Ironically this week has probably been my most offline in months - Sprint failed the brand new Westin Hotel in Boston disastrously with terrible or non existent wifi service. It was a real shame because Jive Software had an instance of Clearspace for the conference attendee community and there was a terrific back channel for each session sadly only usable by those with a connection. I hope Westin dump Sprint and find a wifi vendor who is serious about service after this experience.
Boston is a great whale spotting location and I saw the Twitter Moby Dick a lot on my iphone, which was frequently my only working device, using the presumably ironically named snail speed EDGE network. Stowe Boyd showed me Twiddict, which queues tweets and sends them when Twitter's yoyo is in the up position, a useful new browser tool in a maddening situation.
Overall a real shame because people were clearly itching to chime in online during a very solid conference. What does it take to build a strong wifi network for a tech conference in 2008 and why do venues not offer ethernet hubs as a worst case scenario when their wifi networks fail them? I'd gladly settle for ethernet wire spaghetti for a guaranteed connection...
The upside to all this was the slightly surreal situation of being surrounded by the many friends I've met online, particularly via Twitter, in real life/meatspace. Often not being able to respond to witty tweets was mitigated by speaking face to face at session end. A great experience and terrific to get to know some wonderful people better over the course of the week!
Security people stars of the show, Powerpoint low point
Monday's in depth session on 'threat and vulnerability management in the Enterprise 2.0 world' with John Pironti of Getronics, and Sean Dennehy and Don Burke of the CIA's Intellipedia community each shared highly informative presentations.
While John's session was somewhat general in scope and not specifically focused on Enterprise 2.0, he provided great insight into the realities of the security world. Getronics is a huge 26,000 employee company because the web is a very insecure place. While Web/Enterprise 2.0 doyens are often in adversarial relationships with IT departments, in some instances IT department CIO's can find themselves in jail if they don't demonstrate adequate security at audits, a sobering thought.
In the USA, Hospitals, Homeland Security and financial institutions to name obvious examples literally cannot function without IT, with standards that must be adhered to entwined within process and its technology execution - the medical world's HIPA being a clear example. In a rapidly globalized world this reality is magnified: successfully adopting Enterprise 2.0 collaboration principles within these constraints is contingent on adequate information protection.
The Intellipedia initiative within the CIA is a great example of bottom up collaboration environment building using open source technology in what is an extremely secretive world. For many of us this is great news - it would appear that if the CIA can collaborate within mediawiki to more efficiently serve the taxpayers at a tiny fraction of the cost of behemoth systems there is hope for those battling to build similar initiatives in far less security sensitive enterprises.
Sean and Don should be applauded for their initiative, and may need all the help they can get in the future from the collaboration community with case histories and ROI stories to fend off those whose careers depend on more cumbersome rival systems, as is the case in so many similar enterprise situations. (Spys are still called collaborators in the security world incidentally...).
Sean pleasantly surprised me when I met him the night before their presentation by telling me he had been reading my blog, I hope to conduct an interview in the near future with this great pair of guys. Head spook, I know you're reading this, Sean and Don are doing a great job!
There were many other strong sessions and highpoints: Dion Hinchcliffe's 'implementing Enterprise 2.0' and Pete Field of Wachovia's 'Realizing business value through social networking with Wachovia', Stowe Boyd's 'Web culture and the new ethos of work' really resonated with me amongst a strong field.
Probably the weakest moments were the generic Powerpoint presentations: Oracle's Mark Woolen running very long with what many called a blatant sales pitch and Ned Lerner, a director of engineering tools and technologies for Sony Computer Entertainment America, struggling to connect his laptop and get Powerpoint working in front of a large audience, which must have been a very stressful experience.
Ned was presenting slides of the 'WorldWide Studios' collaboration environment I ran until very recently at PlayStation, during which he was my immediate superior, so this was extremely familiar information to me.
The high point of the 'real world show and tells' was Lockheed Martin's presentation Thursday morning, another surprise from another security conscious environment. The room was jammed for a very concise discussion of their technology stack, plenty of meaty discussion of planning and process and details of their technology implementation.
Overall a very solid conference, well worth attending. @Trib probably came the longest distance, flying in from Canberra Australia and pronounced the trip well worth it at the closing 'Town Hall Meeting'.