This past week I was in Denver attending Defrag 2009, which is something of the uber-tech geek con and bills itself as:
…focused on the tools and technologies that accelerate the “aha” moment, and is a gathering place for the growing community of implementers, users, and thinkers that are building the next wave of software innovation.
It was a very unique experience, to say the least. We actually were unsure of our interest in attending when we first heard about Defrag. Eric Norlin had contacted me several months ago about us being a sponsor. Since “big data” is one of the themes at Defrag, he justifiably figured that we would fit right in. Unfortunately, with DEMO looming, we were unsure of Defrag of being worth taking a chunk out of our budget. I actually initially declined Eric, but he was persistent and contacted me again after DEMO. Of course, I was even more cautious about committing now that all the money for DEMO had actually been spent! But, after Eric offered the opportunity to speak, I decided we’d go for it.
Let me first say that deciding to attend Defrag was definitely the right move. The quality of level of the audience is definitely the highest of any conference I’ve seen. Each person that came by the booth was plugged-in, technical and business-savvy. We actually managed to generate a good number of promising leads, which was impressive considering there were only about 350 people in attendance. From a pure business perspective, just closing 2 or 3 of these leads would make the conference worth it for us.
We had some great one-on-one conversations with folks there, including talks with the guys at Infochimps, Robert Scoble, and Bill from Factual (previously of Y! BOSS). We also gave some folks a sneak peak at what we’re working on with Language Computer. Without providing too much detail, we’re building a service called Extractiv, which will let people turn any part of the web into highly structured, semantic data.
The one down vote I would give for Defrag is that the talks didn’t always live up to “tech” billing I thought they would. In many cases, on-stage discussion converged onto social media, Twitter, etc. While those are important new developments, many of the speakers focused on how to create the right UI or visualize social content. My personal opinion is that UI and visualization are not the hard problems to be solved in these spaces. Rather, converting that content into meaningful and actionable data is.
Oh, and here’s my little presentation!
I think I ruffled some feathers by actually suggesting something could be better than the cloud in some cases (god forbid!). :)
Overall it was a great time, and I look forward to attending next year!