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The Detroit Tidbit

For some reason, a link caught my eye this morning that highlighted all of the homes you can buy in Detroit for $1,000.00 (or under). Yep, you read that correctly - a grand for a house. At first I thought, "they must be shacks." I was wrong. They're brick houses. For a grand. WHAT?!?! Set aside what neighborhood they're in, or the fact that, well, Detroit probably isn't on most people's "must live there" list. My brain immediately jumped to - "one house! why don't I buy 10 houses!?!" And then, "wait, do you think I can buy 10 houses right next to each other and own a whole block?" Pretty soon, I had a little twitter conversation going, and ideas were flying around about getting a group of 10-15 people together and purchasing a huge portion of Detroit (like a 12 square block area). Next, I was thinking that if I was the CEO of Tesla Motors, I'd move my whole operation to Detroit, and give every Sr. manager a "10-home" bonus. I mean, seriously, could you "innovate" a whole city just by buying insanely cheap real estate, bringing people with you and starting something cool? If you and 10 other people owned 12 square blocks, what kind of weird wifi networking experiments could you set up? Could you automate your 12 blocks via twitter? Think of the possibilities! Think of the sheer potential! You're probably wondering what this has to do with Glue. I'm glad you asked. Often, in the midst of times like these, we stumble upon what looks like some interesting tidbit. And sometimes, that "tidbit" turns out to be a diamond in the rough. And every now and then, you wake up 5 years from now wondering how you stumbled into such amazing innovation -- and it turns out it came from that tidbit. The point is that while the world is going through it's current collective convulsions, there is still plenty of room for innovation and moving the "glue space" forward. We're going to do just that. Some ideas will be radical. Some crazy. Some brilliant. But there are going to be plenty of them. Make sure you don't miss out on that little tidbit that could end up changing your entire life. Register today.

Running on full

As I work through the Glue agenda, I'm finding myself in a position of having WAY too much to cover and not enough room. I don't mean that in a "i've got to cram my sponsor's product pitches onto the agenda" sense; I mean it in a "there is just too much to cover -- purely topically" sense. Here's what I'm looking at (both on the agenda and floating around in my head): 1. This whole area of app development frameworks/environments. I mean everything from Azure to Google App Engine to Tweetapp (a framework for developing twitter apps *on* Google app engine) to Morph Labs to you name it. 2. App hosting, measuring, reporting, governance, etc . Here I mean everything from cloud hosting to things like Engine Yard's vertebra stuff (hey - engine yard - call me back!), to Appistry's stuff to the myriad other cloud offerings out there (SOASTA, New Relic, etc) -- and, by the way, there is virtually NO overlap in offerings. 3. The whole API - REST universe. And, man, is this one big! From leveraging API infrastructure (best buy) to the shifting landscape of SOA to WOA (and REST) to aggregating and standardizing APIs - yikes. 4. Data Portability/Continuity. Coghead anyone? There are *serious* interop issues in the Glue universe that aren't so much about interop-in (interacting) as interop-out (getting your stuff if something dies). 5. Virtualization, Context, Identity, Social Data -- the list seems endless. 6. Did I mention things like webhooks, cloud databases, or evolving client-server models? When I start a new conference, it's always nice to have a big, chunky problem-set, so that you know you'll have something with legs to run. The trick is to put fences down very carefully (if at all) early on. Glue's problem-set revolves around the massive shift happening as all of our applications move to the web as platform -- and I guess I've reached the point where I'm seeing just how BIG big is. The truth is, I've got enough content to go "5-wide" (5 concurrent sessions at a time). That won't happen this year, so some things won't make the cut. But for Glue 2010- watch out. Hey look - I know it's tough out there, and I know the vibe in a lot of places is emphasizing the complete lack of innovation. But if you dig in to what developers are actually working on right now, the innovation is off the charts. Don't sit on your hands at home; don't let 'em get ya down; come join us.

