So, your boss doesn't want you to take notes next time he pays you to go to a conference?
My bosses also want me to be reachable. Email is excellent for that.
Most conference sessions are boring. That's the speaker's fault. If they want us to look up from the screen they need to work on their skills.
I can't imagine a conference without having my laptop along anymore.
The good conference planners will figure out new ways to use a connected audience.
The bad ones will listen to Mike McBride.
I was just on my bike ride and decided to drop into San Jose Camera to see what's up.
First up? I asked if they knew anything about the new Nikon Coolpix 3 that's coming out on May 29. They said they didn't know anything. Liars. I used to work in the camera business. I bet these guys have already seen the camera and placed their orders.
Second up, I look around and people are still buying film cameras. Why? I think it comes down to cost and difficulty with computers (most people don't have a computer that's less than three years old in their homes).
Let's see. A $400 camera that does 2megapixels can do pictures up to 5x7. It takes better pictures than most $100 film cameras do (and you can see the results immediately).
A roll of film is $6 and processing is another $10 (on average).
Digital pictures are free (there's no marginal cost per image with a digital camera).
Let's say you take 100 pictures a year (not very hard to do, that's three rolls of film per year). That'd cost you $18 for the film, and $30 for the processing. $48.
OK, digital does cost you something to make prints. Let's assume you use Ofoto.com. Each image is $.49 for a 4x6 or $.99 for a 5x7. But, you only pay for images you like. I don't know about you, but I only keep about 10% of the pictures from each roll of film. So, let's assume you make 20 5x7's. That'd be about $20 (actually $22 because of shipping charges).
Well, let's look at the typical consumer. If they take 108 images a year it'll take 12 years for digital to pass film in terms of cost (although digital does have additional advantages in that you can pass images around on Web sites and via email).
Film: $100 camera. $48 in film and processing. $148 total.
Digital: $400 camera. $20 in prints off of Ofoto. $420 total.
Year two Film's still ahead.
Now, what happens if you double the number of images? Let's say we take 216 images a year. That's six rolls of 36 exp. film plus processing a year (and 40 5x7 images a year for the Ofoto.com customer).
Film: $100 camera. $96 in film and processing. $196 total.
Digital: $400 camera. $40 in prints off of Ofoto. $440 total.
So, film quickly gets to be more expensive than digital, but most people don't seem to be caring about that too much.
Plus, most people think that only geeks can handle digital cameras, or that the quality is not as good.
On both points this is wrong. Both Windows XP and Macintosh OS X make it pretty easy to handle digital photos. On XP all I need to do is hook up my card reader (or my camera, for that matter) and the OS says "would you like to copy your photos?" and it'll put them in a folder on my hard drive automatically.
Visiting Ofoto.com is simple enough that my dad can do it (you drag and drop images into a picture album that you create).
Anyway, I'm preaching to the choir, but just thought I'd do a cost analysis on digital vs. film and see where it ends up.
On the quality side of things, my prints from a 1.3 megapixel camera have better color and apparent sharpness than those from a friend's film camera. Why is that? I believe that Ofoto is spending a lot more time (and the technology is better) for printing photos correctly.
I'm now looking at getting a 5megapixel camera that'll be able to do prints up to 8x10 or even larger.
The folks at San Jose Camera are still pushing film, though. "8x10s need more than 5megapixels to get as good as film."
That might be true in the lab, but it's not true in real life.
Remember, this is a debate of Windows 2000 vs. Windows XP. Since Windows XP runs better than Windows 2000 (and uses the same core driver set) you don't need to worry about upgrading RAM, or needing new hardware. If your machine can run Windows 2000, it very likely will be able to run Windows XP (yes, there are a couple of exceptions out there, but those three people probably don't read my weblog and if they do, they don't matter anyway).
If you want to reframe the debate of "should I upgrade Windows 98 to Windows XP" then there's a lot of issues like hardware and compatibility that you need to consider that I won't go into here.
Another argument: are you geeky enough to upgrade your own machine? If you loaded Windows 2000 yourself, you'll be able to handle Windows XP (XP's installer is better and easier than Windows 2000's).
