Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Hallucination or Vision? Smart Content Conference

The conference is in the final stretch.  Despite a few technology glitches, (network overload and dead batteries), all is going extremely well.  I've been facilitating introductions and am impressed with the level of collaboration I'm seeing between media companies, technology innovators, and solution providers.  I got to meet Rachel Lovinger of Razorfish, and found her to be both pragmatic and approachable.  Her comment "information needs to be free.. Like a bird, not beer." was well received.  She meant that the data needs to be allowed to physically be where the users need it.  She said ironically, what makes that happen is more structure.  She presented some possible scenarios in which our data will need to be presented (maybe a hologram deck 13 years in the future?  I need to think about this in the context of my next gig.)

I also found that, confidentially, several of our speakers plan to launch companies and products very soon in the future.  I was listening for clues to find out who was going to be do what and to see who wanted to meet with whom that seemed out of context.  I will be watching those Linked In profiles like a hawk.

As Seth and I have organized this conference, we've been struck by the irony of he fact that we ourselves are experiencing many of the specific problems we're inviting speakers to solve:

- Semantics.  We knew the types of people we wanted to attract as both speakers and attendees  but what titles do they have?  It would be GREAT if people would self-identify as "content analytics specialists" or "content strategists" but, these titles don't really exist yet.

- Information granularity.  I invited the attendees to fill out a matchmaking survey, but we didn't require people to fill out pre-defined answer sets.  Free text was important, because we wanted to find out what our attendees were calling both themselves and were requesting in terms of help in their own words.

- Information silos.  From the mailing lists we used to the surveys, the data didn't line up. So there was a lot of imperfect human cross-indexing (by me - and the surveys are still coming in!)  Seth suggests that one day, the data would line up and find its 'pairing', very much like the movie Avatar in which the blue-painted forest denizens could simply plug in their 'braid' to the horse's mane, and be able to 'just go'.  What a cool visual.  

My former boss and mentor, Myer Berlow, once asked me the difference between a hallucination and a vision.  He said it was "How many people see it". 

I'm grateful so many industries are here. More importantly, we have a great variety of job titles represented.  We're starting to get on the same page, and it's gratifying to know we are beginning to see the same vision.  

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