I’ve been following the FASTForward ’09 conference from a distance–somehow I couldn’t justify spending a few thousand dollars to attend just to satisfy my curiosity, not to mention explaining a “business trip” to Vegas. Instead, I read what I could find online. Microsoft invited (I assume, paid) several bloggers to attend the event and write about it at the FASTForward Blog. Independently, a number of folks have been tweeting about the conference using the #ffc09 hashtag. And a few folks have been blogging about the conference independently.
A few observations:
- I’m not persuaded by corporate bloggers, and invited bloggers come across as corporate. Read the posts yourself at the FASTForward Blog, and I think you’ll agree that the fare, while not shrill advertising, is nonetheless a bit bland. Full disclosure: I participated in an effort last year to live-blog the Endeca Discover user conference. I even remember doing research on the fly to add context around the presentations. In retrospect, however, I think it was a misguided effort. No one wants to read a corporate blog.
- It’s cool that attendees get to hear from social media luminaries like Clay Shirky, Charlene Li and Peter Kim. I’d love to have listened to those presentations, though again there’s that price tag. Even remote attendees had to pay $495. What I wonder is why these speakers would be keynotes at a conference about enterprise search. One of the FASTForward bloggers, Sandy Kemsley, noted:
Something that I noticed at last year’s FASTforward is that this is more than just a user conference: it’s also a social media conference. I don’t know how a search company’s user conference ends up like that, but it makes it interesting. What has changed since last year is that it seems that they’re required to inject the word “search” into everything in order to reinforce the overall message of the conference.
I don’t doubt that “it makes it interesting”. But I do wonder if that’s what attendees signed up for.
- For all that, it sounds like there were some on-topic sessions, including a presentation by IDC analyst Sue Feldman (who is a great advocate for HCIR, even if she prefers the term “conversational systems“) and presentations by FAST executives, customers, and partners. And I imagine that, independent of the formal structure of the conference, much of the value of attending comes from the informal conversations with other attendees.
I’m curious to hear candid impressions from FASTForward ’09 attendees who find their way to this blog. I’d love to share what I learn with my co-workers who are organizing Endeca Discover ’09, as well as with colleagues who are organizing vendor-independent search conferences.
The great thing about public conversation is that everyone can learn from everyone else. Please do your part: educate me and keep me honest.