But, if you're not very computer literate (test: do you understand all the choices you have to make during an install. Do you have a backup of all your data? Do you have a geeky friend who knows XP and Windows 2000 that you can call?) I wouldn't upgrade and I'd just wait until you buy your next computer to get a new OS.
Keep in mind that I'm an upgrader. I want to always have the latest stuff. Even when I was on the Mac I was that way. I loaded System 7.0 on all of San Jose State University Journalism computers before any other school got their copies.
I know that software is a human endeavor and generally humans improve what they do over time. Yeah, there's a few things in XP that I think Jim Allchin should be fired for, but then there's a lot in there that he and his team should get kudos for too. I earned the right to say that. I have Windows XP loaded on my system.
Now, if I can only get my IT department to let me load XP on my work machine my life would be good again.
Should you upgrade from Windows 2000 to Windows XP?
I'll print any good arguments on either side.
If we're going to limit the argument solely to "should I upgrade?" I say "yes."
Because, if you already are using a Microsoft OS and you plan on staying in the Microsoft camp, then there's no political advantage to gain from not upgrading.
Not upgrading just tells Microsoft that you aren't a customer and can safely be ignored. (If you really want to score political points on this side of the debate, switch to Linux or buy a Macintosh. That way you can show Microsoft that you are still in the game, but have switched to the other side).
Not upgrading puts you at risk. Microsoft has fixed hundreds, if not thousands of bugs between Windows 2000 and Windows XP. When will one of those bugs catch you? I don't know, but why not get an OS that has far fewer bugs in it? Plus, since Microsoft's own employees are almost exclusively using Windows XP now, which security holes do you think will be fixed first? Those in XP or those in Windows 2000?
Not upgrading means you don't have the latest features. ClearType, for one. That feature alone is worth upgrading, in my view (your view may differ). There are dozens of little features not worth blogging about, but that in total make it worth it too.
Of course, upgrading means you've given Microsoft another $100 or $200 that they can use to develop new products and pay off lawyers and such. So, I guess you're supporting the "evil empire" if you buy another copy. But, then, if you think Microsoft is evil, why not live your life with integrity and remove all Microsoft software from your computer and use Linux? I'd even be cool with you selling your computer on eBay and buying a Mac OS X machine. At least that way your beliefs would be in line with your behavior. Until you do that you're just a hypocrite.
On the other side of the fence: there is some hardware and software that won't work with Windows XP. That's a legitimate reason not to upgrade an existing machine or system. If you have existing software that's running fine on Windows 98 or Windows 2000, then why upgrade? (Of course, my current employer makes that argument, and by forcing me to run SAP on Windows 98 I figure I lose about 10 minutes a day due to crashes and hangs (which I don't get with my Windows XP machine). I get paid about $35 an hour, so every week their decision to stick with Windows 98 costs them more in lost productivity -- EVERY WEEK -- than it would to upgrade.
My thesis is: if you're gonna remain in the Microsoft family (and, let's face it, most people will -- even if Apple doubles its market share this year that means that more than 80% of us will stick with a Microsoft Windows-based computer) then you should upgrade to Windows XP.
Also, I totally reject the "bloat" argument. Windows XP uses less RAM than Windows 2000 does. And, with most apps Windows XP is faster and the OS "rots" slower. Plus, I experience even fewer crashes with XP than I was back in my Windows 2000 days. Admittedly, your hardware might have different results (I know my IBM Thinkpad behaves very well with XP, while some Sony Vaio's, for instance, have more crashes). I also have all the latest drivers and such loaded and did a "clean" install (ie I loaded XP on a freshly-formatted hard drive).
But, in talking with people at conferences, XP is easier to run (especially if you have a wireless network) and is more reliable than any other Microsoft OS.
If you're politically against Microsoft (I do understand that viewpoint, believe me) then the smart choice is not to remove yourself from the game, but decide to switch to another team.
Buzz is talking about his experience with conference weblogging and he got me thinking: how can speakers use Internet technologies on stage?
I just gave a talk at the WWW conference in Hawaii. I apologize to the 50 people in the audience. I'm not Don Box and I ain't gonna give my talk naked, especially when I am not getting paid for doing that. (I'm jealous of people who can enthrall an audience like Don can).
