Thoughts on Conferences


I just came back from the Microsoft Research Social Computing Symposium 2008in Seattle which in the end I enjoyed enormously. I say in the end, because at the beginning I didn’t get it. This is only my second American conference and I’m learning that the flavor of these kinds of events is definitely different in Europe. I think I got it though.

The key difference is: the content doesn’t matter, the people do. In Europe, its definitely about what the theme is, what people say, if they’re smart or not, if things said are innovative or not etc. The content will act as a starter for conversations. In the US, its not that the content doesn’t matter, but it’s not necessarily the key focus or starting point to a good conversation. During the entire 2 days, people were on the backchannel commenting, bitching and connecting while someone presented. It sometimes felt like noone was listening. I was stupid enough not to join, I might have met more interesting people that way.

In anycase, content-wise here are some remarks:

Social Objects revisited talk by Jyri was fantastic.
– It’s interesting to see the expression “social objects” be taken literally by “the internet of things” crowd. Much like “product design”, it shows that material-based metaphors are still handy even when you work on the web.
– Second Life is dead to most designers and geeks but very much alive for most researchers and academics
– 18 year olds in wealthy neighbourhoods are as scary and dependent on technology as we are.
Jesse Alexander has the best job in the world
– Location-based services haven’t gotten any more exciting for me, I’m still waiting for the killer app.
– Academics have their own secret language and it was interesting to dive into that world for 2 days.

All in all thanks to Tom for inviting me and being generally wonderful and supportive, Liz Lawley for organising this fabulous event and Gwendolyn Flowd for the fantastic conversations.

Writing 'Creating a Culture of Innovation' (2020, Apress), wrote 'Smarter Homes' (2018, Apress)