Creativity World Forum

Last week I spent 2 days at the Creativity World Forum in Antwerp, a conference that got my attention because of some of main speakers such as John Cleese, Steve Wozniak, Dan Heath, Tom Kelly, Chris Anderson, … Many of them I had not seen before which made it all the more interesting. It was also at this conference that we got to SpotMe device for better networking, something I blogged about last week. Most of he links below point to short recap videos of the presentations, so make sure you check out the ones that interest you.

Day 2 - Chris Anderson
Photo from FlandersDC

First speaker to kick off the event (well after the obligatory and boring intro) was John Cleese. And just like for many of you I guess… he’s a hero of mine so pretty good start :) I must say even though John didn’t re-invent to wheel here on how to be creative but I liked that presentation a lot. John’s theory is that everyone can be creative, but that you need to get into the creative mindset for it and that you need to take time for it. A lot of his focus regarding this mindset was on the unconscious part of your brain that is very important for this. He recommended to read a book called ‘Hare Brain, Tortoise Mind: How intelligence increases when you think less’ to support his talk on this. Instinctively I could recognize myself in this (which I guess is a good thing) but there’s obviously no way I compare to John of course.

The next talk I saw was from Jef Staes. A presentation that didn’t really start of well, but turned out to be pretty interesting in the end. The analogy of the Red Monkey which is the creator, who needs to influence the pioneers first, after which you (hopefully) get followers that finally crush the settlers was an interesting one. Especially given my interest in all things ‘influence’. After Jef came Theo Jansen who I blogged about before, seriously impressed with his creations though. Fascinating to see those on stage., again watch the video. Last speaker I saw on day 1 was Steve Wozniak, and although I was seriously looking forward to that, I must say you might as well read his book.

First up the second day was Tom Kelley from IDEO, who talked about how it’s not good enough to be innovative, but how you also need to outpace everyone else. He spoke about his new book and the different roles he describes in there that are important in the innovative process, with the focus on 2 roles: The Anthropologist and the Experience Architect. Again I liked what I saw, also because it sort of ties in with some things I mentioned during my own presentation at SIME. He mentioned a good quote of Marcel Proust saying:

“The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but in seeing with new eyes”

He also referred to a concept they call ‘VUJA DE’ which is exactly the opposite as ‘DEJA VU’ and how it’s exactly these ‘VUJA DE’ moments they’re trying to pursue at IDEO when working on projects. Good stuff.

I was also looking forward to see An De Jonghe but that turned out to be a big disappointment. She gave 3 examples around social networking, one of which was Belgian and which took her a lot of research to find it (yet failing to point out she’s consulting for them!) Good luck we got a great treat from Dan Heath after that. His talk was related to ‘Made To Stick’ (which I loved) and since he’s a great presenter as well, this was really good. Good reminder about the ‘curse of knowledge’ and thinking about reading the book again.

Last but not least, Chris Anderson, no need for introduction right? He talked a little bit about ‘The Long Tail’ but mostly on his new book ‘Free’ which is coming out next June. It was really interesting to see how he came about this theory (talking about how “storage, bandwidth will become to cheap to meter”) and why that enables these new models. He talked about 4 models of FREE that exist in the 21st Century:

  1. A marketing trick
  2. Ad-Funded / Ad-Supported
  3. Freemium
  4. Gift Economy

… of which Freemium is definitely the most compelling to me. Really good talk again which concluded the event. So needless to say I enjoyed it, especially when you know it cost only like 300 EUR. There were more presentations but those were the ones I wanted to talk about, make sure you watch those videos!

SpotMe or SpyMe?

At the Creativity World Forum this week, all attendees were given SpotMe devices: The All-In-One Participant Communication Tool (I got that last bit of their website obviously).

“Spotme combines social networking via a searchable photo database, messaging, people radar, unique “Spotting” function and electronic business card exchange, with audience response, Q&A sessions, messaging, lead retrieval, attendance tracking, electronic feedback forms (and more) to create the only all-in-one communication service for events of all sorts – from 200 to 5000 participants.“

And here’s a video of the gizmo:

Hey and I like gizmos so I was very curious about this after I found out the CWF would make use of it. And truth to be told, it has some interesting features, and first thing after I checked into the conference and retrieved my SpotMe device, I started toying with it and started looking in the contactlist for people to ‘spot’, people I wanted to meet. It didn’t take long for the first alert that someone I wanted to meet was in my neighborhood… according to the device, as I couldn’t find that person. Nor could I the next time that happened.

