Defrag vs. GlueI 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 bigLayoffs, 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 sponsorshipJason 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 SilosI 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.
Grasping at loosely coupled lightweight-nessI've been thinking about two different Glue topics along a similar line lately: identity and WOA. Filing this under "credit where credit is due," my thinking has been largely inspired by the good folks over at Burton Group -- as Anne Thomas Manes put up a barn burner of a post about SOA being dead, and Ian Glazer pulled me into thinking about SPML, SAML and that whole mess all over again. I'm not sure how to deal with this exactly, so let me begin with the separate topic areas. 1. Identity: When I say "identity," I know what that means to me. I helped to start Digital ID World, and spent a good amount of time being pretty heavily involved in understanding "identity." But that "identity" sense is thick with enterprise requirements. Identity (to me) means things like SAML (security assertion markup language), and SPML (service provisioning markup language) and concerns around liability in federation, and BIG enterprise projects that take 36 months to implement, etc. That's what "identity" has been to me since about 2002. The advent of software as a service and the rise of things like OpenID are changing that a bit. I know when Brad Feld speaks about how screwed up identity is online, he's referring something pretty different than my sense of identity. So what's the difference? Is it RESTful identity vs. SOAP-based identity? In some senses, yes. But I think the defining characteristic isn't a programming choice - it's a "loosely coupled" choice. My 2002-2008 sense of "identity" (and really I mean "identity management") is VERY tightly coupled. When you implement an identity management system, or build a federation, that's just the nature of the beast. Brad's sense (or so I gather), and the sense of folks that are more on the SaaS and Internet Identity side of things is much more loosely coupled. And beyond that, probably much more driven by what you can *do* with identity versus simply managing identity's properties and authorizations. 2. SOA: While I've never "worked" in the SOA movement, I've certainly followed it. My sense (as an outsider) is that SOA is falling along the same lines as my experience with identity. Which is to say that while SOA traditionally is very tightly coupled and technology/protocol focused. WOA (web oriented architecture) is much more loosely coupled and "what can we do" focused. (sidenote: yes, I know the irony of saying that SOA is "tightly coupled.") When I start to put those two pieces together, I can feel some of the "meta-themes" of Glue emerging: focusing on what we can do (versus a protocol-centric discussion), and really getting down to what it truly means to be loosely coupled. 1. What can we do focus: Have you ever worked in a big protocol group (an OASIS type of group) - you know a "standards setting" body? It's an exercise in frustration. And they rarely work. Not that we haven't had great things like SAML come out of bodies like that - we have. But it's a slow, plodding, maddening exercise in rule making and engineering perfection seeking. Contrast that with the feeling I get when developers just go "build something." They grab pieces of what works and slap them together to achieve an endpoint of functionality as fast as they can. Why? Because they want to *do* something with what they're building, not simply engineer the world's perfect spec for authenticating third party sites around height and weight attributes (or whatever). That "do something" sense of urgency seems to result in a light-weighted-ness that will always evade the standards bodies. 2. Loosely coupled: do you know what "loosely coupled" means? I mean, I know it makes good copy for a tech article or a book title, but do you know what it means? Yea, I didn't think so - me neither. Still, it seems that we now live in the era of the API -- or maybe I should say the era of the badly done API (depending on your take). The stuff that happens between APIs, and the stuff that dealing with APIs means once we back into applications is really an unknown quantity in most corners. My suspicion (and I'm not a developer, so I might be way off) is that the essence of being loosely coupled lies in between our APIs somewhere. Okay, so stir all of that up in your head for a minute. Now realize that when Glue seeks to address topics around "identity" or "web oriented architecture" (WOA), we're both trying to A) wrap our heads around some emergent, meta-qualities that the topics have in common and B) simultaneously dive deeply into what it means to make those isolated topics work together in service of *doing* something. Glue is not about topics for topic's sake. We can't be a "virtualization" or "cloud" or whatever confernece -- because Glue isn't about the static state of exploring the new tech buzzword. Glue wants to drive toward what happens between those topics -- between the cloud and WOA and identity (and a whole host of other things). As I've said before, it's the *between* that really matters here. And maybe (just maybe), in the course of focusing on that, we'll begin to uncover some emergent, meta-topics. I've badly phrased these first two (and rambled on for far too long), but call it a start.
The Spaces in BetweenI was reading a blog post the other day (for the life of me, I can't find it now) that was talking about "the spaces between" the Web API and the "cloud" (whatever that means) -- specifically, how it was that "space in between" where all of the real "action" was going to happen over the next few years. I have to say I tend to agree. Not that there isn't a lot of stuff to work out around cloud computing, virtualization, mobile computing, etc -- but the REALLY interesting stuff isn't what occurs *in* an area/space, it's what occurs between that area and another area. That thought is really helping me to sort through Glue topics, and, accordingly, I'm happy to announce that I've got our earliest of early draft agendas up (kind of, as I look on the website, I see that even it is not totally current). The thing I keep coming back to is how the topic/session ideas are addressing things that are about "the spaces in between." The spaces in between data, applications, architectural building blocks, messaging protcols, identity and context, etc. Beyond that, we need to start looking at the areas of need that span those in between spaces (governance in a cross-app, WOA environment, for example). So, go take a look at the agenda, and realize that a bunch of it is about to change, but you should still be able to get a good sense of *what* we're trying to wrap out head around with Glue. A few of the sessions that are confirmed might help a bit:
- David Heinemeier Hansson - As the creator of Ruby on Rails, David is pretty uniquely qualified to speak to "gluing" things together. Look for more keynotes of this caliber and type to be announced in the coming weeks (not months).
