Archive for October, 2008
Call this an “off-topic” defrag post, though not totally off-topic…
At the end of the day yesterday, I plopped on the couch, firmly ensconced in “potato” mode, and caught the last half of The Matrix Reloaded. Remember when Neo meets the architect, and they walk through his existence as “the One.” It turns out that he’s just a “systemic anomaly” — essentially, a necessary evil that is the left-over balance that comes from summing the equation that is the Matrix. Why the leftover anomaly? Because it turns out that the only way to get the humans to “accept” the program that is the Matrix is to have them “choose” to accept it at some sub-conscious level. And that slightest bit of individual choice ends up throwing the whole equation into an unbalanced sum — that results in the eventual systemic anomaly. The systemic anomaly’s job, then, is to essentially “reboot” the whole system by choosing 23 humans to live and start over.
So, I’m lying there thinking, “Those wachowski brothers are genius! They’ve given us the PERFECT analogy for free markets and capitalism.” Which is to say, the systems - by their very nature - come with a systemic anomaly that simultaneously brings about the collapse of the system AND reboots it again (choice). And we’re right in the middle of that “anomaly” moment. A built-in, painful and completely necessary reboot.
Can we come up with a “better system?”
Well, the architect tried. But the program upload always failed. Humans simply wouldn’t accept perfection and it’s accompanying lack of choice.
Does that apply only to capitalism and free markets? Probably not. It’s probably also exactly right for social networking, communities, conferences, etc.
Food for thought….or maybe, complete crap. But that’s what my brain thought about last night.
Insert your analogy here — we’re rounding the final bend, etc and galloping to the Defrag finish line.
Registrations continue to roll-in and I’m beyond excited. If you’re thinking of coming, it’s still not too late.
I’m kind of figuring that most of you already know whether or not you’re coming to Defrag, but on the off chance that you haven’t made your mind up yet, let me help. Come. The crowd we’re assembling is really gonna be something. Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the companies you’ll be hanging out with:
Nomura Research Institute, Ltd.
Bank of America
The Western Union Company
Johnson & Johnson
NC State University
Ziff Davis enterprise
The 451 Group
First Round Capital
Sun Microsystems, Inc.
Yes, the video kick continues -
Is enterprise 2.0 “the walking dead?” I think not.
Yea, this video thing may not last. We’ll see…
Amidst the day of endless details that make up the two weeks prior to a conference, I’ve got a phone call with Chris Shipley to discuss the sessions she’s involved with at Defrag - and I’m looking forward to it. Folks have long known Chris as one of the smartest folks in tech when it comes to startups and future trends, and she’s obviously running a great conference in DEMO (yes, I’m on the record as stating that DEMO will survive the next 4 years, while TechCrunch50 will not). I’m sure that with Chris leading the discussion, things will move in a productive direction.
The two sessions that she’s moderating are “Getting into the flow applications” and “Making the social web.”
The “flow” session has two companies demo’ing stuff (workstreamer and sxipper), and is really meant to fuel some talk about what happens when we no longer go “to” an application, but rather have apps working in our own personal flow. This is part of the much larger topic we have going at Defrag around re-imagining the metaphors that underlie email, RSS, calendars, etc.
The “social web” session was actually suggested by Kevin Marks of Google. It’s an interesting topic - and one that I think is right up Chris’ alley given some of her recent blog posts.
In any case, that’s one of the highlights of my day ahead — you see, stuff really IS happening outside of the fear and loathing in silicon valley and on wall street.
Use the code “ejn2″ to get $300 off of the current registration price — and be sure to join us.