Getting the worm

[sidenote: Has it really been weeks since I've posted here? Apologies. Please remember that those of you that care can find me on Twitter -- either @gluecon (the official twitter stream) or @defrag (which contains my random, non-sensical ramblings). ] I was thinking this morning -- when someone says something about "getting the worm," my brain flashes back to one night of particularly bad decision-making with a friend in Georgia that included a bottle of mezcal and the quest for the insect at the bottom --- however, for most people in the conference business, "getting the worm," more likely triggers thoughts of "early bird pricing." This post, then, is not about mezcal, but rather about the early bird discount for Glue. Namely, that it's set to expire on the 28th -- after which the price will go from $395 to $495. Yeah, it's only 100 bucks, and yea, that still makes Glue the best conference deal you'll find this spring (check around) -- but it's still 100 bucks you can save, and so you should. If you're wondering why you should come, just have a look at the agenda. And, then remember that we're not done yet. Register today folks; get the worm.

A down day leads to an agenda refresh

I'm a bit under the weather today, so I ended canceling my Monday phone calls (which makes Tueday through Thursday hellish, of course). That left me with some "easy time" to work on the Glue agenda - something which I get more excited about every day. Here are some updates: 1. In case you missed it earlier David Heinemeier Hansson and Mitch Kapor were announced as Keynote speakers. 2. To that I've now added Josh Elman (of the Facebook Platform group) and Bob Frankston (co-creator of VisiCalc). Facebook's recent movements around "openness" should provide a pretty fertile foundation for Josh talking about what "gluing together the web" looks like from Facebook's perspective, and Bob (who is just flat out, scary smart) will be addressing how we need to re-think some of our assumptions around bindings, platforms and achieving the structures of simplicity needed for innovation. 3. Keynotes are always fun to ooh and ahhh over, but when you really start to dig into Glue's agenda, things get truly glorious (hat tip to Will Ferrell). Sidenote: I'm now writing about stuff that, for the most part, hasn't even been updated on the agenda page yet. 4. Pam Dingle, of Nulli Secundus (and one of the smartest "identity people" I know) is going to be leading a workshop session on the "domain-less" enterprise. That is, "how far could a company get today, with the tools and protocols available to them, towards creating a business where employees could access exactly the same work environment from any computer in any location, without any concept of being inside or outside a network perimeter. " The session will take a look at what's available in the way of distributed identity tools, and specifically show how to do this with Microsoft's beta Geneva set of tools, as well as a "how to" with open source tools. [sidenote: those of you that have seen me write about optimism in the past know that I love Pam's blog's name.] 5. A session around Data Portability will feature Daniela Barbosa and Chris Saad from the Data Portability Working Group and Ben Metcalfe with a perspective of what he thinks is right and wrong about data portability. I think this discussion is *vital* to the overall Glue picture, and I'm hoping this talk (in particular) draws a bunch of the cloud computing crowd. 6. There's a session coming together around Cloud database standards. The whole idea actually comes from a post that Albert Wenger wrote, and the session is meant to tease out some of the threads around what I'm finding to be a REALLY important topic to this whole "glue mess" (databases, that is). We've enlisted Alex Iskold of Adaptive Blue so far (Alex made a key design decision around SimpleDB), and I've got invites out to some Google folks, etc. [sidenote: I applaud Alex's product naming choice. ] 7. There are a whole bunch of sessions coming together around web app description languages (needed?), cloud interoperability on a grand scale (possible?), the open social stack, and how RESful APIs play into rich internet applications....and so much more. 8. I'm also adding some key moderators/discussion leaders -- notably, Jeff Nolan and Stewart Alsop (of Alsop Louie Partners). 9. Don't forget all of the already announced stuff around Web Oriented Archiecture (Aaron Fulkerson), Harnessing the Cloud (Mike West of Saugatech Research), Leveraging API infrastructure (Kevin Matheny from Best Buy and Oren Michels from Mashery), Complex event processing across web apps (Mike Clymer), etc etc. 10. And the best part of all? The agenda isn't even CLOSE to finished, so the goodies are just gonna keep on rolling in. Topics yet to come: data integration and mashups, web app integration, glue metrics, gluing together devices and data, social networks and glue, the evolution of the client-server model, etc. I really hope you're gonna choose to join us for Gluecon. If you wanna get lost in the crowds and listen to some non-impactful stuff, go somewhere else. If you want intimacy, connections, and sessions and interactions with impact, come to Glue. Seriously. (last sidenote: don't just take my word for it, ask Pete Warden or Sameer Patel, or Zoli Erdos about the kinds of interactions you can expect.)