But you can also send each other messages, something I soon found out was not actually real time as it would ‘queue’ the message for you so worthless to say “come and see me by the stairs on the left” if that message would only be sent maybe 10, 15 minutes later. You just don’t know.

There’s also some practical issues. SpotMe has a nicely designed interface, but pretty much everybody assumes it’s a touch interface and it’s not. I’ve also seen plenty of people (especially in the beginning) that have no idea there’s a keypad underneath the screen. And lastly, I’m not so sure about the ‘rubbing devices’ idea for sharing business cards, nor ‘shake it’ idea to send live feedback about what’s on right now.

I also started wondering about privacy. You exchange business cards electronically with the people you meet using SpotMe, which they are supposed to send after the event. Sounds good to me, but what else would they track. I’m not sure if they do (although the description above implies they do at least to some extend) but the technology would allow to track a lot. It allows them to see where you have been all day? Plenary room, reception area, expo, … for how long, who’s been around you, who you wanted to meet and who you’ve actually met, … A whole bunch of data comes out. Some quite harmless, but probably not all. Very curious about that.

Last but not least, why didn’t it offer internet access? Or even better, why a different device anyway? I know it uses RFID, but isn’t there any way we can solve this same problem using our cell phones in some way? For me the SpotMe device became a large digital program, something that a lot of conferences today already offer as a mobile webpage.

Overall, I’m glad I could check it out, I do believe it helps solving a problem but I’m not convinced it’s doing that the right way yet and I would wish to find out more about the privacy questions. Fact is that CWF was great on content but I wasn’t able to do good networking (other than with people I already knew) and SpotMe didn’t change any of that.

The conference post

After I came back from the Web2.0 Expo in Berlin I thought about writing a post on what I like and don’t like about conferences. A recent post from Laurent Haug (who organizes LIFT) reminded me of that idea so here we go. I wanted to start with highlighting Laurent’s presentation as it’s actually a good introduction for the post I wanted to write anyway. Here it is:

If there’s one conference done right than that’s probably LIFT, hence why it’s such a good introduction. I think it’s fair to say that I am a ‘conference regular’ and on many occasions I see things I would like to see done differently… and for a reason. To be complete I’ve never organized a conference myself so my view is purely based on my own experience.

Location

With the increasing availability of real-time video, twitter, etc it has never been so easy as today to follow a conference online. Hence why it matters more than ever where your event takes place, especially in times of recession. How long to travel, where to stay, what about local transportation to the venue,… . Luckily we have some amazing conferences in Europe and don’t necessarily have to go the US for that (on the contrary) and travel within Europe doesn’t have to be expensive. Still it’s a key part of the choice.

Venue

I think too often the choice of the venue is purely based on budget rather than anything else, which is not how it should be. Personally I like venues that are somewhat unique because they give extra flavor to the event. I also prefer to have a limited number of rooms/areas to be used. At an event like LIFT you have the main room and right next to it an open space where you can network, at Web2.0 Expo there where god knows how many areas (although the venue wasn’t that big) which made it sometimes difficult to find people. Also the venue has got to be big enough, it’s never nice to sit on the ground in the plenary room because it lacks capacity (like at Web2.0 Expo). Is it that much to ask for that when you sell 1000 tickets you can actually seat 1000 people?!

Theme

This is something I miss at most conferences: LeWeb this year is themed around ‘Love’, LIFT in February around “Where did the future go?”, etc but most of the times it’s just ‘Web2.0’ or so which you can hardly call a theme. What is the story they want to convey with their conference? What is it that connects all presentations to each other? What was the motivation to go after those speakers to begin with? What’s the take-away attendees should go home with? During the keynotes at Web2.0 Expo in Berlin this lack of a common theme became clear all too quickly. If I remember well there were 5 short presentations in the keynote: 2 about startups and VC’s, a presentation about open source hardware, another one about the Drupal.org redesign, … It doesn’t matter at this point if those were good presentations or not, the questions is what links them to each other. I sure couldn’t tell. It really isn’t good enough to line up a bunch of speakers on a stage to build a great conference.

