Monday, October 31, 2011

(October) Rules Fest 2011, Part Deux


That "Cosa Nostra" (our thing) that Greg Barton, Rolando Hernandez and I started in 2008 as nothing more than a gathering of geeks and nerds has been transformed into a real conference by Charles Young and Jason Morris; complete with continental breakfast every morning; sponsor-provided lunch (no vendor pitch during lunch this year) with fish, beef and/or pork, really good veggies and salads. They also provided a really good evening affair (shrimp, ice cream, tandoori chicken strips, etc, for "Pub Time" - complete with an open bar for those who stayed around.

Very few folks went out anywhere at night - most stayed in the conference "Pub" for chatting and the free bar. The conference is now branching into AI and Machine Learning, Event-Driven Process Management, Predictive Analytics and RuleBased Forecasting. I was the only one doing RBF this year while Carlos Seranno-Morales (formerly chief engineer for FICO and now Chief Engineer for Sparkling Logic) will be doing the Predictive Analytics next year. But the invited speakers, such as Dr. Ng and Dr. Tabet, were/are some of the absolute best in their respective fields. We also had the other creators of rulebased systems such as Paul Haley (Inference and Haley AI), Dr. Jacob Feldman (Open Rules) and Mark Proctor (Drools). The ONLY one missing was Dr. Friedman-Hill (Jess) but we had the only approved instructor for Jess there in the form of Jason Morris.

I don't feel that they really gave Dr. Forgy (inventor of the Rete, Rete 2, Rete III and Rete NT Algorithms for rulebased system) the publicity that he deserved in the brochures nor the home page, no formal presentation (he probably was thankful for that), etc. Maybe it was something that he and Jason arranged since he really is not a big-time vendor but more of a "skunk works" (meaning a research center). He only had a scripted chat with Carlos Seranno-Morales during a Wednesday afternoon session. Carole Ann Berlioz-Matignon (CEO of Sparkling Logic) was asking questions of Carlos and Dr. Forgy. Dr. Forgy is now Chief Scientist for Sparkling Logic that was started by Carole Ann and Carlos. Remember, this year we were in San Francisco and only a stones throw from Palo Alto, home of most early Internet companies as well as Stanford, one of the four big AI Universities. (CMU, MIT and Boston College being the other three.)

They stuck Rolo and myself in the small breakout sessions rather than boring everyone with it. Rolo was highly upset and felt insulted because originally both he and I had been scheduled to do our presentations for the entire conference and there was not enough of an audience in the break-outs, usually about 10 or 12 per track. Probably his presentation would be a better fit for The Rule Forum with Ron Ross; I know that he would get a much bigger audience. Especially since he told everyone that he no longer does any code work, which is a Bozo-No-No at the (O)RF conference. Me? Well, truthfully, RBF is highly mathematical (which most programmers forgot when they left school) and, unless you are really into statistics and such, it might be a bit boring. But, for those who are having to do that kind of thing, it was a bit of fun to see that Rules Fest is growing and getting into more and more things.

I didn't stick around for the Thursday and Friday boot camps on Drools, Jess and Open Rules. I'm sure that they were quite good but having grown up with Drools and Jess I would have learned less than the other attendees and probably would have been quite a drag by asking too many "high-level" questions. Dr. Friedman-Hill once asked Richard Halsey (now deceased) to please quit pestering the beginners on his email support lines with statements such as RTFM, Read the Fabulous Manual.

All-in-all, I think that we are watching the development of something wonderful; the birth of a really, truly unique conference; one that is dedicated to the technical aspects of what we are doing rather the the more visible parts, vendor success stories and product demos. As a matter of fact, this is the bridge between the RuleML / RIF / OMG and other semi-technical conference and Rule Forum.


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