We’re “rounding the turn” and heading toward the finish line that is Defrag (in three weeks). If you’re “on the fence” about coming, I want to offer two tidbits of information. First, a quote from Rich Hoeg:
My question to you … have you defragged your brain recently. While this conference may not be perfect for you, please understand that my participation at Defrag is on my own nickel and vacation time. As technologists we have a responsibility to maintain our knowledge. For example, this past Spring I spent most of a weekend at BarCamp Minnesota. I don’t want to imply that my company does not provide me technical training. In fact, next month on my company’s dime I will attend some Sharepoint 2007 training. However, if you want to succeed, you need to invest in yourself. Think of it as an ongoing research and development project. In these tough economic times, you will be glad you did!
I’d add this to Rick’s words — view Defrag as a “safe haven” from all of the recent turmoil. Sure, we’ll still be talking about all of this mess, but I guarantee you’re going to find yourself in a room with a bunch of realists who are grounded and optimistic.
Second bit of info: If you haven’t been to Defrag, I wanted to give you a sense of what you’ll encounter over two (plus) days…
You arrive Sunday evening at Defrag and meander down to the lobby to find the “Chris Wand Next gen email” dinner group that you signed up for. Having found them (and not knowning any of them), you head out for a dinner in Denver.
After an evening of good discussions and food, you wake up having already found 2 or 3 “new friends” and great contacts. You check email (for free, as Defrag bought your in-room internet access), and head down to the registration desk - finding some breakfast and coffee nearby. Your morning fills up with some great talks by folks like Paul Kedrosky, Bill Duggan and Howard Lindzon, and you find yourself thinking about issues you already know in some new ways — and with a strange sense of optimism.
The afternoon sessions come at you like a tsunami - and by the time you head in for Mark Koenig’s day ending keynote, you’re wondering how you’re going to coalesce all of this information in your head. Along the way, you’ve discovered one vendor that made you say “wow” (during the lunch networking), and had a chat with a startup guy that’s not even funded, but was dying to show you what he’s working on.
Thankfully, the day ends with some appetizers and an open bar at the evening reception. By now, you’re feeling like you’re in your element - mixing with the crowd, seeing familiar faces, and getting into some really spectacular discussions. One of those great discussions leads you off to a Birds of a Feather dinner, and you go to bed feeling like maybe - just maybe - Wall Street worries aren’t going to consume your entire consciousness for the next two years.
The morning of day two brings that “man, I’m a bit tired” sense that you always get on day 2 of a conference. You head downstairs to grab coffee and use the conference wifi (which has been the best you’ve ever seen at a tech conference), and settle in at one of the tables in the keynote room to plug-in to a power strip (power outlets - what a concept!). You’re not sure what to expect on Day 2, but you’re ready.
Surprisingly, day 2 proceeds to deepen, broaden and really open up your impressions from day 1. Charlene Li is spectacular. A case study you didn’t even know was coming highlights some amazing stuff, and then - surprise - you actually win a prize from a drawing right before the morning break (a Wii - your kids are gonna love you). The afternoon breakouts don’t let up - and now you’re learning things you’d never even considered before — information tomography (?), stream computing, sousveillance. Yikes.
The day ends and you’re spent - in a really, good, satisfying way. Not only have you learned actionable stuff that will help *tomorrow*, but you’re feeling like your head is above the fog and you’re staring at a clear horizon. The day ends with a keynote about some even newer stuff concerning integration of web apps — it’s a bit more technical that you came expecting, but it reminds you to circle this for next year.
You weren’t able to find a good flight out tuesday night, so you’re planning to collapse in your room with some room service and a pillow. But, as it turns out, a bunch of folks aren’t leaving till tomorrow morning, and it seems like everyone’s heading to the hotel bar for one last discussion.
New friends, great connections, new technologies, amazing ideas — and it all seems to have come with a personal touch.
Yep, Defrag sure seems like it was worth it.
….at least, that’s how I imagine your Defrag experience — and it’s what we get up every morning and work for. I hope you’ll join us.
I’ve been sick since Sunday. I hate being sick. My wife will tell you (find her at the Defrag registration desk) - I become the world’s biggest baby when I’m sick. I don’t handle it well.