Audience

We know from traditional mass media that you cannot target everyone, still that’s what a lot of conference organizers seem to want to do. Organizers have to choose whether they want the geeks or the newbies, the digital media strategists or the traditional advertisers, … All for one very simple reason, you’ll always disappoint half the audience if you don’t make a choice. Unless – yes there is a way – there are several tracks, but I think you should think of this as 2 conferences in 1, which means both tracks have to be rock solid for that specific audience which hardly ever is the case. Big conferences like PDC manage to do that but I think it’s a tough task. So whenever a conference sums up pretty much every possible job out there as target audience, beware.

Content

Once the theme is set – and audience defined – it’s time to go after speakers. That’s part of why I liked last year’s LeWeb so much I think. You could clearly tell that the program was built up (by Cathy Brooks) based on theme and audience. Less on ‘friends of’ or ‘same old, same old’ or sponsor contributions. As a sponsor I can regret the latter but I don’t as I want our contributions to fit in like everyone else. Too many times the content being presented is only loosely linked to each other, some of the presentations are old (as in – seen that exact presentation already a year ago) and often only the first and the last slide don’t sound like a product pitch. I know it’s hard work for a speaker to come up with new stuff all the time (and yes you can use your talk more than once) but some revision every now and then is very welcome. Same goes for organizers, follow up with your speakers and what they will present.

Networking

It’s probably half of the value of each conference, meeting with old and new ‘friends’, in many cases meeting online friends in real life for the first time. It’s part of the reason why the venue matters so much for me, make networking easy to do. And organize side events, or make it easy for people to find all ‘unofficial’ side events organized around the conference. And then I don’t only talk about the speaker/sponsor dinner but in many cases also the Barcamps, GGDs, Workshops, … etc When you visit a conference, you want to maximize your time away from work – and a big part of that is in networking.

Hotel & Transport

On many occasions people will visit the city the conference is in for the first time, or definitely not often enough to know their way around. And yes, we’ll all get around, but I always find it a good idea when a conference organizer tries to cut some deals with hotels in the neighborhood of the conference, in several price categories. It eases the search for attendees to find a good place to stay AND since there’s a better chance for networking since more people will stay in the same places. And inform about all transportation means to get there, or set up transport from the main hotels (like at PDC).

Not@Conference

Although it’s on the list for the last 2 years, I again couldn’t make it to Picnic this year. But I didn’t miss the conference really. As they do a good job at offering LIVE coverage – their own video etc combined with tweets, photos, … that people posted using the picnic tag. At SIME they didn’t offer this, but then they had their LIVE wall to which people (both at the conference and those at home) to send questions for the qna’s after each keynote or panel. For PDC there even was a #notatpdc hashtag in use. Think about this, it won’t keep people away from the conference, it just broadens reach.

I probably missed a few things that you think should be on the list (feel free to point it out to me) but these are the key elements for a good conference for me. I know price wasn’t mentioned but that was on purpose. I didn’t want to start a discussion about which price was right for which conference as I believe most are good value for money.

What aspect of a good conference is missing for you? Or what do you think  about the list?

[Update] Just spent another day at a conference today (Creativity World Forum) and it struck me I forgot to talk about 2 other times on my list: WIFI and food. WIFI because it never really works anywhere (although I must say the Microsoft Event guys do a terrific job at that). And food because it’s pretty much never any good… last’ year’s LeWeb being the exception to confirm the rule. The CWF today had foreseen food for like 200 people (unfortunately they sold 1500 tickets) so I guess that’s what must have been what triggered the reminder to add this to the list ;)

It’s TIME to change

Yesterday at the SIME conference in Stockholm I was part of a keynote session around the topic: “It’s TIME to change”. The whole theme of SIME is based around change and the DNA of change and in case of our session they had someone from the Telecom, Internet (me), Media and Entertainment sector to talk about this (hence the ‘TIME’). I’ve uploaded my presentation to Slideshare but because it doesn’t really say much on the slides, I’ll outline my talk a bit.

We each had about 15 minutes to talk so I decided not to show videos or anything, but added a slide with a whole bunch of links at the end of the presentation for more info (and credits of course).