Anyway, over the past four years I've talked with hundreds of speakers and I'm wondering how they could use Internet technologies like chat rooms, weblogs, etc. on stage.
First, if you've never been on stage, you don't realize how fast 30 or 60 minutes goes. When you're on stage time appears to go faster. Almost all speakers are nervous on stage (even Don Box admits he gets nervous).
It's very hard for a non-experienced speaker to do well. Don told me one time that the only way you get to be a good speaker is to do it often.
I also found that when I'm on stage I become hyper focused and that it was hard to pay attention to anything but my outline. It didn't even occur to me to look at the IRC chat app that was running in the background. I had my content to get through.
It was fairly easy to take a couple of questions from the immediate audience (cause when you put out a statement, the audience likes to add their own two points -- I know I do when I'm in an audience).
As an audience member I want the speaker to succeed and I want a way to slap the guy around on stage when he's failing (I'm sure many in my audience wanted to slap me around).
The trouble is, when you're on stage, you're there with one goal: to deliver your speech. So, anything that distracts you from that goal is seen as an irritant. Many speakers tell me they don't like taking questions from the audience until the end because of this (and speech coaches that I've seen typically spend quite a bit of their time teaching how to control the audience so they don't disrail you).
So, it'll take an extraordinary speaker who can look over at a chat window every few minutes to see how he's doing.
Another idea: I'd love to "rate" the speakers live at a conference.
I've talked to lots of speakers about this. Most want to see how they are doing in the eyes of their audience. But, really, do they? Let's assume the audience had a little Web service called "rate the speaker."
Let's assume that each audience member could rate the speaker 1-4 with 1 being "you suck" to 4 being "you're better than Don Box."
Now, I know that my ratings would hang around the 1-2 range. Could my ego take that blow while on stage? I don't think so. It'd probably make me more nervous, which would make my speech go even worse, which would make my ratings go down. I'd be in a loop to hell.
So, I don't know that I'd want to watch my ratings while I'm on stage.
I would like to know, though, how I did as soon as I'm off stage. When I gave my talk I asked a couple of people "did I do OK?"
Human nature being what it is, we all just don't want to look stupid.
Isn't that stupid? :-)
Speakers I like never ask "did I do OK?" It demonstrates that the speaker doesn't have much self esteem. We like listening to people who are self confident. After all, if they don't believe in themselves, why should we believe in them?
So, we have a condundrum. If a speaker sucks, the audience wants to help the speaker improve. It's awfully uncomfortable listening to a speaker who sucks (I sat through a speech at the WWW conference where I could barely hear the speaker due to her soft voice. I wanted so bad to be able to tell her to speak up, but I knew that doing so would totally blow what little self confidence she had -- I'm sure there were people in my audience thinking the same thing about me).
At the WWW conference speakers were non professional (we weren't paid. In fact, I had to argue with the conference organizers just to get a free pass for the day of my conference. That's bullshit. If someone is speaking at your conference where you charge attendees $400 a day, the least you could do is give your speakers a free badge.)
I'm rambling again, huh? Well, it's 7 a.m. so there.
Getting back to the topic. How can speakers use tech on stage?
I found that I really liked having the IRC chat room before and after my talk. It helped keep me from getting nervous before hand (and helped me get an idea of what my audience was expecting). Afterward it was a great place to answer the few questions that remained.
So, an IRC chat room is one thing.
I put my slides up on my weblog and linked them there.
So, putting slides or an outline of your talk up on your weblog is a good idea.
I wish I had taken a stronger stand in my talk. So, it probably would have been a good idea to write an essay about what I thought about my topic two or three weeks before my talk. That would have helped me get some feedback about the appropriateness of my stance. Plus, webloggers would have told me ahead of time about other resources or ideas that I should consider.
If you're on stage, you should have a strong enough ego so that you'd want to know what your audience thought of you. So, I would love to see a "rate the speaker" application of some kind. As a speaker I'd like a choice of whether or not to watch it during the talk, but it's inexcusable not to have some feedback right after the talk to give the speaker. Why any conference team still does paper evaluations is beyond me. I guess most conference planners still don't know how to get audiences to visit their Web site (or are scared that they wouldn't get enough response).
