Dan Veaner's Report of the 1998 Schmooze

On Thursday Morning someone asked Bill Sturgell whether he was the first to arrive at the Schmooze. Bill replied, "No, you're not. I am." Thus began the Third Annual 1998 Shareware Schmooze at the Columbus OH Holiday Inn. throughout the day and the next day shareware authors arrived for a weekend of fun, companionship, and schmoozing. When I arrived on Thursday afternoon Bill and ASPects editor Jerry Stern were in the usual spot in the big cushy chairs in the hotel lobby. The Schmooze pretty much takes over these chairs each year.

That morning I had taken my usual eight hour drive through South-Western New York State and Eastern Ohio. I felt triumphant because I was actually organized enough to find my Map n' Go triptik printouts from last year. I was delighted to see the remnants of Fall foliage in Ohio - in NY State the leaves fell a few weeks ago. I view long drives as therapeutic, because my children are still quite young.

As in past years the group was roughly decided into the "schmokers" and the "non-schmokers." While these groups were distinct enough it seemed as if there was more cross-schmoozing between then this year. For those who have never been here is how it works:

The lobby of the Holiday Inn is huge, laid out like a small theme park. When you come in the front door there is a little tropical house that is the desk for checking in and out. To the right of this house is a parrot cage - the parrot whistles and talks all day. I noted that the darned bird repeatedly whistled the first two notes to the theme from "The Bridge Over The River Kwai," and I threatened to sneak into the lobby in the dead of night and teach it to whistle the whole song. As of that moment Eric Isaacson couldn't get the tune out of his head, and if he did the parrot would remind him by whistling the first two notes again (and again).

Behind the bird is the pool area replete with a fooz ball table. To the left is a gazebo which is the entrance to the restaurant and bar. You cross a bridge (over real water, though not troubled as far as I can see) to get in. In front of that is a lounge area with overstuffed chairs and sofas, the central point of the Schmooze. This year there was also a Schmooze Room, with snacks and drinks. While there were tables and chairs, most of the schmoozing took place in the lobby. It was nice to have the room available, though, and I was cheered when I saw Bill Sturgell and Harold Holmes wheeling in the snacks including a carton of Classic Coke. Gary Elfring spelled out messages using Cheese Balls, which became hard to read when people ate them.

For the non-schmokers part of the activities includes checking out the best restaurants in Columbus, according to a list provided by a friend of Eric Isaacson. These are not necessarily swank spots, but are places that have good food. This year we revisited some of our favorites, but with two of us suffering from miserable colds we were more sensitive to crowds and noise than usual. We were impressed to learn that some of the schmokers had gone to Hooters and were amused by the retelling of their adventures.

One favorite is Max Pies, a Chinese restaurant where you watch your meal being cooked while you wait to pick it up at the counter. Gary Elfring was impressed that you could watch, and it was impressive. I am surprised the place doesn't burn down with the volume of flames dancing beneath (and above) the woks. Figlios had wonderful Italian food, but it was very crowded and noisy. I missed the Blue Nile Ethiopian restaurant (trying to give my cold a rest), but it appeared from the pictures that everyone enjoyed it.

Russ Irwin and Eric Isaacson were the camera guys. Well, Rosemary West was also snapping away, but Russ and Eric have digital cameras and Eric in particular was enthusiastic, to say the least. In fact he snapped pictures of everything from schmoozer to waitresses to hotel clerks, to the escalator in the airport, to my socks, and everyone enjoyed the instant replays throughout the weekend. I expect the best of them will be posted at www.blucollsoft.com/schmooze.html before long. And it looks like there is a camera in bob Ostrander's immediate future (Eric's enthusiasm was so catching that even Cheap Dan is thinking about it).

There was a lot of discussion about the direction of the ASP. I am afraid I was the Devil's advocate, and probably irritated the others there. So there was a lot of discussion about ASP as a trade organization vs. ASP as a club for authors (I favor the former). It was interesting to hear everyone's' ideas, with Richard Holler offering the most grounded arguments and observations.

The Schmooze isn't about scheduled events, and I noted a larger than expected number of people who didn't bring notebook computers and modems with them. Folks from Aureate Media were demonstrating their AdSoftware program, and there was a meeting between ASP members and an insurance representative who may be able to provide medical and other insurance to ASP members. but in general it was real honest to goodness schmoozing with the group breaking up into smaller groups and then reforming. It was great to see old friends and meet new ones. For those of us who work in a room most of the time it was refreshing to be able to use computer terms and not have to explain what they mean.

In many ways the Schmooze is like telling a funny story that the listener doesn't get - you had to be there. There isn't any way to describe the tips and tricks, help and hints, deals and general information, and the camaraderie. I have often likened email to stepping out in the hall with co-workers to chat about this or that, because it is the closest I have in my shareware business to doing so. the Schmooze is even closer, because you get to do it with real live people in real time. It is a condensed version of chatting in the hall where serious business and casual visiting mix in a relaxed atmosphere. You really have to be there.

This year you get a second chance: there will be another Schmooze in St. Louis, March 26-27. In fact you can keep up on all Schmoozes and like meetings at http://www.sharewareschmooze.com

Sunday morning we squeezed the last moments out of the weekend before having to say goodbye. most folks left in the morning, while others waited for later planes. I especially liked the drive home because I didn't get caught in a blizzard around Erie PA the way I did the previous two years (and I got home in time to kiss my children good night). As always I have a lot to think about after the Schmooze, and I had a great time visiting with my shareware pals.

Dan Veaner
EmmaSoft Software Co., Inc.

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