The Glue agenda starts to get sticky

We just posted the newest glue agenda - and though it is obviously still a work in progress, some things are beginning to flesh out. I won't recount every update here, but I would like to call attention to two very exciting ones: 1. Mitch Kapor has signed on as a keynoter for Gluecon. If you're not familiar with Mitch - well, shame on you for not knowing your tech history - go read wikipedia (see link). Mitch has some pretty significant interests in the "glue space" and plans to lay out how he thinks these trends will lay out. We should probably all listen very closely. 2. Kevin Matheny, the mastermind behind Best Buy's Remix initiative will be joining us. Specifically, Kevin will be addressing the topic of how you manage and leverage API infrastructure. 3. We're bringing together some "subject matter experts" in really interesting ways: Aaron Fulkerson (of MindTouch fame) on Web Oriented Architecture, Andre Durand on where identity *should* head from here, Andy Morgan around edge-side includes and building below the browser, Phil Windley (ex-CIO for the State of Utah) on building context aware applications using identity, and so so so much more. 4. Lastly, the guys from the "platforms" side of Facebook (we're still confirming exactly who) will be showing up to interact around the whole "open social" stack and where they see such things going (and how they plan to build out Facebook). A lot of stuff is still in play, and February will be the month where I really put meat on the bones, so stay tuned. In the meantime, if you're thinking of participating at Gluecon (we don't have attendees, we have participants), then go register. And if you're a sponsor that would like to be involved with what's shaping up to be THE coolest conference this spring, drop me a note (enorlin AT mac.com).

Defrag vs. Glue

I think most people know that I also run the Defrag conference. We launched Defrag two years ago, and it's been on a tear ever since. So, I was pretty intrigued the other day when someone sent me a message via Twitter asking that I explain the difference between Defrag and Glue. After a bit of thought, I think the question makes perfect sense -- so, here we go (hat tip to the joker): Defrag was started to really look at the problem set around data fragmentation (information overload?), and how individuals and groups can more effectively and efficiently deal with it. The metaphor I always use to explain Defrag is that of the "brainstorming" session. If you imagine that the internet is really just all of us trying to recreate a brainstorming session, then you can say that we've -- A) solved the problem of being in the same time (simultaneity); B) solved the problem of being in the same space (co-location) and C) are pretty far down the path of solving knowing who is in the room (identity). What we haven't done is build any tools that help us to speed up the process of insight (both for individuals or groups). We haven't found a way to "accelerate the 'aha' moment." That is what Defrag is about. And that "topic" allows us to draw all kinds of intersections between the semantic web, enterprise 2.0, the contextual web, business intelligence, social computing, etc. Glue has some overlapping topic areas, but really is looking at an entirely different problem-set. Glue says "okay, ASSUME that the cloud has happened, that SaaS is a forgone conclusion and that everyone (both inside and outside of the enterprise) just *knows* that the web is the platform -- now what?" That assumption puts us on the fast track of where architect's and developer's heads will need to be in a few years time. Suddenly, we're in the land of web oriented architecture and web application integration (a land of clouds, services, etc) - and the problems are BIG ones. They're not just interoperability and integration, though those are certainly two huge ones. The problems are also ones of context across web apps, API infrastructure management, data integration (mashups), etc. Where Defrag is very "strategic" in it's focusing, Glue immediately wants to get "down in the trenches" of what clouds, web apps and web architecture really means. As I look at the agenda for Glue, I'm seeing things come together around XMPP's role in the future of architecture, Edge side includes that happen *below* the browser (andy morgan's session), how Best Buy is managing API infrastructure with their Remix launch (kevin matheny from best buy), what it means to have users "co-create" lenses for data (brian oberkirch), how you can build contextually-aware applications using identity (phil windley) -- ie, REALLY cool, meaty topics that either A) matter to developers and architects right now, or B) will matter to them in the near future. One other note: Glue is meant to be much more "workshop-y." The content is split a bit more (3 wide sessions vs. largely 1 room for Defrag), more "open space" time, more focus on "code on the screen" in some breakout workshops. We're even working on bringing a Facebook Developer's Garage hack session to sit along side of Glue (shhh - don't tell anyone - that's a secret). So, is there some topic overlap between Glue and Defrag? Yeah - a little. But really, they're pretty different events. Different problem-sets, different structures, different people -- same great experience, location, logistics, etc.I'm getting excited just writing about it - and I'll be publishing a new agenda soon too, so be sure to look for that. In the meantime, don't delay, register today. I'm not ashamed to say that at the price for attending Glue ($395 for 2 FULL days of conference experience), you will not be disappointed (heck, there are some unconferences charging nearly as much as we are, and we'll have better amenities). Here's a bonus - use "early1" for an additional $50 off. update: I'm VERY pleased to announce that Mitch Kapor, founder of Lotus Development Corporation, founder of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, chairperson of the Mozilla Foundation, and founder of the Open Source Applications Foundation, has signed on to keynote Glue.

