The dot conf 2010

Last week (22nd July 2010) I was lucky enough to attend the first ever dot conf in the NCI in Dublin, Ireland.

What is the dot conf?
The dot conf is a new web technology conference for anyone who works, rests or plays with the internet. It’s a one day event and it’s free. Essentially it’s a teddy bears picnic but with internet folk instead of bears.

Mark Little, a familiar face, gave an introduction to Storyful – his current attempt to reshape the way in which news is reported by journalists and consumed by users.
Mark himself was a clear and confident speaker (well, he was a journalist & household name for quite some time after all) and did a very good job of pitching his new baby to the audience. Storyful has been kept under a shroud of secrecy since development on the idea started a while ago, but is slowly emerging with the hope that when it is finally ready to launch there will have been enough of a buzz built up about its approach to news reporting.
In a nutshell, Storyful’s purpose is to reinvent the way in which the news is reported. Mark’s main point appeared to be that in the past his (and other journalists’) job was to dig for, discover and collect information and news from what was a data-vacuum. Now this role is changing, and journalists much adapt to their new task of filtering the massive volume of information and data down to what can be reported on accurately.
His pitch was leaning towards a type of ‘Web 3.0’, where ‘the community’ tells the news and Storyful will curate it. (If I ever use the phrase Web 3.0 again, please, shoot me)
An interesting approach, and one that deserves some monitoring to see how it develops in the near future.

Martha Rotter, of Microsoft Ireland, gave a fascinating talk about large datasets and how to mine them efficiently using Microsoft’s new data management and mining tool, Pivot. The tool itself is user friendly, pretty and most importantly – useful.
As Martha explained, we encounter data all the time – a hell of a lot of data, and generally it’s difficult to work out what to do with it and how to find out important information from it. From my own experience sometimes just rendering the data in a new, different way can result in a deeper understanding of the underlying source of that data that would otherwise have been completely missed.
A timely example she provided was using Pivot to glance through the CrunchBase database, which could result in a VC or Angel Investor being able to narrow down their target categories and companies in seconds.
So with Pivot being all about the data, I’d suggest you have a look at it and see what you think – it could be huge.

Robert Blandford & Fonnchadh MacCobb, of Decisions For Heroes (D4H) gave an inspiring presentation about D4H itself, and “The Awesomeness Methodology“.
The Awesomeness Methodology itself is really just a way to make sure that when you build something (or think about building something), you make it the best it can possibly be, and is based on a few key points, the more interesting ones being:

  • Buy an expensive notebook – The more expensive it is, the more you’ll treasure its contents
  • Create passion filters – Make sure you know what you want to do and make sure you like it. Also, when you build something, use it yourself. Then you know you have at least one customer
  • Share – Tell people about your ideas. Don’t keep them to yourself. (I’m not sure I fully agree with this)
  • Polarise people – From passion comes success. If people love you or your product, they’ll talk about you. If they hate you or your product, they’ll talk about you. If they’re indifferent, you’ll never hear your name mentioned.

D4H is a webapp/SAAS type system used by emergency services around the world to optimse and risk-manage their responses to calls from the public (and the calls themselves too). If allows for tracking and preparation of team management (including treatment, weather, injusties and location information), analytics (covering patterns of incidents, comparisons and evaluation of team’s performance, tracking of expertise) and organisation monitoring (resource allocation, training courses, communication, paperwork and compliance).
With teams bsed around the work, including in Haiti after the recent disaster there, they’re able to get relative, accurate and real-time updates from rescuers who are literally inside the areas that conventional media just can’t get to. (Maybe they should contact Mark Little about a slot on Storyful? 🙂)

The conference itself was good fun, informative, frustrating and disappointing all in one go. Some of the presentations were condescending (Facebook), others a let down (Internet Security – could have had one hell of an interesting chat considering it came up just after the Facebook one …) but the majority of them were interesting, passionate, innovative and enaging. The end of the day led to some interesting discussions about what we had just seen with some of the most talked about topics being Pivot, Storyful and Decisions For Heroes.
I can’t express just how enjoyable the day was. Despite the sub-par provisions made for WiFi (this was a tech event, for internet types, after all) the wide range of speakers and topics meant for an exciting mix of talks, relevant to what we’re doing on a daily basis out in the real world right now.

The dot conf guys have put up a survey for anyone who attended the event, so make sure you take the time to fill it in when you get a chance!


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