I hope that regular readers forgive the recent sparsity of posts. I spent most of the last three days attending Discover, Endeca’s annual user conference. It might come as a shock to some (especially the PR folks who keep sending me press releases), but I’m not a professional blogger, and I actually hold down a day job at Endeca as Chief Scientist!
As promised, here are some of the highlights of that user conference, and my thoughts about what makes an event like this successful.
Most of the business sessions centered around case studies presented by customers (particularly those recognized as Navigator Award winners). I attended as many of these as I could, learning about what Scripps Networks is doing with Endeca’s Page Builder (check out the Food Network site!) and how Expedia and CHIP Online (a massively popular German site similar to CNET) are implementing SEO. The CHIP guys went as far as to perform live queries on Google.de to show off their SEO success–quite a tour de force! Of course, I also made a point of attending the Newssift (Financial Times) and ESPN sessions, since I’m especially proud of what they’ve done with text analytics.
I didn’t attend quite as many of the technical sessions, though I did manage to make it to the one I was presenting: “money for nothing and your tags for free”. I was lucky to have an 80s-friendly crowd, though someone in the audience did confuse Dee Snider with Roger Daltrey. But my favorite technical session was the one about the extensible Endeca: it featured some of our coolest lab-ware, some of it developed by my team. One of the demos even had a Google Squared sort of feel: it uses WordNet to support dynamic facet creation in response to queries. And it was built by one person on my team in 24 hours for a Guardian Hack Day!
Finally, I didn’t attend the labs, but I heard great feedback about them, especially from customers who had been nervous about using new product features. There’s nothing like hands-on training to build comfort with new technology.
In short, I had a blast, and I heard lots of positive feedback from attendees. I was impressed with the level of the presentations–especially since I’d seen a few fluffy ones in past years’ conferences. This year, I suspect some people will complain that the presentations had too much content! And, while Boston isn’t as nice a setting as Orlando (nor bowling quite as fun as the rides at Universal Studios), I suspect attendees appreciated that the focus was squarely on the substance of the event. I certainly did.