This is my post from the plane on the way home from ETech. It was just a day trip, so we’re headed back to Menlo Park already. It would have been great to hang out for longer, but there’s feeds to get indexed and tools to get written. I wanted to get my overall impressions down. Something that Niall said at one point is that he likes to try to put stuff online that really gives people a feel for what living in Silicon Valley is like. I think that’s a great goal to have at times, sharing the experience. So here’s my post trying to sum up what it’s like to go to ETech. Understanding of course that my take on the whole thing might be biased because I’m working with a relatively well known company right now, and I went with Russ, who’s apparently a rock star these days (thanks for introducing me to everyone Russ!).
So my impression going in was that I would have really strongly pointed takeaway from each of the sessions. And really, I didn’t find that. The sessions were interesting, there was good content in there, and it triggered a lot of new ideas and connections. And really many of the sessions were kinda mushy. If I take a look through the notes I posted on my blog, there is no clear bullet point (or even set of 3 to 6 bullet points) behind most of the sessions that I attended. There was also quite a bit of just general marketing and information dispersal activity. I take the Mobile Computing on the Edge talk from Nokia as an example here. It was good info, I’m just not really sure it belonged at the “Emerging Technologies” conference. What they were talking about was really evolving most of the technologies under discussion. I expected a whole bunch of “this is a demo of some of the ideas we’ve been playing with in the labs” kinda sessions. And while we did get a pinch of that in the Python on Series 60 session (which by the way I think might have been my favorite) in general it was mostly talk about how to evolve tagging and folksonomies and web services. A good discussion, but not quite what I expected. I would rate the talks good, but not spectacular.
Now, the people. Yea, that was spectacular. And this is really where I think heading out there with someone who’s already tied into the group somewhat really helped out. I had met about twenty of the people at the conference face to face previously, and talked to another ten or so of them online. But I met about 40 people just because Russ would pull me over and go “hey, have you met ….” Which was great, cause while I have no trouble walking up to strangers and introducing myself, it’s nice to have a bit of common ground to work out from when first meeting. And the people there were really very interesting. #mobitpians, and people working on Haskel based open source application server developers and mobile tools, and a whole bunch of bloggers.
So what was it like sitting in the sessions and wandering around in the hallways and lobby? One of the most important things is so make sure that you have your laptop and the right tools to take part in everything going on. As I was listening to the sessions I would write down little bits of what stuck out for me for my posts, pull up web pages mentioned, IM with other people in the audience, listen to the IRC channel, and every once in a while refresh the tags pages/feedster search/attention aggregator page. It really was like being awash in information. And I know I only caught bits and pieces of what went through those rooms during the day. But I skimmed out the top 10% (or however much it ends up being) of the stuff that relates to what I’m doing or interested in, and now I have a bunch of new people to talk to about the stuff. For the sessions that have notes available from the presenters, or that have audio available at some point, I might go back through and reskim after letting this sink in for a while. But in general it was the whole experience of skimming the bits and peices out and then trying to match them up to what others had that was the most interesting. Mostly they were mismatches, I just tend not to take the same kinds of stuff away as most other people do. I think that’s probably a good thing.