Time for thinking big

Layoffs, conference cancellations, doom and gloom - all just another day in the life of the tech world, right? After a early morning phone conversation with my old partner-in-crime Andre Durand, I'm reminded of the 2001-2002 time period (when Andre and I started working together). You know what we did during that recession? We thought BIG; we dreamed BIG. We started an identity conference when it made absolutely no sense to do so. We started working on a problem (identity) that was so big that we were literally innovating from zero. The best startups I know right now are focused on two simultaneous paths: 1) get to profitability fast; 2) focus on the next big problem in their space. Number 1 is obvious, and everyone immediately nods in agreement. Number 2 often leaves boards and bystanders going "huh?" The truth is that THIS is the time for innovation. Two years ago, when every business plan was a "me-too" wasn't. Two years ago was the time to really drive toward profitability. Not that you don't want that now (you do), but don't forget that innovation is best done when your entire environment is a wasteland. Now is the time to go "crush it" (hat tip to Gary V.). Where "crushing it" isn't simply a sale process; crushing it means figuring out what your customers will want before they know it. It means opening up new markets, not simply tapping existing ones. Why is this true? Because innovation takes time. Lots and lots of time (sweat, blood, tears, etc). If you wait until the economy turns to innovate, you'll miss the next cycle. If you wait to *create* the next great software market, you'll be launching as we enter the next recession. You need to start RIGHT NOW. Then, 2-3 years from now, you can look up and know that you're well positioned to take advantage of the next cycle. And yes, it is ALL about cycles. Success in the software industry is as much about riding cycles as anything else. Cycles are easy and predictable. Step one: if everyone thinks something is a the key to the "next cycle of innovation" it isn't. Step two: dare to dream big. Step three: create your next market and ride the cycle (by altering your original vision as the market kicks back in). Step four: when people start talking about how "it's different this time" (real estate, private equity, web 2.0, whatever), prepare for the downturn. Step five: repeat. So, what is one of the next big cyclical trends? Glue. The premise is really quite simple: everything (inside, outside and around the enterprise, as well as the consumer software space) is going to move onto the web as platform over the next 10-15 years. Yes, everything (see, I'm being bold and thinking big). When everything moves to the web that creates a ton of problems from both an infrastructural and architectural sense. From an infrastructure perspective, it means that companies like Mashery and Gnip and Boomi (all smart Glue sponsors; Glue sponsors are, by definition, smart) are going to focus on the severe problems that "living in the API" brings. We can't even begin to quantify what those problems are yet - but we're smart enough to know that it's big and it's there. From an architectural perspective, it means companies like Socialcast, MindTouch, and Ping Identity (and other Glue sponsors) are going to be trying to figure out how problems of data integration, context across apps, and *true* web oriented architecture will change EVERYTHING about software (and architectural deployment) in the enterprise. From purchasing to business process to implementation, nothing will be untouched. Nothing. Big statements. Lots of black and white, right? Don't mistake "big black and white statements" for certainty. That's not it. Rather, it's a recognition that there is a train coming down the tech tracks that is unstoppable. You can get on board, or you can get run over. Getting on board doesn't mean that we've solved anything. It means that we collectively understand the problem, and that that problem is the fertile ground of innovation. It doesn't matter if you're in the cloud business, the data integration business, the identity business, or whatever - the truth is that the changes that Glue outlines provide the "hope and change" that will drive the real innovation of the *next* cycle. Either you can step aside and ride this current cycle down. Or you can realize that a new one will begin, and help us define what that means. Don't wait for someone else to give you a moniker for the next go-around. Come and join us over here today. ;-)