So, make it a game. Give away $100 per session and choose randomly from the folks who rated that session. That alone would get me to visit a URL. At Fawcette's conferences there are usually about 30 sessions. That'd cost about $3000. They pay that much to have all the paper evaluations tabulated -- a process that usually takes four to eight weeks. By doing all evaluations online they could get far faster and more useful results for the same price (plus they'd be giving that money back to their attendees, which would increase the attendees' satisfaction with the event).
So, what else can speakers do?
I loved the O'Reilly Panopticon (it's a web app that lets you put a little icon of yourself on top of a map of the conference site. The icon is clickable so people can easily get to your weblog from it). If I'm a speaker at the Pop!Tech conference, I'd love to be able to see a map of where the attendees are sitting. That way I could point out someone like Dan Gillmor and say "hey, Dan, what do you think about XYZ topic?"
Plus, if I know the audience member is a weblogger (they could identify themselves as such) I could quickly read their weblogs and see if there are any comments that would be useful to the audience (and I could point to them from my own weblog so people could see a variety of points of view pretty quickly after my session).
As a speaker, I'm very interested in my topic, and I'm usually pretty interested in talking with other people about it after my session (and even before). So, I'd like to invite people to a BOF (Bird of Feather) session or a dinner or something to discuss the topic more in depth.
With some speakers this would be a huge hit. I always remembered Alan Cooper being swarmed out in the hall for hours after his talks (his best talks were ALWAYS in the hall after his "professional" remarks).
Wouldn't you kill to hang out with someone like that at dinner? Particularly when you're a lonely geek at a conference and don't have anything to do except stare at the bizarre patterned carpet that most hotel rooms have?
So, it'd be interesting to have a "arrange a BOF" and an "arrange a meal" application as well. Something where folks who all are interested in the same topic could get together and chat.
Anyway, that's enough ideas for the morning. More to come as we prepare for building an artificial world at the Pop!Tech conference.
Scott Johnson says he isn't moving to XP, no matter how much I like it.
As to his reasoning:
#1. Can't argue with you there. Microsoft is definitely trying to use the OS to further its business objectives without regard to whether customers like these new features. On the other hand, XP does run better than Windows 2000 and requires fewer reboots.
#2. That hasn't been my experience at all. Windows 2000 was far more stable on my machines than Windows NT and had more features. XP is better than Windows 2000 in a whole lot of respects.
#3. I really don't care about bloat. Why? What 20% of features are you gonna get rid of? And, computers are cheaper than ever. When Windows NT came out RAM was about $300 a megabyte. Today it's $50 for 256MB. I really don't give a flying fuck that Windows XP needs 256MB of RAM to run right. To tell you the truth, so did Windows 2000 and Windows XP runs better on a 128MB machine than Windows 2000 did (at least in my tests). By the way, Windows XP takes less RAM than Windows 2000 and runs faster in my tests (video games, in particular, are demonstratably faster).
#4. I don't think you have a leg to stand on here. Corporate types can get Windows XP versions without activation. And, if you want free software, you should go for Linux, no? I don't know of any corporate IT department who downloads software from warez sites. In fact, all the IT folks at NEC have MSDN Universal subscriptions, which cost about $3000 a year, but come with nearly every piece of Microsoft software.
#5. Benefits? The OS simply works better than Windows 2000 all the way around. ClearType alone is worth the $100. And games play at least 20% faster on a Windows XP machine. I don't mind the UI (and you can change it to be pretty darn close to Windows 2000 if you want).
But, I agree. Microsoft has a trust issue. The more things that they do that are "anti-customer" the more I want to switch to Mac OS X.
What's real interesting to me, though, is how slow big companies are to upgrade. I don't know of a single machine at NEC that has Windows XP on it, although I expect that to change in the next few months.
I think it's time, though, to look at XP now that we've had it for seven months (I've actually been using XP a lot longer than that).
Yes, Steven, it doesn't crash as often as Windows 2000 and needs a lot fewer reboots.