There were 2 big elements I wanted to talk about at SIME. I know not everyone thinks about Microsoft right away when thinking about change and innovation so first I wanted to talk a little bit about how I do believe we have changed what we do and how we do that over the last years. Second I wanted to talk about the elements that I think are part of this DNA of change, specifically for digital/online.

I had to start with the Blue Monster on this one (given the topic of change) as an introduction to a few examples of how we are trying to innovate in several areas: WorldWide Telescope, Live Maps 3D, Surface computing, Boku, Photosynth, Deepzoom as used for Hard Rock Memorabilia, SenseWeb, HIV vaccination research, … For Photosynth for instance, looking at Blaise’s talk at TED, it became clear this isn’t just a new way to stitch photo’s but that there are some ideas being researched on how this might change surfing the web in general. Pretty cool stuff, you have to see that video from TED if you haven’t done so already, seriously!

But just like JP replied to Hugh, the world wants Microsoft to change as well (slide 10) and also there I think there are fundamental changes going on the last few years. The latest Silverlight toolkit is open source. I don’t remember exactly where I read this but Microsoft submitted two licenses to the Open Source Initiative in 2004. Now there are 500 and there are at least 80,000 Open Source apps that run on Windows. Another change (slide 12) is a new focus on experience and not just features – or not just about what’s in the box, but also how you take it out of it and use it ;) Think about the Zune, Live Mesh, the new Windows Live, new Xbox Live Dashboard, Office 2007, Windows7, etc.

I often use the analogy of Microsoft being this huge ship on which a whole bunch of people are working hard to make it turn, but as happens with boats of that size it takes time before you see it happen. Therefore Robert Scoble’s quote after the Azure launch was even more interesting to see for me (slide 14).

sime
Photo by http://flickr.com/photos/mathys/

So okay, talk about change in general now. First of all I think it’s important to be aware of what is going on, referring to Patrick McDevitt’s (TeleAtlas) superb talk at Web2.0 in Berlin where he talked about ‘”Detecting change in a changing world” using both research as community input to do so. Check out his talk. This is not only true for maps though. As a business you need to find ways to understand which changes are relevant to you and which aren’t. Using both research and the wisdom of the crowd is valuable for all of us. Trust (slide 16) your consumers. In an age when consumers started to trust strangers, it’s all to bad seeing some companies don’t even trust their own customers.

Another element of change, which I find very important is hackability. Make things hackable (slide 18), give people pieces to copy, to re-create, … and they might change your product, service, marketing campaign, … into something you might not have imagined. In a way the initial IBM PC is a very good example of that. You could by a white label PC, change the parts of it, build your own – and make it look like pretty much anything if you want. Same for advertising – It’s not what advertising does to the consumer, it’s what the consumer does to advertising (sorry for not remembering who said this first).

But while you change, don’t forget to keep focus on the outcome, your end goal (slide 19). Dopplr for instance is extremely good at that, pretty much everything they add to the service, adds value to the service. Not sure if could say the same for Technorati or Bloglines. Focus more on the experience (slide 20), something we might have learned the hard way but it is more important than ever. Why would people care about unboxing if it wasn’t important.

Digital also enables much easier to engage and interact in realtime (slide 21) – thanks Ag8! Take advantage of that, find out in realtime what people think, how they use things, where they are, … whatever adds value for you and your customers. Change the way you talk to your customers, or better talk with your customers. Too bad I couldn’t show the Bring The Love Back video (slide 22), SIME was after all in a movie theatre.

Think about context (slide 23)! And how you have to change the content based on the channel you’re using (rather than for the medium that is used to deliver it). Tom and David at Ag8 are bringing a strong message that is linked to this around metamedia instead of crossmedia. Be sure to check that out as well.

Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine ;) (slide 25). Which aspects about the DNA of change in this digital world do you think I forgot, I’m interested to get your opinion about that. I tried to put in as much as possible within the 15 minutes I got but would love to discuss further.

Windows Azure

Today at PDC 2008 Microsoft announced it’s new Cloud OS named Windows Azure which is all over Techmeme by now. I’ll be doing a write up of the whole event when I’m back but thought you should check that out already. Another significant announcement is that Windows Live ID is becoming an OpenID provider. With currently over 460 million active LiveID users, that is a pretty huge step.