Measuring conference sponsorship

Jason Rothbart, of Groupswim, has put a post up on Read/WriteWeb questioning whether or not the ROI on conference sponsorship is worth it. Someone asked if it upset me, and I think was a bit surprised to hear me say that I agree with much of what Jason says. Check out his post, and then check out my comments: 1. Tradeshows v. Conferences: Jason lumps what I would classify as "tradeshows" and conferences together. Dreamforce, Web2.0 expo, etc are definitely "tradeshows," and one could argue that Enterprise 2.0 (once it crossed the "1k people on the floor" mark) started tilting toward "tradeshow." I've written about the spectrum between tradeshows and conferences, and I think that's actually a fairly good mechanism for startups to use when evaluating conferences. 2. Worth it? I'm not gonna sit here and argue that conference "sponsorships" are worth it - a lot aren't. If I didn't think there was room to beat my competition, I wouldn't be in business. That, by it's very nature, means that I think a lot of conference sponsorships aren't worth it. Some, however, are. The "trick" is in finding the right ones. 3. How to find the right conference: see, that's a tough one (and no, I wasn't gonna say "just come to Glue and Defrag"). Conference sponsorships should be evaluated on several fronts and *measured* on several fronts. The evaluation fronts can include: sales leads, analyst meetings, press meetings, partnership (business development) meetings, community development. Let me set aside measuring sales leads for one second. The "analyst/press" side of things is important to a lot of companies, but I rarely see startups handle it correctly (large companies usually do). If you're going to be a conference sponsor, and there's going to be any kind of critical mass of analysts there (3-6), then you need to "work the calendar" to make sure that you've got those meetings/briefings on the books. The expense of a face-to-face roadshow with analysts can be folded into a conference schedule. The partnership and community development sides of things are actually harder to measure, but maybe the most important. I will say that I think there is a *direct* correlation between startups that *smartly* spend on conference sponsorships and startups that get acquired. People don't realize how many acquisitions happen because one engineer meets another engineer at a conference, and their conversation about how well they would work together floats up to the right levels. That happens at conferences. Period. sidenote: Jason mentions "attendance going down" at conferences. I think he's right -- you'll see that at tradeshows. You won't see that everywhere. Conferences like Glue and Defrag (ie, smaller, community focused events) won't see a big drop-off. I know because I've seen this cycle before. Spend time finding the right conferences. You'll know them when you find them (hint: I run two.) ;-) 4. Measuring sales leads: Okay, the biggie -- how do you measure the "sales" side of a conference. First off, actually measure it (most marketing sides of startups don't). Second, make sure you're measuring EVERYTHING in your marketing spend. That means you should track not only "cost per lead" but also the *time* it takes to run through the pipe, and the "sales cost" of any face to face meetings. I'd bet that you'll find that a lead that comes in via Google adwords will A) take longer to close (time is money) and B) require more dollars spent on face to face meetings. Now, to measure a conference, realize that it's about quality, not quantity. In fact, all conference measurement should be about quality measurement. Getting 2000 leads at a tradeshow doesn't mean anything if most of those 2k leads were people that don't actually have any interest in buying your software. So, how do you measure quality? Simple. Dollars in, dollars out. If you spend $5000 at a conference, and you only get 1 good lead, it's okay -- as long as that 1 lead results in ROI for that 5k. Spending 5k for 1 lead that results in six figure licensing deals is a spend most marketers will make all day long. Is the "cost per lead" high? Sure is. But is the ROI on the dollars spent good? Oh yea. Now add in the "time to close" and "additional dollars spent to close" and see where you stand. Bottom line: evaluate a conference's lead ROI based on how much actual revenue it generates for your company. [sidenote: the commenter on RWW that says online advertising is more measurable than conference sponsorship isn't thinking about the full range of how this all works.] 5. Everything else: What else are you going to spend marketing dollars on? Webinars, search engines, analyst presentations/reports, custom f2f roadshows, banner ads -- the list is long. My advice here is simple -- where the spend is best is partially determined by your business model/industry. However, *make sure* you're thinking in terms of "campaigns" not just spend. Ideally, a "lead" is "touched" by you 4-7 times via multiple channels in the course of a campaign (where you run 2-4 major campaigns in spend-year). Somewhere in that 4-7x "touch," you'd really like to shake that gal's hand, look 'em in the eye, and start "working on the close." That, my friends, is what conferences are for. I hope this helps folks frame things a bit. By the way, if you're a start-up in the Glue or Defrag spaces, I'm MORE than happy to spend time with you on this. I used to be a VP of Marketing for a startup, so I understand the "dollar struggle." I also understand how to help maximize the bang for your buck. Just ask. ;-) Conferences are an integral part of marketing in the startup world, and that's not going to change. However, that doesn't mean startups should blow 75k on parties and a 20' x 20' foot booth at a tradeshow at Moscone. Be smart, be measured, and most of all - see it as part of a larger scheme.

