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Archive for April 2009

An Important Indicator?

Phil Becker has been my partner in crime around conferences since 2002. In that time, Phil and I have shared endless conversations around the "cycles" that occur in the technology world (economically, developmentally, innovation-wise, etc). The other day, Phil and I were discussing the recent announcement by Eucalyptus Systems (a 5.5mm Series A), and pondering the significance of it all. Our thesis is this: Historically, truly significant periods of innovation in the world of modern information technology can be marked by some technology research work moving out of the world of pure research (be it academic or govnerment-driven) and into the world of commercial technology.  The examples (and these are just a couple) are not insignificant: 1. BSD-Unix: This history is a who's who of open source operating systems.  From the early beginnings of PDP-11, to the 1982 departure of Bill Joy (from Berkeley) to start Sun Microsystems, BSD marks a HUGELY significant innovation cycle in technology. 2. Mosaic:  Similarly, the development of the Mosaic browser (building on FTP, Usenet and Gopher) reads like a who's who of the founding of the world wide web. Marc Andreesen's move from the University to the founding of Netscape (and Netscape Navigator) may be the most significant technology development of our lifetimes. 3. Google:  The movement of the google search algorithm out of Stanford and into the commercial world is well documented, and certainly backs up our thesis. There are, of course, other examples (hell, you could argue Facebook fits this profile), but these serve as a good foundation. Now take a look at Eucalyptus.  Eucalyptus is now moving out of UC-Santa Barbara and into the commercial realm. In ALL of our analogies, this move marks the beginning of a very serious period of innovation in the tech world. Is the Eucalyptus move that significant? We can't know yet. But I'd argue that the thesis certainly bears watching. And, if we're right, then the open innovation field that Glue is seeking to explore sits on the cusp of something amazing. Perhaps I'm over-inflating things. But, perhaps not. Join us and help me figure this out.

A conference is about community

I've been watching with interest a great series of posts over on Pamela Dingle's blog. It all began when Pamela tried to get a blogger pass for the RSA conference. What really caught my eye, though, was James McGovern's response - specifically, "Achieving the goal of educating attendees is never the goal of those who run conferences." [sidenote: I OBJECT your honor!] Pamela, then responded to James with the very sensible point that it is all about attendees (I agree). And, finally, the RSA representative came back with some idiotic excuse about page views and technorati rankings. I've said all of this before, so forgive me for droning on, but... 1. Start by distinguishing between trade-shows and conferences. RSA is a trade show. Glue is a conference. Trade-shows (it is correct) get the huge majority of their revenue from the "expo" portion (i.e., vendors) - and, therefore, tend to view the vendor as their customer (if even subconsciously). Conferences, on the other hand, have a revenue stream that is more evenly split. And, therefore, have a choice... 2. A *badly* run conference doesn't understand that the attendees are the customer. A *badly* run conference mistakes sponsors (vendors) as customers, not realizing that without attendees you have NOTHING. 3. A well-run conference knows that your primary job is to make attendees happy. So, sorry James, there are some of us that have a goal of education of attendees (though your sweeping generalizations sure are incendiary). 4. A well-run conference focuses on quality over quantity. I've said it before and I'll say it again - if (you're a vendor and) you want 1000 "leads" go to the web 2.0 expo. If  (you're an attendee and) you want parties and 6-wide breakout sessions, head to RSA. If on the other hand, you want quality conversations that can evolve over a two day span, find a well-run conference. 5. Conferences are about community. Community is about a shared concern or mission. Smart vendors get involved in that mission because they know it will increase their sales over the long run. At the end of the day, it is a tough thing to run a conference well. It takes a lot of care, a lot of work and a nice heaping teaspoon of "luck" (good fortune, whatever). But most all, it takes attendees that CARE about the topic, and in turn, the conference. Even if that core group is only 15 or 20 people -- over time those 15 or 20 people --talking, thinking, building-- will help attract the right folks, and real innovation can occur. And no, you'll never get that at a trade-show.

