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September 1999

Warp Expo West

Peter Skye pskye@peterskye.com

A Show For California

There's always something behind a dream. Some reason, some cause, some adrenalin-pumping fascination that grabs you, turns you towards a goal, and pushes steadily until you're there.

In prior years the dream in Southern California always became the annual SCOUG OS/2 show, an open-house affair with lecturers, vendors and exhibits. This year the dream became bigger, better, more widely known. It became Warp Expo West.


The Southern California OS/2 User Group, or SCOUG, was founded in August 1993. Southern California was an OS/2 hotbed -- Rollin White, a future SCOUG President, had already begun an OS/2 SIG at the 1500-member North Orange County Computer Club, and Steve Schiffman had formed an OS/2 SIG at the Orange Coast IBM PC User Group. There was a thriving OS/2 user group run by Paul Duncan in the San Fernando Valley, a few minutes north of Los Angeles. Various suburban PC clubs had OS/2 SIGs. Team OS/2 was very active.

"We wanted an outreach-oriented group," says Rollin, "similar to Team OS/2 but separate. We wanted to bring OS/2 to the community."

A Change Of Plan

SCOUG member Steve Schiffman had a dream. The original Warpstock back in 1997 was hosted in SCOUG territory and drew heavily from SCOUG for its manpower. Steve spent early 1999 preparing a bid to host the show in Southern California once again.

"We found the meeting facilities, calculated the budget, spent hours and hours planning the details," confirms Steve. "We had three shows of experience behind us - the original Warpstock and the two annual SCOUG events - and we knew what to do and how to get it done." When the show was awarded to Atlanta, Steve had a project plan and no project.

"Very few people travel 3,000 miles to attend a show," says Rollin, the man in charge of SCOUG's annual extravaganza. "SCOUG put on an annual event in prior years and a quick membership survey showed that less than 5% would attend the east coast show. Instead of starting from scratch and planning this year's SCOUG event, we adopted Steve's plan."

The First Shows

OS/2 shows have come and gone. OS/2 World was a semi-annual event hosted by Miller-Freeman. OS/2 Professional Magazine hosted shows. There was the OS/2 Marketplace presented by POSSI. For a number of years the IBM Technical Interchange had an OS/2 theme.

SCOUG was heavily involved in two shows in 1997, one of them being the first Warpstock. But that wasn't the first one. The first one was called, simply, the SCOUG Open House.

"It was Rollin's idea," says Carla Hanzlik, Editor of the SCOUG publication OS/2 For You. "He put the first show together."

And from Rollin: "One of the goals I've always had is that the SCOUG group members have all this information, but there is no way to disseminate it. The Open House was meant to be a tightly scheduled series of lectures by the group members which would explode the information and knowledge within each of our SIGs to all of the OS/2 community." That first Open House ran three parallel lecture rooms all day, was heavily attended by members and non-members alike, and gave Rollin and his team the fateful experience they would need a few weeks later, when Warpstock needed help.

One Dream, One Team

Felix Cruz had a dream. He needed to increase sales for SofTouch, his employer, and wanted an OS/2 show where he could sell his wares and increase his company's exposure. He spoke about his idea for such a show with everyone who would listen, and in the fall of 1996, a full year before the first Warpstock, he had dinner with Rollin White, Carla Hanzlik, and Randell Flint of Sundial Systems. Felix wanted to discuss putting on an OS/2 show.

"We ate at a Red Robin restaurant, and talked about a show," says Carla. "Felix wasn't a leader or a manager, but he had a very specific idea and he wanted everybody to consider it. He wanted somebody, somewhere, and maybe it was everybody, everywhere, to put on an OS/2 show."

The success of the first SCOUG Open House the following year gave a momentum push to the simmering Warpstock. There was a team in California that had done it, knew how to do it, could do it again. Maybe they will help. Help with Warpstock.