Creating Silos

I came across this Infoworld article about Gartner's predictions for the business intelligence market (aside: I think business intelligence will be a much bigger part of this year's Defrag conference), and this specific bit hit me (emphasis mine):
"So business units will increase spending on packaged analytics, including corporate performance management, predictive analytics, and online marketing BI wares. In so doing, however, they "risk creating silos of applications and information, which will limit cross-function analysis, add complexity, and delay corporate planning and execution of changes," said Nigel Rayner, research vice president at Gartner, in a prepared statement."
There's something very interesting happening in enterprise software. Business units are starting to purchase software (as a service) that uses the web as a platform (obviously). And because of that, the "silo" problem is going to get radically worse - and fast. The problems that result are not just business process oriented, but are also fundamentally architectural in nature. Of course, the larger problem isn't just in the enterprise. The "problem" (opportunity) lies in the web becoming the platform. The IT function inside of enterprises spent an enormous amount of money and time in the late 90s trying to solve the "enterprise application integration" problem. Huge companies were made in the process (Oracle, CA, heck - just about everybody). But just as that problem is at least partially under control, we're now facing the web application integration problem. (sidenote: I'm officially claiming "WAI" as an acronym.) Web application integration is the meta-theme for Glue. It's what brings together cloud computing, APIs, WOA, data integration, identity, context, the open social stack --all of it. It is important that we realize that this trend is being driven not only by the innovation that's occurred around the web as platform over the last few years (call it "web 2.0"), but also by the adoption of software by *business units*. This fundamental shift will remake IT in the enterprise as we know it (over the next 10 years). We can already begin to see that in statements about how business units have "lost faith" in IT's ability to deliver what business units need. And what's the result? Business units are now just providing it for themselves. The architectural implications of that bit alone are enormous. But I'm assuming that IT units are not just going to go quietly into that dark night. CIOs and enterprise architects aren't just going to give up their livelihood. Nor should they. The problems created by business unit adoption (complexity, lack of cross-app functionality, a completely un-orchestrated approach to IT) can ultimately lead us to a place where technology is giving business ZERO productivity gains. So, what's an enterprise architect to do? Begin to understand the shovels and picks and tools that will help "glue" it all together. It doesn't really matter what the software *does* (it could be BI, or expense management, or CRM, or identity management), what matters is how it interacts and intersects with other applications. Getting a handle on it means understanding the nuts and bolts of things like scaling APIs, XMPP, event driven architecture, running apps in the cloud, cross-app context, etc. It means that some of the seemingly "consumer facing" problems and solutions that exist today will be the foundation for enterprise solutions tomorrow. If IT simply allows silos to be created all over again on the web, the problem will be much worse this time around. The web is open, networked, and, in a sense, not tame-able. It calls for the kind of radically distributed architecture that SOA has promised and (largely by no fault of it's own) failed to deliver. It's the big opportunity that Glue is addressing. And I'd love to hear your thoughts about how to address it properly.

