FOWA Miami 2008

The inspiration for this little trip to Miami was actually an email from Carsonified around Christmas some time.  I had missed the FOWA London in October due to work pressures but was still firmly in the grip of their distribution list and anyway I’d followed the previous FOWAs online and thought they looked interesting (plus I try to follow the Carsonified crew online anyway – I think its an interesting mix they have there).  Anyway an email advertising an ‘early-bird’ special of only $145 for a conference in Miami!  Now 145 bucks is like 75 quid and I spend that on a Friday night out sometimes so I was intrigued enough to see if I could build a few days holiday around it…anyway after a bit of time on Expedia I booked 6 days in sunny (ish) Miami including one day of conference going and 5 of people watching, beach sitting and mojito drinking!

Anyway yesterday was the event and I dragged my slightly sunburnt body to a taxi at 7.45 and headed for the venue.

General Impressions:

The venue was stunning – really nice space with what seemed like decent tech and lobby support (though I did see a tweet from Mel Kirk the Event Manager from Carsonified that suggested she had ended up doing alot of the running around herself)

Never seen soooooo many Macs in one place before – they must of outnumbered Windows machines about 5 to 1

Very techy crowd – the badges were colour coded so it was easy to tell who was what – though alot of people had ‘founder’ badges and the ‘Investor’ badges guaranteed a crowd at all times!

Its all about the money!  For all the very nice talks about openness, standards, community and the like the overwhelming topic of conversation was how to make money

Everyone is so young!

OK more specifics now though I am only going to stick to my highlights…will link to wider coverage.

Tantek Celik and Brian Oberkirch opened the conference – they were chairing the day and had helped put the programme together – they did a great job of making everything hang together over the day and should be congratulated for that.  One of themain themes for the day was the idea of openess (open is the new black..or is it pink?) which is obviously something I can get behind.

The keynote speaker (though if everyone is a plenary and has the same time how is it a keynote?) was from Kathy Sierra.  Kathy gave a talk on Cognitive Seduction and I’ll be honest it blew me away!  I’m not going to try and cover the actual talk here as its covered better elsewhere but it was the first time I can honestly say a conference keynote has inspired me – and if I’m honest I didn’t even understand half of it! Really brilliant and makes me want to revisit alot of my thinking about stuff.

I was really looking forward to the Matt Mullenwag talk but I think I came to the wrong one really.  He gave a talk on Scaling – which started looking at the architecture which was snoozeville for me (but I’m sure useful to 99% of the audience) and then he skimmed over scaling Community (what I would have really been interested in!) spoke about Scaling the Business and then Scaling people – the interesting stuff here was how WordPress serves ads which was very clever and also how similar Matts attitude to recruitment is to mine!

I struggled with the next few sessions really – the Future of Social Networks was interesting but not anything i didn’t really know – this kind of standards based development, open access content, ownership of data is pretty standard fodder in the corner of the blogosphere I lay my hat!

Blaine Cook from Twitter is obviously a gifted developer with alot of commitment and imagination but he is no public speaker – also Twitter crashing while he was on stage was a priceless moment (though not for him)!

Unfortunately I missed most of Leah Culvers speech as by this stage I was starving and had to sneak out for food.  She has an impressive confidence though and really controls the stage and is obviously very bright (and again – young!)

I’m not really sure what the point in the Build a Web app in 40 minutes session was about – but they looked natty in their hats and it was one hell of a panel – still it was mainly just a bit of fun rather than anything useful.

I missed the ‘Next Great Startup’ on purpose as VC talk in of little interest to me but missed the Emily Boyd talk by accident which I really regret and I’ll have to dig up coverage of her talk.

The last 2 sessions I attended were both by ex-pat Brits and were both a little over my head but very skillfully done.  Kevin Marks from Google talked about the Social Clowd and especially the Social Graph API and OpenSocial – I am starting to get my head aound the importance of the Social Graph stuff but still find OpenSocial a waste of mind-space.

Next was Cal Henderson from Flickr/Yahoo via the UK.  I have no idea what he was talking about really but it was one of the most entertaining talks I’ve ever seen.  His slides were fun and he completely controlled the stage – fair play.

I missed the talk/taping as I needed a beer and to be honest Gary Vaynerchuck was a bit full-on for me so that was that.

All-in-all it was well worth going – the Kathy Sierra talk was worth the admission alone and it was a well done, reasonably slick set up that has given me ideas for my own event which is good.

Laura Dewis from the OU is here and live blogged the morning til her laptop died and her notes are here

More coverage is available at Google Blog Search.

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