- Building Context Aware Services using Identity as a Foundation - Phil Windley.
- Using System Design to co-create lenses for data and context - Brian Oberkirch. Where Brian describes the session as: "Too much service design is orbiting around users creating content, whereas we're much more likely to collectively build on the fly contexts for something with bookmarks, comments, retweeting, etc. It would be interesting to look at system design as a place where you help users co-create lenses for data. "
Trying to avoid the glue play on wordsOkay, I've discovered the first problem with naming your conference Glue (no, it's not that other software companies have products named that): resisting the urge to title every blog post with some "cutesy" glue reference (i.e., "sticking things together," "drops of glue," "sniffing..." - you get it). In any case, it may be December (when the tech world always effectively shuts down), but we're still hard at work sketching out what Glue should look like. To that end, I'm *extremely* happy to announce our first keynoter: David Heinemeier Hansson, creator of the Ruby on Rails framework. David's the first in a long string of what I'm sure will be amazing folks that will be involved with Glue. Because I'd like to get more input around keynotes, topics, etc - I wanted to publish a "mind map" that I started working on for Glue:
Glue begins to take shapeIt seems like everyone is naming their product "Glue" these days (for the record, our first post here was on March 18th, 2008), but that's cool because Glue the conference is already starting to take shape. Our sponsors now include: Amazon Web Services, Gnip, MindTouch, NewsGator, Ping Identity, Microsoft, Cloud Ave, and Saugatuck Technology Research. A few notes, then:
- As I've been chatting with folks about Glue, the "vision" of what Glue will be has started to come into focus a bit more. It all begins with the assumption that the web is the platform, and then asks, "now what?" Put another way, Glue is exploring what it means when applications are just assumed to live on the web. The result is that three topics have immediately crystallized: cloud computing (infrastructure glue), data integration (data glue - where "data" means everything from mashups to identity), and web oriented architecture (or, what happens beyond SOA?). The format for topics like this is clearly a technical one, and folks I've spoken with are indicating a real hunger for a conference that's going to "go deep." Format-wise, that'll mean technical workshops, open spaces and hack-a-thons situated around more traditional "content."
- So, what kind of "specific" topic ideas have I started to receive? Jud Valeski of Gnip has offered up some great ideas that are indicative of the level/kind of stuff I think we'll end up having at Glue (quoting Jud): 1) "How do we evolve past LAMP" - the old, client-server-desktop, app building model died a long time ago, yet the "new way" hasn't been as good replacement in a lot of ways. why? how do we solve this? 2) "Keep it simple stupid" [WOA] = the best glues are often as simple as tree sap, highly complex chemically engineered glues are often overboard. 3) "Is the real cloud, actually glue?" - deploying code to virtualized instances is cool and all, but the cloud/glue is really abstracting the layers (e.g. data/db/big-table) and making those accessible in an "instance" independent way.
- That's just one topic area, but you get the point. Really "meaty" stuff.We're still way early in the process, but we're now officially working on this, so I'd love to hear from you. If you're interested in becoming a sponsor, please email me (enorlinATmac.com). Or, if you're feeling nutty and wanna register early (pre-agenda), go do so. The code "early1" will get you $50 bucks off of the already insanely-low price of $395.00.
A Sunday Morning Update
Quietly quietly, things are beginning to take their initial shape for the inaugural Glue conference. The naysayers point to O'Reilly shuttering events and say that launching a conference like Glue is crazy in 2009. I point to past experience, and Glue's pricing model, and say that Glue will be a huge hit. In fact, we're already seeing lots of interest:
1. Glue's advisory board now includes Zoli Erdos of Cloud Ave, Phil Wainewright of ZDNet, Chris Shipley of DEMO and Guidewire Group, and Albert Wenger of Union Square Ventures.
2. Glue's initial sponsors now include Gnip, Amazon Web Services, MindTouch and Cloud Ave.
So, what's next? Well, as we begin to flesh out the sponsor list, I'll also start digging into topic ideas. We know that the cloudification of everything will be important, but I also want to make sure we keep a firm hand on the rudder of web oriented architecture (WOA) and how things like widgets, federated identity, and data mash-ups are stitching together (or should I say "gluing") everything from content, to data to identity.
Why should you think about coming to Glue before we even have an agenda posted? Glue will be a technical, "workshop-y" look at everything that developers (both independent and enterprise) and architects need to understand as more and more and all applications move to the web as platform. And you just can't get that anywhere else - now or in 2009. You certainly can't get it for only $395 (for a 2 day conference). Register now.