No, I'm not nuts

A couple of threads seem to be converging around "tech conferences" these days, so I'm feeling prompted to add to the mix. Computerworld is reporting about Gartner canceling two "flagship" events, MacWorld losing Apple for 2010, Novell canceling Brainshare, and general doom and gloom in the tech conference space. We're also seeing the apparent shuttering of the European Dreamforce and a 22% drop in attendance at CES. In the midst of all of this, we're launching Glue. All of which begs the question: Am I nuts? (Several people have asked me this.) The answer, quite simply, is no. First, let me preface my explanation by positing that there is a big difference between a "tradeshow" and a "conference." I view it as a spectrum with "tradeshow" on one side and "conference" on the other. A tradeshow is about scalability and size. Tradeshows are *massive* undertakings (and I should disclose that I have never personally operated a tradeshow, though I have worked on them in the past). Tradeshows invariably end up viewing the exhibitors and sponsors as their customers because that is where the vast majority of their revenue comes from. The result (try as the organizers might) tends to be a forum for vendor pitches and product launches -- which aren't bad in and of themselves, but they do dictate a certain dynamic for attendees. The dynamic is less about intimate networking, community and real interaction, and more about buzz, volume of sales leads and parties. Conferences, on the other hand, are a bit different. At the farthest end of the spectrum, a conference would derive NO revenue from sponsors and exist solely on attendee registrations. I've only personally ever seen this done by Esther Dyson with PC Forum (my favorite conference of all time). Most conferences (Glue and Defrag included) can't simply rely on attendee registrations, so they also have a mix of sponsor revenue thrown in. This is where the key to understanding what makes a "good" conference "good" lies. A good conference is defined by the fact that the organizer explicitly realizes that even though sponsors give them revenue, they are NOT the customer (that's a hard pill to swallow -- especially for sponsors -- but it is always the truth). The customer of a conference is the attendee. There's just no way around that. A conference lives and dies through fostering a community of attendees that derive value from the content, interaction and community-building that takes place at said conference. And that's the hard part. I'm a pretty good salesperson when it comes to conferences. I work my butt off, and it doesn't always come easy, but I'm good at it. However, the effort I put into sales is not "brain power" effort - it's just brute-force work. The real "brain power" effort for Glue (and Defrag) comes in the content, "attendee" participation (I prefer "participant" over attendee), and subsequent community that gets built. For that, I lean heavily on *you* (all of you). That is the key to a good conference. Now, it's not the only key. Logistics count (I thank the heavens every day for my wife Kim, who handles logistics). Details matter. Knowing how to run the operation matters. But above all else, community matters. All of which leads to the inevitable question: how do you build community? I wish I had some nice, neat answer. I don't. Community building is flat-out hard work. Beyond that, it's hard work that takes *time*, the passion to care about the conference topic, and a nearly obsessive desire to engage with real people (not sales leads, real people). Companies that succeed as sponsors of conferences understand that. They put as much effort into "engagement" as they spend. Same goes for me. Why am I on twitter? Because it is an amazing way to engage with people. Why do I blog? It's certainly not to hear myself think. Why am I always on the lookout for tools like Eventvue? Community, community, community. Am I saying that everyone should come (or will come) to Glue? Of course not. But if the topic is appropriate to your work (or your passion, or whatever), then you absolutely should come. Reason being: Every sponsor at Glue, every attendee at Glue, and everyone involved in organizing Glue is coming at this with just as much "skin in the game" as you are. We're all in this together -- building something that isn't quite there yet; figuring out the problems that aren't correctly scoped; helping each other find solutions via new business, partnerships, or even hallway hack sessions; forming (dare I say it?) a "community." That is why tradeshows will fail, while Glue succeeds. That's why some conferences will feel bland, while Glue is packed with excitement and innovation. That's what matters - hard work, innovation, and all of you. ;-) I hope you'll join us.  (Eric gets off his soapbox and promises this will be the only post of this kind between now and Glue.)