Things are different this morning, though. I’m waking up absolutely INSPIRED. Here’s what I’m reading:
Howard Lindzon: Too SMALL to Fail (quoting) -
Â Here is why panic spreads. Otherwise smart people, who on the surface think they are calm, freak everyone out with their own passive aggressive panic. If you donâ€™t believe me, Sequoia and Uber angel investing guru Ron Conway are just now writing letters to all their CEOâ€™s and giving them advice on how to survive . I mean today?
No offense, but get over yourselves.
If you have a good business, these letters are ridiculous in the timing. Maybe force them to read this letter upon funding and make them memorize it, but at this point, it reeks of panic and fear.
I have been telling any of the CEOâ€™s that will listen to me, to THINK about how we turn this panic into an opportunity. We all have weak investments and weak CEOâ€™s, but a blast email on October 7th is absurd. Anyways, I am poor and they are rich, so thatâ€™s that. So while the rest of the world panics, you can panic too, or you can take a few steps back and remember how fortunate you are to be reading this blog, because if you are, you are â€˜Too Small to Fail.â€™ So what do I mean by that?
I canâ€™t fire myself. I am nimble and lean and have a plan. I see this panic and I want to think about the afterbirth of it. Panicâ€™s end. If you are smart and a little lucky, you will survive in good stead and historically, great things happen.
Read that last line 7 times in a row.
I’m also reading Brad Feld: Ok Entrepreneurs, Time to Step Up (quoting) -
My recommendation to all of you entrepreneurs out there is to get off the negative sentiment treadmill, step up, and lead.Â The people working for your company are likely confused, concerned, and overwhelmed with all the noise in the system.Â Â In the near term, building your business will likely be more challenging on a number of dimensions.Â So what - that’s the normal cycle of business.Â You don’t need to be a blind optimist and spout happy talk, but you do need to have a clear sense of purpose and goals for your company.Â Leadership 101.
I emphasized the “so what” for a reason.
I’m also watching Gary Vaynerchuk.Â Take 15 minutes and tell me you’re not excited and inspired.
So, here’s the thing - we roll with the punches. Defrag’s topic isn’t changing and our sessions are on point, but my new mission is simple: You WILL leave defrag inspired, optimistic and ready to go make something happen in this downturn. We can all figure this out. Now, not all of the startups will survive, but that’s okay. Let’s get together, work this out, figure out how to land customers *together* and then go make it happen.
And if you’re a “customer” - then you MUST be there. This is your chance to shape, mold, twist and mutilate the next round of products to PERFECTLY SUIT YOUR NEEDS. If you’re not there, telling folks what you want - then it is your fault when you don’t get what you need.
Bottom line: let’s use Defrag to set aside all of this gloom and doom. Let’s *not* turn into the “baby” that I become when I’m sick. Let’s get inspired. Work hard. Work together. And, finally, truly bring some innovation to ground. In some ways, we’re now all paying the price for “web 2.0″ - but the coming days are the days that will really matter.
Recapping 10 reasons to come to defrag (and, really, there are many more than 10 reasons):
#10: Next-gen email thinking: emailâ€™s broken and weâ€™re discussing how to fix it.
#9: Grounded Optimism: Economic realism plus strategy equals grounded optimism.
#8: An Intimate Setting: Tired of expo aisles? Join us.
#7: Learn something you can actually apply: Ask big questions and get some actionable answers.
#6: The People: Defragâ€™s attendees, speakers and participants are really what itâ€™s all about.
#5: Transparency is the new black: “Collaboration” vendors are about to start pushing “transparency.”
#4:Â The Conversation: No death by PowerPoint. All conversation, all the time.
#3: BoF dinners:Â Birds of a Feather dinners (at the end of day 1) help you to dive more deeply into a specific topic.
#2:Â Great Wifi: No really. A tech conference with great wifi.
#1:Â You: We really do want *you* there.
Make sure to join us.