I’m just back from Storage Field Day 18 where we had an a very dense agenda of sessions with multiple vendors. A lot of posts will hopefully be coming out of this in the next days / weeks, but for now, a slightly different topic.
Fifty Shades of Disclosure
I generally have a standard Disclosure section added to any posts that are relevant to industry events where I’m invited to and part or all costs are covered.
Disclosure is important: it is about honesty to the reader base, and also honesty to other actors in the industry. And there are also legislations / countries which require disclosure. Disclosure is here to let the reader know I had some expenses paid (always specifying the scope in my standard disclosure), and also for the reader to know that I’m going to be objective in my comments. OK, objectivity is perhaps too strong. I’m not always thriving to be 100% objective, but I’m certainly aiming to give an unbiased opinion as much as I can. That is of course influenced by my own perception of a company / product, my own experiences in the past with a given technology, and finally my own flaws as a far from perfect human being.
To counterbalance on the expenses paid thing, it’s also worth for the reader to know that I’m an independent worker. As such, I have the questionable benefit of “unlimited unpaid time off” as an industry friend says. Notwithstanding any business that I might eventually manage to secure during such events, participating to any industry event for X days means that during these X days / hours, I am unable to conduct any work and I’m not able to charge for it either. It is therefore an income loss / operating expense that I cannot claim back in my tax declaration, so there’s also this which helps keep the head cool. Again, participating in events is a long term investment in experience, networking and exposure, so the final balance should be net positive.
Where am I going with this? I just want to clarify a few things for the blog reader, so please read on.
There’s Disclosure and Disclosure
The usual kamshin.com blog reader is probably used to my regular disclosures, so the above is just a no-brainer reminder. But from time to time, we find ourselves at events where the vendors are a bit more generous than usual.
While this can be lauded and everybody likes to be spoiled with a nice & useful gift, it’s also a moral obligation to disclose what we have been gifted with, so that the reader can make its own mind. First of all, I don’t think the vendors are trying to make a point that their gift will influence our writing and comments on their technology. Most of us who attend those events are known to have very vocal and strong opinions on certain matters, and it’s unlikely that a gift will change our opinion.
From my perspective, swag being worthy of disclosure is anything that diverts from the regular conference stuff and / or that has a value above 50 USD. I’m for example never counting for t-shirts, pens, battery chargers, mints, chocolates, wireless chargers (or any items coming from the fun and sometimes weird corners of the universe) into disclosed stuff. These are usually standard commodity swag that you’ll get at any event just by having your badge scanned.
SFD18 Specific Disclosure Items
Talking about Storage Field Day (and Field Day events in general), I can’t recall having been in an event where we received any disclosure-worthy swag (not blaming anyone, by the way).
At Storage Field Day 18 however, there are two items worth mentioning as a part of a responsible disclosure:
- Western Digital was very kind to gift every delegate with a WD Black SN750 NVMe SSD drive in M.2 format and a capacity of 1 TB. This high performance SSD has an MSRP (List Price) of 249.99 USD (not your usual swag).
- Cohesity was very kind to gift every delegate with a very comfortable and robust-feeling Storm Creek jacket. This was customized with an embroidered Cohesity logo, the SFD18 tag and the delegate’s twitter handle. The price tag for this jacket is 85 USD, to which Cohesity must have paid an extra fee to the fine folks at STK Promotions (check them out, they do great stuff for the community) for the embroidering work, putting the price tag something north of 100 USD.
These items are very nice and will be put to use. How likely is it to affect my writing? Extremely unlikely, here’s why:
- I’ve already covered (slightly) Western Digital and their joint venture with Toshiba Memory in our TECHunplugged Industry Insights paper on The Solid State Memory Industry in 2019 (which is a free to download, independent and not sponsored research paper). I write about technology but rarely do physical product reviews (as in drives / devices), and I’m not planning any soon to do a review on the provided drive. My focus will be on WD’s market strategy, perhaps only on the flash aspects, perhaps also covering disk drives.
- Regarding Cohesity, I’ve already covered them in a couple occasions. I’m enthusiastic about Cohesity because they are one of the rare companies with a true data management vision and platform. The messaging at SFD18 was a bit messy, and even seasoned friends / delegates found themselves quite confused. My coverage of Cohesity will be likely on data management challenges. I’m also not doing any reviews of jackets, by the way. To Cohesity’s defense they have a Nepresso machine in their kitchen and this proved to be most helpful.
Gifts are always a great thing, however it is our duty as professionals to remain neutral and provide our readers with the facts and our opinion. The architecture of a product is a fact, my take on whether it is relevant or it is an opinion. Letting the reader know upfront helps set the proper expectations and is a matter of respect to our audience.
Should we disdain gifts? Should we donate them? Everybody will have an opinion. These could be seen as a gesture of friendliness, a mark of courteousness; others might feel offended by it. Personally, I’m OK with it – I will use my own internal moral compass to determine what’s next. I once had a case where I was offered a gift card to reply to a survey or to participate in a customer interview. At the time, because this was usable money, my decision was to gift it to a charity.
For the NVMe drive, I happen to have a stepson into graphics design who uses very heavy apps on his computer. I’m sure the 1TB NVMe drive will be a great relief to him. If my early 2015 13″ MacBook Pro (the one with the awesome keyboard) would accept these NVMe drives, it would be a whole different story. And for the jacket, well I’m afraid I’m turning in to a Cohesity billboard (at least for the next month), as the jacket perfectly suits the current climate in Prague, and it turns out my favorite 2016 vExpert gift was a Cohesity-branded Timbuk2 backpack, a true & solid workhorse (Timbuk2 is a robust brand of backpacks made in San Francisco). So if you cross me and see me in a black & green outfit, rest assured I haven’t switched jobs!
At the end, one thing is sure: I’m not turning any soon into a gear review YouTube channel!
This post is a part of my Storage Field Day 18 post series. I am invited to the event by Gestalt IT. Gestalt IT will cover expenses related to the events travel, accommodation and food during the event duration. I will not receive any compensation for participation in this event, and I am also not obliged to blog or produce any kind of content. Any tweets, blog articles or any other form of content I may produce are the exclusive product of my interest in technology and my will to share information with my peers. I will commit to share only my own point of view and analysis of the products and technologies I will be seeing/listening about during this event.