There were a lot of players spread out across the country at that time. Felix Cruz was part of the initial team, though briefly, and there was Michael Perry, Paul Hethmon, Mark Abramowitz, Rollin White, Esther Schindler, Larry Finkelstein, Judy McDermott. Email kept them joined together, but there wasn't a physical place where they could congregate, divide up the tasks, then hit the street and get the job done. "Larry was pushing to have Warpstock in Philly," reminisces Carla, "but the only team that could put it together was the SCOUG Open House team in California."

The Warpstock Committee made a decision: the show would take place in Los Angeles.

Warp Expo West

Warp Expo West picked up Steve Schiffman's 1999 proposal and ran. Carla Hanzlik was to be the Webmistress, the offerer of instant information to the masses. Steve Schiffman, the SCOUG Networking SIG leader, took on the Facilities Coordinator job, which meant the building, the rooms, the communication circuits, the food service, and the contracts. Rollin White had already been appointed Event Chairman by the SCOUG Board of Directors.

"We got together for lunch near the Sundial offices where Carla and I work, and Steve drove down from L.A.," Rollin remembers, "and somebody asked if we should use a different name. So I said Warp Expo West, and nobody complained. So that was the name. I wish every other decision was that simple!"

Luckily for the show, there's a lot of OS/2 development work in California and the lecturer lineup was surprisingly easy. "I was in the hallway at the SCOUG monthly meeting," says one prior-year lecturer, "and from out of the blue Rollin walks up to me and says 'You'll be speaking in the third lecture time period, and here's your topic.' And he's such a nice guy, it's really hard to say 'no'."

Exhibitors are a little different. "It takes constant work to bring vendors to a show," says Rollin. "You contact them, remind them, ask them, explain the show to them, it's a sales job. We worked hard and got some good ones."

Warp Expo West also has something new - a vendor presence over the 'net. "We had a suggestion for a virtual exhibitor space called Vendor100, a product area where people could try OS/2 software, see the vendor web sites, talk to knowledgeable people about the applications, and buy on line. We put up a registration page just for the Vendor100 program, and let everyone know it was there." Rollin considers the Vendor100 showcase a Warp Expo West "first". "It's been wildly successful," he says.


One of the first problems the original Warpstock faced was money. There wasn't any.

There were no financial backers, and no promoter with a bankroll. Rollin White took the problem to SCOUG, and the group stepped forward with an offer to both host and fund the event. There was no Warpstock bank account; all funds passed through SCOUG.

Things then picked up steam. Paul Hethmon, based in Memphis, signed up many of the lecturers. SCOUG Board member Mark Abramowitz found the wonderful facilities where the first Warpstock would be held, and other members joined on as the on-site crew. OS/2 software developers were contacted, many by Mark, and asked to be exhibitors. The OS/2 Museum, the huge assemblage of OS/2 history curated by Terry Warren and Carla Hanzlik, was brought in from SCOUG's Open House.

"We were surprised at the turnout," remembers Rollin. "People were simply showing up at the door. We never did find out how they knew about the show."

The Dream Forever

Warp Expo West is a culmination of one team's experience creating OS/2 shows. The original SCOUG Open House, followed by the original Warpstock, followed by the next year's SCOUG Open House gave one core group of people the experience that created Warp Expo West.

"OS/2 users want shows," says Terry Warren, President of SCOUG. "They want to meet other OS/2 users, learn from OS/2 lectures, see and buy OS/2 products."

"When every city has an annual OS/2 show, I'll be happy," says Rollin White. "There are OS/2 users everywhere, and they want and should have this kind of support. That's what a grassroots effort like Warp Expo West or Warpstock is all about."

"It's not about creating a sales floor where exhibitors can sell their products. It's not about creating a corporate marketplace for the Fortune 500."

"Warp Expo West is for every OS/2 user, small or large. There's no restriction, no minimum or maximum size, no qualification procedure. This show, and every show like it, should be for everyone."

"My ideals and goals have never changed. We - you and I and every one of us together - have the knowledge that makes OS/2 strong. Warp Expo West isn't a show but rather a concept, a massive transfer of vital information between OS/2 users from every background, and with that transfer comes the new strength that always carries OS/2 forward. Warp Expo West exists for that one reason."

For more on Warp Expo West the web page can be found at http://www.scoug.com/warpexpowest

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