#SXSW Day 4: Running on Fumes
NLP to Starships
Day 4 of SXSW was one last blur of sessions. I started out with something perhaps too cerebral for my not-quite caffeinated state: Practical Natural Language Processing. It was a good primer on the state of things in NLP, and no doubt Catherine Havasi is an expert and a good speaker on the topic.
I followed that with a session called “Starship for 100 years” – which was all about how we get to the nearest star system with humans aboard. And how do we start an effort that may take 100 years. It was an interesting juxtaposition to Elon Musk’s talk from the day before -about current efforts to get to Mars. But this panel discussion was just not as inspirational. There was a lot of lip service given to the need to fix the way we relate to each other, in order to survive in close quarters for what could be a 70,000-year journey in space (at current tech levels). At some level, I want to hear about the challenges that can actually be solved, rather than the ones that can’t!
The need to tie into things like recycling, re-use, and sustainable ecology was interesting – this would be nearly mandatory on a long space flight as well as in a remote colony – and yet it is something we also desperately need to figure out on our home planet.
There was a short discussion about the fact that there are more planets than stars, and that this is something being confirmed now by observation, which before was only theory. The discussion turned toward a focus on relationships and education and science – all good things, of course, but a little too “of course” for my taste.
I wasn’t going to miss a chance to hear Amazon’s CTO talk. However the acoustics or speakers were not quite right, so it was hard to hear him. He explained the impetus behind Amazon Web Services and EC2- the idea that you’re wasting 40% (or more) of your capacity to handle your peak load. The picture looks even worse if your peak load is higher than your average load by more than usual. And it looks worse still if you consider a growing user / usage base with higher and higher peaks ( you can’t wait til the last second to buy more capacity and bring it online, you have to do it early, and let it sit idle ).
So this is a huge waste that he thinks AWS addresses. And, it has the additional benefits of allowing software companies of today to build secure, fault-tolerant systems that we’ve known how to build for 20+ years but never had the ROI to justify it.
The big takeaway: decrease focus on resources and constraints – increase focus on business problems. This is a message that resonates with the BPM crowd, and perfectly illustrates why we recommend our customers go with BP3′s BP Deploy offering, which gets IBM BPM up and running in the cloud.
I also attended Julie Uhrman’s keynote – an interview by Josh Topolsky. Julie is the leader behind the Ooyah gaming console. Before this talk I hadn’t realized that the founder of Ooyah was a gamer, nor that she was a she. She exuded confidence and Josh’s repeated digs at her business plan or the necessity of another game console didn’t phase her. She stood her ground, talked fast, and moved on. She comes across as a pattern-matching decision maker- doesn’t need a lot of new data points to make a new decision.
Kickstarter was their means for getting funding, when other means weren’t working out. Found great partners for chips and design.
She claimed several times that there wasn’t anything special about the hardware, per se. That what was special was the effort going into building an ecosystem and development environment that developers would like, and gamers would like.
I found myself wondering why they didn’t go with a name that is pronounced “oh yeah” instead of “ooo yah” – and not being a gamer, I didn’t have any great takeaways, but I did enjoy seeing the interplay between these two, and I like seeing that at SXSW, at least, there is no shortage of confident women business leaders (despite what I keep reading in the news).
We’re Living in the Future (3D Printing)
Finally, I attended a session on 3D printing. The stuff they showed was new to me – printing wood, for example? Advances in mixed-media printing – in the future we’ll be able to “print” an iPhone potentially.
The whole session was fascinating, but maybe the most interesting exchange was when Reichental, of 3D Systems, exclaimed that progress in 3D printing had been too slow, that faster innovation was needed. One of the other panelists chimed in and said “wait, 3D printers used to cost $15,000 – and now they are $300, and they’re faster, with higher resolution. I’d call that innovation” – fantastic point. Innovation isn’t all about feature/function – some of it is reducing cost so that those applications can be discovered by hobbyists and engineers rather than companies.
I particularly like the example of a product that prints glass from sand – sounds too good to be true. And another that grinds up your old plastic products and produces the filament you need to supply your PrintrBot or MakerBot.
Relaxing with Locals
After so many sessions, decompression at a Rainey Street establishment was required – at Craft Pride. Met up with 3 friends and we all exchanged stories from the day’s sessions. I highly recommend you pair up with a friend for SXSW – it is so much more rewarding than going around solo. My wife and I tried out a new restaurant downtown – no mention here, as we weren’t that impressed! – and then met up with friends at Kenichi.
Day 5 was more networking than sessions for me – I didn’t take any notes in the couple sessions I attended. For example, Matthew Inman’s keynote was amazing but it was humorous (he writes the Oatmeal comics). He is just as funny presenting as he is in his comics.
I also checked out the Sonos house. All I can say is while I love my Sonos, after seeing their setup, I want more Sonos equipment. I want the surround sound for sure.