A snapshot of the glue crowd

Right around this time, I like to take a quick snapshot of the "crowd" assembling for a conference. Glue's no different -- and the folks coming look fantastic. From places like: AdMeld Alsop Louie Partners Avaya Best Buy Citizen Sports Cloud Ave Cloud Security Alliance Denver Art Museum Devver Facebook Filtrbox Inc FreshBooks Gartner Guidewire Group IntelliWare Systems Internet Broadcasting Intuit Inc. Los Alamos Nat'l Lab Research Library Massachusetts Institue of Technology Meritage Funds NASA Ames Network World NeuStar Paypal Symantec Corporatiion SynapticHealth Union Square Ventures UserSphere Research Yahoo! Inc. Typically, the titles are lining up in the Sr. Director/VP range for the larger companies and CTO's for the startups. Glue's gonna be a blast. Don't miss out, use "en1" to receive $100 off of the registration price (bringing it down to $395).

Econo-marketing-sticky thoughts

Some random notes for Glue this morning: 1. I've been emailing with Brad a bit this morning about what "feels" like a change in the economy.  We're in agreement that something is changing. I've spoken with dozens of tech companies in the last 3 weeks (all from different sub-sectors), and almost to a company, they report an increase in "activity" as of late. Combine that with the obvious increase in M&A (oracle/sun, broadcom/emulex, symantec/mi5), and it's not hard to think that a change is occurring. Is it THE bottom? No one's that smart. But something is definitely different. 2. Louis Gray posted some great thoughts about tech trade show attendance, wherein he argues that attendance may be down, but quality is up. Tech marketers can RADICALLY improve their "lead performance" with regard to event marketing if they'll simply do a few things: First, measure "lead quality" based on the amount of dollars that comes from a lead (versus measuring "cost per lead" -- which exaggerates the importance of quantity and completely ignores quality); Second, distinguish between "trade shows" and "conferences" - and realize that trade shows tend to offer great quantity of leads, while conferences tend to offer greater quality of leads; Third, dial down trade show participation in slower economic times and dial UP conference participation (ie, when the economy slows, focus on quality of lead; when it speeds back up, layer in quantity of leads). If you're a tech marketer and you just do those 3 things, you'll spend less and make more. 3. Add it up: the economy is getting better and you should really be at conferences = get your butt to Glue! And remember, use those discount codes now, as they're absolutely worthless for on-site registration. You'll save yourself $200 bucks (400 vs. 600) by just registering now.