Think Way Outside The Box

Web2.0 Expo Berlin

I’ve just left Berlin where I attended O’Reilly’s Web2.0 Expo. I quite enjoyed the event, but I must admit (especially on the first day) the networking was what made it good, more so than the content. I missed a general theme, a story that tied up all the presentations together, something that became painfully clear during the keynotes on Wednesday. First two VC’s (Martin and Saul both did a great job) then opensource hardware (Arduino), Drupal.org redesign, Nabaztag,… what’s the link? Why are these presentation wrapped into one keynote? Having this experience right after a cancelled session (speaker didn’t turn up) and right before a talk that was basically a product pitch in disguise you can understand having mixed feelings of the conference. What made the day was connecting with people like Ronna Porter, Luis Suarez and others as well as meeting some old friends again. I did enjoy Stowe Boyd’s talk on ‘Better Media Plumbing for the Social Web’ and Lee Bryant’s presentation – note to self: check out Russell Davies’ “patina”.

Stowe

The second day was better though. It started with some good keynotes: John Lilly from Mozilla did a really good job, the same for Luis Suarez on his experiment around giving up work email (9 months already!) but also Patrick McDevitt from TeleAtlas gave an interesting talk about updating maps in collaboration from the community. After the break I went to see JP Rangaswami who also gave a great presentation around the next level of “unified communications”. I had run into Tom Raftery and JP the night before when I went out for dinner with Andie Nordgren and became a fan right away :) The day ended with a panel discussion around ‘gender issues in web2.0 careers’ by Suw Charman-Anderson, Stephanie Booth, Janet Parkinson and Lloyd Davies and a presentation from Nate Elliott (Forrester) who presented a brand new research they’ve done around ‘The Future of Influence’. Very good to end the day especially knowing it was ‘only’ a replacement for yet another cancelled session, I will do a separate post about that presentation later.

Overall I think there’s still a decent amount of improvements that I think the Expo needs to think of for next year, but it was definitely worth going for me. Next week I’ll be at PDC (Los Angeles) which is one of our own events that I’m really looking forward to, then we’re in Stockholm for SIME (feat. Hans Rosling, Joi Ito, Dave Sifry, …). After that it’s time for the Creativity World Forum in Antwerp (feat. John Cleese, Chris Anderson, Steve Wozniak, Dan Heath, …) and early December we’re off to LeWeb in Paris which features way more people than you can imagine :). Let me know in case you’re around at one of these events.

FYI – all Web2.0 Expo presentations can be found here. I haven’t seen a link for video (yet).

Moving on…

… to a new role at Microsoft. During my 4 years at Microsoft, first as the Belgian Consumer Marketing Manager for MSN and later as the Marcom Lead for MSN and Windows Live in EMEA, I’ve been experimenting with social media. Remember the Windows Live Sessions we did all over Europe (e.g. Brussels, London, …), inviting bloggers to events such as MIX, sponsoring and attending Barcamps or Girl Geek Dinners and bigger events such as Le Web for instance, the adventures with Steve and Hugh around the Blue Monster, speaking at events, getting the word out on ‘Bring The Love Back‘, engaging on blogs and twitter, etc… Although it was only a small part of my job (the main part was setting up online marketing campaigns), I’ve always been very passionate about it.

Since October 1st that has all changed. Since then I’ve started working in a new role as Digital Media Communications Manager for all Windows Consumer brands – PC, mobile and online – as well as MSN and Live Search in EMEA. I got to say, it’s like getting paid to do your hobby just like Steve seems to think about his job as well. And it’s also the reason why this blog has gone silent for a bit, as I’m still transitioning stuff from my old job to other people. Also our fiscal year started on July 1st so I got to get my new plans ready asap, expect more about that here soon.

Anyway, I’ve been waiting for the moment I could tell you all this, wish me luck and if ever you have ideas on how you think I should run this… let me know in the comments.

Famous Jaffe

Last Friday I was invited by Famous to come to their annual BBQ at the Africa Museum in Brussels. They also had arranged for Joseph Jaffe to come and talk about The Conversation to the audience of marketers and advertisers. I had wanted to see Jaffe present again as last (and first) time I saw him was in November 2005 and it was good. Given the post about that presentation was only the second one I had ever written on a blog, it’s fair to say it was part of the reason that I got into blogging to begin with (just like reading “Naked Conversations” was another one). Another reason why I was interested to go was because it would be a good opportunity to finally meet face to face, after several conversations online.

