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This year marks the fifth anniversary of Defrag.
What started as a blog post (and email exchange with Eric Norlin) I did about “intelligence amplification” in 2006 has morphed into a conference about the larger topics of social and big data and is now a wide-ranging conversation about technology and what’s over the horizon.
If you check out this year’s agenda, you’ll find everything from mobile to cloud computing to tech policy in DC to my own keynote on Resistance Is Futile.
Defrag has become one of the cannot-miss events of the tech conference world. Every year it increasingly feels like a family gathering, as more than 300 people journey to Boulder to basically hang out and expand their thinking for two days. This year, Eric decided to cap attendance at 325 to make sure that the quality of interaction stays high.
You simply will not find a better forum for making in-depth connections that will change your business and career in technology. There are still about 25 seats left – sign up before they are gone. Use the discount code “brad12″ for $200 off the price.
The list of confirmed keynote speakers includes:
Paul Kedrosky, Kauffman Foundation
Roger Ehrenberg, IA Ventures
James Altucher, The Altucher Confidential
Robert Stephens, CTO, Best Buy
Adrian Cockcroft, Cloud Architect, Netflix
Tim Bray, Google
Phil Weiser, Dean, CU Law School
Hal Stern, CTO’s Office, Juniper Networks
Lili Cheng, Microsoft R&D
Jeff Lawson, Twilio
Wendy Lea, Get Satisfaction
Dave Gutelius, Chief Scientist, Jive Software
Tim Young, Socialcast
TA McCann, Gist
Duncan Watts, Author, “Everything is Obvious *Once You Know The Answer”
Sam Arbeson, Kauffman Foundation
and I know that Eric is still adding more surprises on a weekly basis.
Our friends at Dorsey & Whitney are hosting me and Jason Mendelson this Thursday, October 20th from 4pm to 6pm to drink beer together and discuss “what really matters” in a venture deal. While the event requires registration, I’ve been told that copies of Venture Deals: Be Smarter Than Your Lawyer and Venture Capitalist will be given to whomever shows up (until they run out) and that the beer will be a collection of yummy local microbrews provided by Devil’s Canyon Brewery Company in Belmont.
Jason and I will sign any copy of our book that appears at the event. We’ll also drink a few beers with you. Plus, who could resist a title of an event sponsored by a law firm that says “What The $@%@$” in the title.
4pm – 6pm
Dorsey & Whitney
305 Lytton Ave.
Palo Alto, CA 94301
I’ve been getting at least one invitation a day to speak on at a conference or on a panel. My general rule is to only say yes when it intersects with my travel, if it is for an organization I’m already involved in or a person I want to support, or if it’s in a place I’m interested in visiting. When invited, I typically end up getting asked to give a keynote, be interviewed on stage, or be part of a panel. I enjoy the first two and hate the last one.
Fred Wilson and I were both on an email thread today from a good friend of ours asking us to be on a panel with him at an event in November. Based on my rules above, I said “yes, if it’s really important to you.” Fred had a better answer:
“i have a no panels rule.
i am trying like hell to enforce it.
panels are awful and should be eliminated from planet earth.”
Fred is so correct on this. Whenever I’m in the audience listening to a panel, I’m almost always bored. Every now and then someone on the panel captivates me, but the vast majority are dull, vapid, generic, stupid, non-controversial, politically correct, or just plain boring. And a conference of panels? “E#kl;asdfpoi#0c90k;@$Q”.
When I give a keynote, I usually do a 15 minute rant on whatever topic I think is relevant to the audience and then do Q&A for whatever my allotted time is. I’ve generally stopped “telling my story” since I find myself incredibly boring to listen to when I’m recounting my history. Every now and then I fall into this trap of an extended introduction and always am annoyed with myself. Whenever I do this (and I did it a few weeks ago in front a class of undergrads) I hit myself in the forehead afterwards and say out loud “don’t do that again.”
I’ve never been a particularly obedient panelist. I’ve been told numerous times that my body language gives away my response to whomever is talking, especially if I don’t agree with them or think what they are saying is wrong. While I try to let people finish their thoughts, I’m not bashful about cutting in and I’d guess that I usually end up taking more than my calculated ratio of air time (e.g. if four panelist, I talk more than 25% of the time.)
While I’m not going to adopt Fred’s no panel rule, I’ve decided that I’m going to have a much higher bar going forward for agreeing to be on panels. And, when I do, the panel inviter should beware that I’m going to be even more assertive about my perspective, especially if I’m bored while sitting on the panel. Maybe that’ll filter out all the panel inviters that want a nice peaceful panel.
And – if you are a conference organizer, consider eliminating the panels altogether. As Fred says, “panels are awful and should be eliminated from planet earth.”
If you are an entrepreneur working on something HCI related, you are also missing out if you don’t come to Blur. I’ll be there as will my three partners at Foundry Group. We will be fully engaged for two days in one of our favorite themes that has spawned investments like Oblong, Fitbit, Organic Motion, Sifteo and Orbotix.
In case you wonder how a conference like Blur can impact the trajectory of a young company, just take a look at the backstory of how we (Foundry Group) ended up meeting and investing in Gist. TA McCann, Gist’s CEO, came to Defrag (another conference like Blur that Eric Norlin runs and we participate in), hunted me down, and took me for a few runs. TA got me hooked on the product and a few months later we lead the Series A financing with Vulcan. This particular story has a very happy ending as RIM acquired Gist yesterday for an amount that put big smiles on everyone’s faces.
The agenda at Blur is awesome. Eric Norlin is an absolute master at putting on highly relevant conferences around a theme (his other two are Defrag and Glue.) Once again my friends at the Kauffman Foundation have provided some great scholarships for Blur and – like all of Eric’s conferences – there will be lots of time for people to spent together talking about and playing with the great stuff they are working on.
Oh – and for anyone tired of winter, it’s in Orlando. Sign up and come hang out with me, my partners, and a bunch of amazing HCI stuff for two days next week.
The next Eric Norlin conference is Blur and is happening in Orlando, Florida (yay – warm) on February 22 and 23. I’ll be there along with my three Foundry Group partners Seth, Ryan, and Jason exploring the future of human computer interaction.
If you are a entrepreneur working in the area of HCI, this inaugural Blur Conference will be a special event. Eric has done an amazing job of curating two other conferences: Defrag (just finished its fourth year) and Glue (about to have its third year). I’ve been to every one and they are amazing experiences.
While the full conference price is $1,495, early bird registration lasts through February 4th and is $995. Plus Eric just gave me a 10% off discount code – if you are a reader of this blog use “brad12″ to get another 10% off. And, if you are student or in a Pre-Series A startup, there are still a few Kauffman Scholarships for Blur left.
Finally, since I’ll be there with Seth, Ryan, and Jason and all four of us will be fully engaged the whole time, it’s a perfect chance to pull us into a corner somewhere and show us your latest HCI ideas.