The Story Arc of Gluecon

If you talk to me long enough, you'll hear me use the words "story arc" with regards to a conference. As if, somehow I'm "writing" actors into a drama that has an underlying tension, an arc and a resolution. Of course, that's not the case. In truth, though, I do spend a considerable amount of time thinking through "the story" that we're telling at a conference. By that I mean, I look at what sessions are where, get a sense of the topic spread, and try to arrange things where -- as people walk through the story, there's some sense of cohesion at the end. Silly, right? Let's take a look at Glue. The earliest beginnings of the Glue story start in the prequel -- Defrag.  I had been reading Brad's blog, and saw him writing about a theme he was calling (at the time) "intelligence amplification." A couple of conversations later, Defrag was born -- where the premise of Defrag was that the fragmentation of data online was creating a need for tools that helped individuals and groups accelerate the process of insight (hence, Defrag's tagline -- "accelerating the 'aha' moment"). Fast forward: After a successful initial Defrag event, I kind of looked at Brad and said, "what else are you smart guys thinking about?" He came back with this idea of "glue" -- roughly, the idea that there were going to develop all of these different kinds of tools/services that sought to "glue together" things happening between web applications. I immediately flashed to the enterprise application integration problem of the late 90's/early 00's, and we began brainstorming (publicly) ideas around what constituted "glue."  We knew it would deal with web platforms, but what I don't think either of us really knew then (or even know now) was the sheer size of it all. [note: maybe Brad and Seth did, but I certainly wasn't aware.] With that context, take a gander at the agenda. The story begins with a point of tension; what is seen by many as a brand new "stovepipe" -- Facebook. Facebook serves to open the discussion because it brings into contrast a lot of the big threads: Is it open or closed? How does integration occur? Where does identity fit? What about transferring context from Facebook to other "applications?" Can I build on this platform, or do I lock myself in? The session itself will have Facebook providing their answers, but the real "push" from it should be a whole lotta questions (hat tip to Zeppelin). From that high ground, the story begins to draw out the "characters" in our little drama: web oriented architecture, identity, data portability and services, platforms, etc. And we do it rapidly -- you're not going to "know" the "characters" --- you're just going to meet them. And then we pause (any good story has a nice set-up pause after the opening scenes), and ask "what are we missing?" That's where you come in. After a break for discussion, we bring in another component of the big themes - social glue for business processes and data. And then we're off the races -- breakouts. The breakouts are meant to begin answering questions (or, even better, begin forming new and more in-depth questions) - and there's plenty to choose from. Your individual path through the story could have you exploring data portability, or OAuth, or cloud infrastructure, or platforms, or XMPP -- but, as with all good interactive (ie, non-linear) stories - you must make choices. Those choices bring different questions your way. At the end of day 1, the story comes to it's midpoint, as we talk about one of the big "archetypal" themes: how to harness the cloud. And then we get intermission -- where intermission is the chance to catch your breath, have a laugh, dive in more deeply, and get some sleep. Day 2 begins, and you'd think you'll be thrust right back into the plot, but we're not done introducing big themes. Mitch Kapor will look out past the current confines of the story; to remind you that what we talk about in this story isn't the story itself. And Phil Wainewright will give you a larger sense of the themes (a reset for the day, if you will). Then it's back in the mix. The breakouts on day 2 are even more varied, with new technologies, ideas and protocols: cloud databases, web hooks, event processing across web apps, context aware services, social networking, XRDS, etc. Yep, we're building tension. We coalesce again around the leveraging of APIs, dive more deeply into cloud infrastructure, hit on identity one more time, and close with a high-level discussion of what kinds of platforms open up innovation (versus closing it down). As with any good story, there will be a sequel. After all, we haven't really resolved anything --we've just fostered some emotional and intellectual attachment to the characters involved. And, most importantly, we've found out that the truly critical characters in the story are the participants at the conference (i.e., you). One important thing to note about a new "story" like Glue: With Defrag, you'll see that after two years, I can pretty succinctly tell you what our overall theme is ("the fragmentation of data online is creating a need for tools that helped individuals and groups accelerate the process of insight"), while I can't do that with Glue. That's the beauty of coming to a new conference when it's young, and growing up with it. You get to build out that theme with everyone else there. Three years from now, I'll sum up Glue in a sentence, and we'll all nod and say, "yep, that was obvious." But it wasn't. Nothing was obvious until we gathered, argued, pushed, pulled, laughed and collectively wrote a story. And if you don't come, the story gets written without you. Ahhhh.....I love the smell of Gluecon in the morning. ;-)

Playing around at Glue

Amidst all of the content at Glue, it can be easy to miss all of the cool technology you'll get to play with/see/touch. Some pretty amazing stuff from people like: Rackspace (cloud infrastructure glue) Socialcast (social data glue) Gnip (services glue) Boomi (integration glue) MindTouch (web architecture glue) rPath (app delivery glue) Appirio (cloud connector glue) CoBaLU (personal cloud glue) Linxter (messaging glue) Mashery (API management glue) Orchestr8 (orchestration glue) Ping Identity (identity glue) Verio (hosting glue) They're an amazing group of sponsors, and we couldn't pull it off without them (tks guys!) -- plus, you're going to be impressed with what they're all working on. Be sure to join us.

Building facilitation instead of interruption

I ran across this blog post yesterday ("APIs are the next marketing platform"), and it's really resonating with me. In it, Kipp Bodnar explains that while billboards, and print ads, and blogs (etc) may have been the "marketing platforms" of the past, the future of marketing platforms is the API (the application programming interface).  Quoting: "The future of marketing is about companies developing useful applications for their customers that extend web services that the customers are already using. This replaces the current model which is to use web applications to communication with customers.  The problem with current social media marketing is the noise. A company is one of thousands, sometimes millions of users and it is easy to get lost. Developing applications via API’s provide a way for companies to break out of the crowd and at the same time create value for customers...Brands will need to become conduits that facilitate consumer communications instead or interrupters that intermittently drop in advertisements." I think this is right on. And I also think it's why tech marketers (or at least their technical counterparts) and companies that are interacting with publishers NEED to come to Glue. If you look at the Glue agenda, you might see it simply as some kind of "web services" conference. But that really couldn't be farther from the truth. Glue is exploring the nuts and bolts that bind together web apps (and, oddly, that now includes the desktop). When you begin to think about a world where the web is the uber-platform, the applications (and their APIs) become the necessary glue that binds together our web experience. Understanding the underpinnings is key to understanding how you can leverage a "sticky universe" -- and begin to think about what it means to either A) build your own "platform" as a marketer or B) build services that marketers will use as platforms for their applications. Any way you slice it, you shouldn't miss Glue if you're a tech marketer or startup that's venturing into this new world.

