the gap and bring the technical community online.  Much work was put together by the evangelist group to try something different.

Keep in mind that Citrix’s VDI offering had just been released (XenDesktop) just earlier on the first day.  Later that evening, Shawn Bass gave a presentation about the limitations of VDI.  I just discovered this week that his VDI speech is available from Brightcove.  When this first happened (quite a few months ago) it caused a stir within Citrix.  Some people saw it as inappropriate, especially based on XenDesktop just being released.  I didn’t have enough evidence to judge then.  From the general reactions inside the company, it had seemed that perhaps Shawn had gone too far.

However, now that I have seen Shawn at BriForum and have seen this video, I would conclude that the initial stir was a misunderstanding.  Perhaps people saw Shawn as bashing VDI when really he is just trying to warn about the current limitations.  He is trying to deflate the hype curve and make people realize the true value of VDI.

Shawn is a very clever and passionate person.  He strongly believes that the truth be told.  This was obvious during BriForum on the topics he covered there.  If Shawn is telling you to watch out for something, then it would make sense that you should.

Another aspect of this that only through constructive criticism will products improve.  VDI is destined to get quite a bit better in the next few years.  Shawn’s observations highlight the areas that need the most improving.  As he said during the session, VDI should not be seen as a panacea.

Based on several comments during BriForum, technical people are hungry for technical content.  They, in general, are fed up with marketing messages.  Along with that, they want the freedom to express their opinions.  They want honesty and they want to be heard.  So many times, the word “refreshing” was mentioned at BriForum compared to the typical iForum format.  It is very good timing that Geek Speak Live exists and the hope of everyone is that it will continue for the next Synergy/iForum.

The key message that was repeated often is honesty is always better.  If the product has limitations, then those limitations need to be known.  Customers who are misled will remember the deception and be unlikely to try it again.  Expectations set at the right level are more likely to lead to a long term relationship.

A good analogy is dating.  You can start off by pretending to be something that you are not.  You might even fool the other person for some time.  Eventually your true self is going to emerge and the party is over.  On the other hand, if you are only you and confess to your weaknesses, it is the other person that decides if they can handle it.  You have given them the power to choose versus trying to misled them.  If they decided that they don’t like you for who you really are, then it was not meant to be.  It is far better to know up front than to make it to a much a later stage where everyone has wasted their time.

In this way, it is better to be straight forward.  The customer will respect the honesty and be more likely to trust what is being said.

Having written all this, it is now time to say that Shawn had a lot of guts to say what he did.  Brian Madden thought Shawn was either brave or naive to give such a presentation.  However, Brian also confessed that “Shawn is my hero”.  Potentially Shawn could have damaged his relationship with Citrix.  I have heard nothing to say this is the case.  I would interpret the results something like this:  Citrix opens floodgates, Shawn takes Citrix for its word, Citrix realizes it might have opened too wide, Citrix then realizes later that this is the price of allowing open communication.  Truthfully, I see this particular incident in a very positive light.  One of the most dangerous things you can do is believe your own hype.  Sometimes you need someone to remind you of this fact.


Live near Brisbane, Australia. Software developer currently focused on iOS and Android. Avid Google Local Guide

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Posted in Brian Madden, BriForum, Citrix Synergy, iForum, Marketing, VDI, Video, XenDesktop
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