In the morning sessions at ETech today, I listened to a very philosophical session by Mike Kuniavsky on the implications and role of magic in this technological world we inhabit. His presentation was heady stuff that engaged a number of people in the audience in a good conversation. The second presentation by danah boyd (pictured below) was equally interesting and featured some amusing visuals to illustrate a talk about the ubiquity of Web 2.0 application in everyday life. The point of discussion that kept coming up between me and the 50-something guy I was sitting next to was how that is certainly not everyone's reality and what the implications of this new "digital divide" portend for all of us.
This is an important dimension to the more practical question I've been giving a lot of thought to about how businesses today are (or are not) preparing themselves to deal with the next-generation workforce and the decidedly different expectations they'll bring to the world of work in coming years. It's a disconnect that I believe represents another opportunity for forward-thinking organizations to recruit the best talent and prosper. Those who fail to recognize this changing landscape will find themselves at a distinct competitive disadvantage in both recruitment and business process adaptation. And, as danah pointed out in her talk, many of these younger people either have no notion of "career" in the conventional sense or see that as something to worry about later in life.
The presentations I attended yesterday included Jeff Hawkins' discussion of the work he's leading at Numenta to develop a software construct modeled after how the human brain works. Some of the science he discussed was way over my head but it's clear that they are making great strides in creating machine intelligence that can process sensory and environmental input in a much more human fashion that what is currently available. As always, watching Jeff present was a real treat. Whether he's talking about the Palm platform or this new work, he's a a visibly excited, passionate speaker who can explain complex ideas very eloquently.
Zimbra's Satish Dharmaraj gave a quick but thorough demo of the new Zimbra desktop client that provides what's promised to be a seamless online/offline e-mail experience. When online and connected to a Zimbra server, the Zimlets mashups that allow you dial phone numbers, track packages and flights, and map addresses are available. Currently the client only works with the Zimbra server but a forthcoming release will support POP3 and IMAP accounts as well.
BEA Systems' Adrian McDermott demonstrated a trio of new tools that allow enterprise organizatios to create behind-the-firewall mashup applications that leverage web services and RSS to provide rich, web-like applications that combine internal information with data pulled inside the firewall to add a new dynamic to tasks like scheduling, information aggregation and presentation, and event and meeting management.
ThinkFree Office founder and CEO TJ Kang previewed a new social exchange for office documents that allows users of their online suite of document tools to share their work in a "Flickr for Office Docs" environment. Doc Exchange is designed to allow people to share documents, templates, and information resources and connect with others who share both personal and business interests. I have been a longtime fan of ThinkFree Office for thvariety of usage scenarios they support which range from both a full-featured Java-based suite of Microsoft Office-compatible tools that can be used on the web as well as on Windows, Mac, and Linux desktops, a lightweight AJAX version for quick online editing, and a Server Edition that allows organizations to host their own browser-based tools.
As is usually the case at O'Reilly events, there's more to see than any one person can possibly fit into their schedule. And, as is also the case at these events, the hallway conversations, breakfast and lunch briefings, and networking in the exhibit hall is every bit as valuable as the sessions themselves. On a side note, the horrendous winds that kep everyone inside yesterday have settled down and we were able to enjoy a bit of the kind of weather San Diego is better known for today.
I'll catch up with this afternoon's events in my next post and then prepare for the closing day at ETech 2007. Stay tuned...