I was reading Ray Ozzie’s blog this morning, and this struck me (quoting at length):
In 1939, in New York City, there was an amazing World’s Fair. It was called ‘the greatest show of all time’.
In that year Americans were exhausted, having lived through a decade of depression. Unemployment still hovered above 17%. In Europe, the next world war was brewing. It was an undeniably dark juncture for us all.
And yet, this 1939 World’s Fair opened in a way that evoked broad and acute hope: the promise of a glorious future. There were pavilions from industry & countries all across the world showing vision; showing progress: The Futurama; The World of Tomorrow. Icons conjuring up images of the future: The Trylon; The Perisphere.
The fair’s theme: Dawn of a New Day.
Surrounding the event, stories were written and vividly told to help everyone envision and dream of a future of modern conveniences; superhighways & spacious suburbs; technological wonders to alleviate hardship and improve everyday life.
The fair’s exhibits and stories laid a broad-based imprint across society of what needed to be done. To plausibly leap from such a dark time to such a potentially wonderful future meant having an attitude, individually and collectively, that we could achieve whatever we set our minds to. That anything was possible.
In the following years – fueled both by what was necessary for survival and by our hope for the future – manufacturing jumped 50%. Technological breakthroughs abounded. What had been so hopefully and optimistically imagined by many, was achieved by all.
And, as their children, now we’re living their dreams.
There’s something incredibly inspirational (even if a bit maudlin) in that statement. Look, I’m a notoriously late adopter when it comes to 99% of technology, and yet I run/own tech conferences focused on bleeding edge stuff. Why? Because I’m addicted to the dawn of a new day. Because optimism wins out (every time). Because I believe deep in my core that, for all of humanity’s inherent and unavoidable faults, we really are capable of innovation that often seems not-of-this-world.
So, sentimentality aside, Defrag is precisely about the dawning of new days; every day; over and over and over again. It’s why you won’t find case studies detailing what’s happening *right now* inside of an enterprise. And I think it’s why our audience is so unique.
Take Alex Moore of Baydin Software. If you haven’t heard Baydin’s tale of the $100k taxi ride – go read it (i’ll wait here). I asked Alex to come present at Defrag somewhere around 4 or 5 months ago — precisely because I didn’t get what he was doing, but I knew he had the “right level of craziness.” I love that Baydin got funded on a “taxi ride.” I love that they’re coming to Defrag. I’ll take that kind of on the edge thinking over “here’s how to integrate a compliance solution for your collaborative environment” case study every day of the week and twice on Sunday.
Here’s what been-to-every-Defrag attendee Ed Costello said recently:
I come to Defrag to be challenged on what I know to be true in technology today. I first came to Defrag entirely on a whim, based on a writeup on Brad Feld’s blog and the gut assessment: “this looks interesting.” From the very first keynote in 2007 when David Weinberger managed to cause quite a few people to moisten their eyes if not cry, to last year’s infuriating yet regrettably accurate talk by Andy Kessler on permanent restructuring of the American economy, I’ve been challenged to alter, shift, rethink, and reassemble my beliefs and ideas about how technology can be used by organizations, businesses, and society at large. Moreso than other technology conferences, Eric Norlin gathers a great collection of speakers who interact with the audience and become part of the entire experience — no “hit–and–run, drive–by, drop–in for twenty minutes then off to the next conference” speakers. Speakers challenge attendees and attendees are encourage if not required to challenge the speakers back. Defrag is forty-eight hours of intense conversation, dialogue and argument about what technology can do for us, what it is doing to us, and where it can potentially take us.
Right about this time every year, I wake up under the crushing weight of planning details for Defrag (3 weeks out) and I can barely see out of my detail-swamp long enough to feel the excitement of Defrag.
That’s not the case this year.
Unemployment (real unemployment) is 17%. A “dark juncture” is here. And at Defrag, we’re gonna innovate toward the dawn of a new day. Join us.