By Jay Fidell
The State of the Web 2009 (SowNine) unfolded on March 24th like a coiled spring. An opening, four blue ribbon panels and the coup de grace a luncheon keynote from Michael Jones, rapid fire brilliant Chief Technology Advocate for Google.
Everything fell into place perfectly. Video, webcast, twitter questions, slides, all worked right up to expectations. The electronics fit like a good pair of shoes. The crowd showed up, many of them early, and a number of hopeful standbys. The mulled and networked and filled the 85 chairs we brought in for them. They were blue ribbon also, completely engaged and ready to take the challenge. The challenge was to come up with ideas that they had not had before, ideas that emanated from the crucial that very day. A challenge to the panelists and a challenge to them. And they met the challenge.
We began on time, continued on time and finished on time. Breakfast was good, box lunch was great and we closed with 7th inning cookies at 2:30 p.m. Well executed by This is It Bakery and Deli.
Bill Spencer’s Transparency panel began the lineup and came up with all kinds of good thinking over the notion of the transparency made possible by the web. He was joined by Mary Fastenau, Wendi Kamiya and Jared Kuroiwa. They were great, and gave the notion new texture.
There followed the panel on Cause Marketing. Kevin Vaccarello was the thought leader, joined by David Fry, Brian Schatz and A.J. Halagao. Another great panel. They were so sophisticated, so current on the latest technology to advance candidates and causes. Proof again that you’d better catch up.
The lunch keynote went off as planned with Michael Jones. He was awesome, just as he had been in the remarks he had given the day before for a smaller group organized by StarrTech Interactive and Anthology. He gave us staggering facts about the growth and prospect of the web, about Google’s role and plan for the future. He answered questions for as long as you wanted, and somehow we finished on time. What a keynote. Kudos to Dan Leuck for lining him up. It was a complete coup.
Our third panel covered the state of e-Commerce. It was moderated by thought leader Lubuw Falanruw joined by Tom Blankley, Neal Kido and Jerome Coudrier, all great panelists. They were filled to the brim with e-Commerce suggestions and phenomena. The bottom line is that e-Commerce is doing well in Hawaii.
After cookies, we went to the last and probably most energetic panel of all, on Social Networking. This was a fabulous finale. Dan Leuck was the thought leader, joined by panelists Ryan Ozawa, who was off the cuff and really, really funny, Dan Zelikman, who presented a truly excellent talk with great slides, and Kevin Hughes, who told us about Sprout, and made us all want to go out and look at it immediately.
The last panel built on the others and led us up to an incredible level of energy for so late in the day. It got my nomination for the panel with the most new ideas, and I think the crowd agreed. Each member was therefore entitled to take home a copy of Google Documents, which is free on Google.com. They were delighted anyway.
To my way of thinking it was seamless and well received. Lots of nice comments from the webcast and Twitter. The questions from the house to all the panels were excellent and provocative, and the responses by the panelists were thoughtful and useful. Everyone was right on.
How did this happen? Well, with the help of some great people. The original collaboration was among Mary Fastenau and Bill Spencer and Dan Leuck and Susan Horowitz and me, and I so enjoyed working with them and each of them on this program. A grateful thanks to them all, and to all the thought leaders and panelists for an excellent job.
And a special thanks to StarrTech Interactive and Anthology for allowing us to use the Anthology Theatre for a venue – no place in Hawaii could have been more appropriate for the program.
The AV team from Anthology was super, including Chris and Brad and others too. Scott Tamura was nice enough to lend us the use of his sound board, which was perfect for the event. Masa from Pacific New Media helped on the video. Volunteers Nicole Hori and Laurel Boylen helped in lots of other ways. I could go on, but suffice it to say we were lucky indeed to have a team like this. They enriched the program and made it easy and enjoyable for the rest of us. Thanks to them all.
Nicole gave me these random recollections of Michael Jones’ remarks:
• He divided the room into left and right, asked each the same questions with and without references. With those references, the right side was definitely smarter.
• He quoted from Thomas Jefferson – our best protection is mandatory education and an informed/educated citizenry.
• He gave us numbers on internet participation: 1.4B with broadband and 1.84x10^11 messages per day.
• He spoke of how Google used eye tracking to perfect the user experience.
• He spoke of Google’s use of open source and tools for developers based on Google products.
• He spoke of data portability in a variety of formats - there's no permanent competitive advantage. You can't rest on your laurels or let yourself slide after the wedding.
• He told us about the Mapmaker program by which Google gets map data in developing countries. Why does a bakery appear and not a hospital? Users added local landmarks - information you couldn't get from a paid service. The map overlay with global Internet traffic shows roads added where there's the least traffic.
• Take a look at http://google-latlong.blogspot.com/2008/12/map-making-in-new-worlds.html for the Islamabad time lapse and the glowing internet map.
• Google Earth takes mapping to 3D. It’s a different perspective with real time clouds, the feeling of flying. It lets the earth be a globe instead of a flat/Mercator projection. If the “Prisoner” series had had this tool, he could have escaped from Portmeirion.
• The Sudan story - perfect little rings are visible in the satellite images. You can add an overlay of books, personal stories and kids’ drawings.
• The Rainforest story - the Brazilian Indian puts down his bow and arrow, taking up the laptop, and staking his life on the computer to persuade the Brazilian government that his village needs security/protection.
• Google doesn’t do much data mining beyond figuring out what users really want. They base decisions on what a billion customers want, not on what their developers think. But he gave a short answer: "No, you don't have to worry," when asked if we should be concerned about Google's retention of our profile information.
The program was covered by KGMB9 and KHON, with on-scene interviews and multiple broadcasts by Lisa Kubota and Kirk Matthews. There was some great footage of the interview of Michael Jones, including his views of Act 221 and tech in Hawaii. Let me quote what he said:
“Especially and unique to Hawaii is the special law that has been passed (Act 221) to provide investment advantages for local people to invest in technology companies. I think that was very farsighted. It really has engendered a much larger technology company population. That investment is really precious. It is great that there are local venture capitalists and laws that reward them to invest locally. It has created an amazingly good home for technology and with the Internet Hawaii is directly across the street from everyone on the planet.”
We took video of all the panels and the Jones keynote and within a week or two we will be posting them in five one-hour segments on ThinkTech TV on Olelo, ThinkTechHawaii.com and HVCA.org.
Encouraged by the experience, ThinkTech Talks and its friends are planning another such program in early June to cover the events and results of the 2009 Legislature – what was done, and what wasn’t, in the unique circumstances of this session. We’ll send out a flyer in the next few weeks and expect an equally impressive program and crowd. Sign up early so you can avoid the uncertainty of being on the waitlist.
Tech is alive and well in Hawaii.