Some things you may be missing about Glue

We're rounding the final turn (27 days until Glue), and I'm thinking there are some things that people may have missed (some undiscovered "gems," as it were): 1. Pam Dingle's session on the Organizational Exoskeleton: I've known Pam for several years, and she is a hacker's hacker.  What you don't readily get from her session title is that she's going to demonstrate how to build an "organization without a perimeter" using Microsoft's Geneva toolset, and then turn around and build the exact same thing using open source tools. How's that for substantive? 2. George Reese's session on Securing Cloud Infrastructure: You may not know George by name, but you'll know him by his mastery of a subject soon enough. George is the founder of a Minneapolis-based startup (enStratus) in the cloud space, but he's also the author of a new book on Cloud Computing for O'Reilly. You have questions, he has answers. 3. Jeff Lindsay on "web hooks": Have you heard of web hooks yet? Either way, you're going to want to understand this. Check out the web hooks wiki, and then come ready to dig in. Okay, those are a few of the undiscovered gems. So, you're coming, right? Now that we know that - a few things you should keep in mind: 1. The discounted hotel room rate is STILL AVAILABLE (only as long as there is space at the hotel), and includes in-room, wired internet access -  courtesy of us. Be sure to grab your room now. 2. There are a ton of discount codes flying around (email offers, twitter, etc). Please use those NOW, as no discount codes will be accepted on-site, and the price will go up to $595 (versus $395 with a discount code). 3. Lastly, the finalized agenda will be posted in the next few hours. 4. If you're flying in, do your best to be at the hotel by 7pm on the 11th, as that's when the pre-conference dinners will kick off (and you'll wanna be in on those discussions). Gluecon, baby! ;-)

31 days and counting

We're now 31 days from Glue, and ramping into the last month. I'm finalizing the agenda and putting the finishing touches on event details (okay, my wife is doing that). But, with all of that in mind, I thought I'd take a look at what it would cost for you to come to Glue. So, I ventured out to the travel sites and checked -- the result? It is anywhere from $178-238 dollars for you to fly round-trip to Glue from just about anywhere in the country. What are you waiting for? Here's what we've got going on: 1. Pre-conference dinners sponsored by Microsoft BizSpark, Freepository and Gist: 3 topics, 25 people per dinner, great conversation - and you must be registered to get in. These dinners are the single best way to make some early connections prior to the "rush" of Glue. 2. An opening day agenda that includes: Josh Elman from Facebook platform group, web oriented architecture, identity, data portability, OAuth and OpenID, Microsoft's Geneva toolset, securing cloud infrastructure, building apps on clouds, XMPP, and one great evening reception. 3. A day 2 agenda that fires off: Mitch Kapor (founder of Lotus Development Corp), Phil Wainewright (of ZDNet fame), cloud database standards, connecting data and apps across networks, the cloud security alliance, webhooks, leveraging APIs (at Best Buy), interop and integration in the cloud, context-aware services, unlocking the social graph, what the deal is with NASA and social networking, information cards, and Bob Frankston (co-creator of VisiCalc) on innovation platforms. Yea, that's a ton (and that's not even all of it). All for the low, low price of $395 - which, frankly, is simply unbeatable for tech conferences today (I'm seeing 1 day, 1 track events in the Bay Area for $595, and unconferences for the same price as Glue). Plus, we're throwing in good food, great wifi, an open bar, and a truckload of awesome people. So, drop the 200 on airfare, book a discounted hotel room  (with wired internet in your room courtesy of us), register, and get your butt to Denver in May. You will not regret it, and 2 years from now when Glue is a mainstay of the spring tech conference season, you can say, "I was there when..." ;-)

Glue logistics

I just wanted to post a quick hit today about Glue logistics. The conference is fast approaching (33 days and counting). You can check out the agenda here (the final will be posted shortly).  I promise you, you're going to regret it if you miss this one. With all of that in mind: 1. Register. 2. Grab your discounted hotel room rate before that expires (it includes complimentary wired internet access in your room). 3. Do your best to arrive at the hotel by 7pm on the evening of the 11th, so you can hook up with one of our great pre-conference dinners (and get a free meal!). Time's a wastin'...