And just like in 2005, Jaffe never seems to disappoint as a presenter. Reading his books always leave me somewhere in the middle, I like them because they’re well written but most of the content is not new to me so that makes them less interesting. But then again, I don’t belong to the core target audience for these books either. The marketers and advertisers invited by Famous do belong to that audience though and I really hope they will read the book. Since everyone received a free copy that shouldn’t be too much of a challenge :)

ConversationalMarketingConstruct

One of the slides that interested me most was the one above about “The Conversational Marketing Construct”. I thought it was an interesting exercise on defining the innovation process, and something we ought to use to check on our own progress with Bring The Love Back.

Overall, very good presentation and glad to finally meet Joseph in person. There were a lot of good statements being made during the presentation but since Clo captured most of them in her Twitter stream, I suggest you check that one out. My favorites:

… And this is my social security number and my bank account. Since you’re all marketing professionals I know you’ll be too lazy to use the data to get into contact with me anyway” (when showing his AMEX, bank account, etc details on his ‘who’s Jaffe’ slide)

Or this one…

It’s not enough to get your foot in the door. Consumers are now so powerful they would break it. They would have to ask you in.

Consumer terrorism

I was rather surprised just a few minutes ago while reading a blog post from fellow Belgian blogger Ine. The post is in Dutch so I’ll translate a bit for you. Ine talks about an email she received from the BDMA – association from Belgian Direct Marketers – about their new congress: “Revenge of the I”. The email has some of the almost standard mumbo-jumbo in there like ‘in ages of consumer empowerment, social networks…’ catch my drift? And that’s all fair to be frank, but then there’s this rather odd sentence saying (and it’s a translation, I’ll do the best to keep the original sentiment):

“During the congress we’ll deepdive into the current era of ‘consumer terrorism’ that is coming up with the rise of digital and social technologies such as blogs, social networks and email.”

Consumer terrorism?! No speakers have been announced yet but I expect to see people from the Computer Crime Unit and others to learn direct marketers how to deal with dangerous bloggers and Facebookers.

Although on a slightly different note, it reminded me of another marketing event/congress organized in Belgium: Customer First… or should I say Digital Marketing First, since that’s what they’ve changed the name to for this year’s event. What’s the idea behind that? Who decides these things? It’s like saying: forget about the customer, this event is about us against traditional advertising and stuff so we have to change the name here!”

In the meantime the Belgian marketing publications ‘MM’ and ‘Pub’ are still as they were 5 years ago, so are their websites (and yes it’s still forbidden to link to MM.be) so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised of all this Belgian Digital Marketers against Consumer Terrorism stuff anyway I guess…

Geek Marketer

I’m what they call a geek marketer. Steve Rubel wrote a post about this late last year in his Ad Age Digital column saying:

“Enter Geek Marketers. These cross-trained specialists are fluent in both worlds and bridge them. They are marketers by trade, yet they also have a hard-core interest in technology and social anthropology. As curious individuals, they are constantly studying how digital advances are changing our culture and media. Armed with these insights, they regularly apply them in a marketing context by working closely with brand teams to codify new best practices.”

Now I’m not saying that I’m a specialist necessarily, nor that I’m fluent in either of them 2 worlds, but as Steve stated before in the article “For those who are deeply interested in both technology and marketing, this is your time. A new kind of career is emerging: Enter the Geek Marketer.” than I recognize myself in there very much, I’ll get fluent later ;)

I was reminded of this when I participated in an internal meeting at Microsoft in Munich where Steve came to present his Open Files presentation (which he would present at the Next 08 Conference in Hamburg the day after as well – video here). In this presentation Steve talks about trends in digital and divides them in 3 categories: Faint Signals (here and now and with real business models), Watch List (new and emerging trends not ready for primetime) and the Hallucinations (trends that aren’t really even there yet … sort of). It’s during that meeting that Steve called me a Geek Marketer and I decided to change my blog tag line the same day. Thanks for reminding me Steve :)

Here’s the presentation: