On November 18th and 19th I went with a family member to New York City to attend Interop 2009 New York (http://www.interop.com/newyork/) and Web 2.0 New York (http://www.web2expo.com/webexny2009). We stayed at one of the conference hotels, the Wyndham Garden Hotel Times Square South, Hotel, in the garment district of Manhattan (http://www.wyndham.com/hotels/NYCMT/main.wnt). It was a short walk to the convention center.
I’m not fond of New York City, which I describe as “Gotham City and not in a good way”! I don’t like the concrete canyons and the crush of people. This time I really enjoyed myself. I loved the hotel. I liked my block in the garment district. I liked the walk to the convention center and the wonderful Thai restaurant across from the hotel, Royal Thai Cuisine II (http://www.royalthainyc.com). We saw a Broadway play, The Thirty Nine Steps (http://www.39stepsonbroadway.com/) and that was wonderful. I had a great time at both conventions. I had a great travel companion.
I had expo passes to Interop and Web 2.0, which gave me access to the keynote speaker presentations, selected conference talks and the expo floor.
Interop is about business computer “stuff”, hardware, software, networks. It’s targeted to the IT professional who has the authority to make decisions on the technical architecture and products for their company. Web 2.0 is about “the web”, with a more inclusive definition of web stuff. Think of the web as being at the center of what you do on the computer, both personally and professionally. Web 2.0 is also about collaboration, social networks, updating information on the web in “real time”. I think the term “Web 2.0” is also used to differentiate between companies that failed during the “dot com” bust, and companies still in existence doing web stuff, but that’s a personal opinion.
“Compare and Contrast” follows.
Keynote Presentations: polished and professional, both at Interop and Web 2.0. Interop had one main theme, cloud computing. Web 2.0 had no overall theme. The Interop presenters were senior executives at tech companies and other institutions. The Web 2.0 presenters were a more varied group, writers, comedians, publishers, researchers, government types. Interop did have one tech columnist, David Pogue, who was really good.
The presentations were all good, though the Interop presentations were consistently more compelling. I think that’s because the world has changed. Senior executives at big tech companies – they really know how to present. Along with knowing their stuff, and wanting to sell it to you, it’s a media job. Web 2.0 had more “talking heads” kinds of presentations (some funny ones too), also less polished slide content. There were some gems at Web 2.0. One of the most interesting presenters at Web 2.0 was Gentry Underwood from the famous design firm IDEO. Gentry talked about designing for the web.
Focus: Interop is focused on what I would call “things”, big things – electronic pieces of equipment, and the stuff to run them. Web 2.0 is focused on communication. This carried over to the personal space. The fun presenter at Interop was David Pogue, who talked about and gave demos of fun applications for the iPhone, a piece of equipment, a thing.
Naivety: Web 2.0 had the idea that, somehow, a speech, even a speech in front of 2000 people, was a collaborative event. At the keynote presentations a background screen behind each speaker displayed live tweets about the presentation from the audience, displayed during the presentation, real time. (Tweets are electronic posts over the internet, using Twitter). The tweet screens were distracting and annoying, and of course it went bad. At a presentation I did not attend, the tweets become personal and disruptive. At the presentations I went to, the day after the bad incident, the tweets were displayed behind the speakers, but the tweet stream was moderated, with a small time delay. I thought the whole concept of a live commentary was naïve, also a misrepresentation of what it means to give a talk in front of thousands of people. The keynotes were speeches at a conference, not a dialogue, even if people felt compelled to talk about it, electronically, as it was happening. Electronic forums have their own challenges; when unmoderated, they almost always become antagonistic and disruptive. There’s also the “class clown” syndrome. It’s human nature for people to try to get attention. Given an opportunity, one person will try to outdo the other. Generally, at a conference, you set up a presentation to maximize people paying attention, given the distractibility of convention goers. At Interop there was no attempt to make the presentations “collaborative”. For one thing, no Interop presenter would agree to such a disruptive element. I found the straightforward attitude at Interop refreshing. The attitude of the conference and presenters appeared to be “I’ll do the best job possible presenting, and I hope you’ll listen”.
The Expo Booths: Web 2.0 and Interop shared the same exhibit space, Web 2.0 on one end, Interop on the other. This was good for companies that wanted to address both audiences, such as Microsoft and IBM.
Expo booths are designed to display products and get you interested in buying the product. At the tech conventions I’ve been to, I’ve found the booths to be colorful and well designed. Both Interop and Web 2.0 had good booths, but the booths at Interop were better, better as in more dramatic, eye catching, bigger, with better free stuff. The best booth was the booth for Qwest – http://www.qwest.com/business, a telecommunications company. Advertising their “rock solid network”, you could get your picture taken as a rock star. Qwest had all the requisite props to make you look like a rock star – tattoo sleeves, guitars, mikes, hats, dark glasses, feather boas (think 70s rock). It was so much fun.
Why the difference? I think the difference is due to the audience and the products. Exhibitors at both conferences were showing their products so you’d get interested in their products and spend money, but there are differences in the nature of the products and the participants. Citrix, who had a booth at Interop, can sell you something small, but they really want to sell you big stuff, in terms of price and breadth — big computers (servers), virtualization software for your whole company. So, they make a booth that looks like a spaceship.
I’ll conclude with some pictures: