This weekend I attended EpCon 2010, which was billed as a conference for college/university students interested in technology. About half way through the conference I recommended that it be renamed (at least this year) to SMECon, Social Media & Entrepreneurship Conference, in keeping with the recurring themes in the vast majority of talks and breakout sessions. In general I enjoyed the conference, although I felt it lacked three things: greater diversity of topics (with fewer shameless plugs for big-company products), opportunities for discussion groups (rather than unending presentations), and content more about society/technology/values to encourage students to think critically about emerging technology.

Below are some of the ideas I found most interesting emerging from the conference; my apologies for the jot note format, but I’m sure I’d be even more long-winded without it:

  1. The music industry has shown that theft is actually a sign of content owners refusing to meet demand for more accessible ways of accessing media (Mike Lee)
    • I would argue that the increasing pervasiveness of information due to IT accompanied by the increasing ambiguity of its owner (due to more contributors helping to “evolve” each others’ thoughts) will eventually lead to a major shift in how we understand and enforce intellectual property; the more detached individuals and institutions are willing to be from “getting credit” for “their ideas” (which are largely derived from others’ ideas)–and eventually they’ll have to detach whether they like it or not–the more we will see this trend emerge; my hope is that this will lead to “contributor humility” as an understanding of thought interplay and interdependence is better understood
  2. “In the cloud” services have lead to pay-for-what-you-use business models in content hosting to the point that it is dangerous to take advantage of discounts for long-term prepaid hosting service because your provider may become obsolete or bankrupt before the term of service you paid for is over (Jawad Shuaid)
    • I look forward to seeing the same trend FINALLY reach North American mobile companies: sufficient pay-for-what-you-use competitors will lead to consumers refusing to sign inane long-term contracts
  3. I’m interested to see whether the ability to distribute storage according to dynamically changing relatedness will enter into the participatory realm; I’m envisioning home users consenting to indexing a small amount of “search data” on their desktop machines, where related information is stored together or “nearby” in the participatory network; it’s already starting to happen between company-based analysis/aggregation systems such as thoora and primal fusion that link into multiple sources to connect related information
  4. Participatory web is full of inflated figures that include “contributors” that are inactive, writing about personal matters, or copying others’ opinions; right now, this leads to a sizable (though still small relative to the “contributor population”) group that is able to quickly shape or reshape popular opinion
    • As more and more contributors start to exert influence we begin to see the true democratization of public opinion; this may not be inherently good; it underscores why the need for raising up an educated, informed, and morally dignified majority is increasingly imperative
  5. The future of the web is likely to be a more “real time” (Jawad Shuaid), and “industrial” (Peter Sweeney) experience; information will be streamed to devices of all types and sizes constantly (rather than according to static individual requests), and most of that information will be aggregated, organized, and generated by machines aiming to provide a personalized view of information
      • Several of my computer interests surround blurring the lines between the “layman user” and the “powerful programmer”; when coupled with a well-educated populace, I see procedurally synthesized content as being much more powerful when the consumer can participate in writing the algorithms that do the synthesis
    • I’m interested to see what this will mean for how online information influences our thoughts; if the information is shaped around issues I care about, and possibly even catering to my own stance on those issues, will “customized access to information” make us more open-minded, more closed-minded, or just more like-minded to the designers of these algorithms? Again, moral education of programmers as well as consumers will play a big role here
  6. There’s one aspect of “semantic web” that I’d like us to consider “backwards”; the semantic web is supposed to help machines of the Internet better understand what is meant by data (understand semantics), or, more simply, understand concepts instead of just inputing and outputting information; I’d like to ask the question, how is the advancement of information technology on its current trajectory going to enhance human beings’ ability to understand concepts rather than just imbibing information? Does valuing human understanding above machine understanding imply a direction away from the “semantic web” craze, or simply a more focused application of it?
  7. The real time web demands some equivalent to “push AJAX”; based on their track record with standards, the movers and shakers of the web browser world should get consulting, standardizing, and adopting if we’re going to see anything close to universal adoption within the next decade

Well, that’s all I can think of for now. I would definitely recommend EpCon 2011 to any Ontario undergrads looking to learn more about what’s going on in the tech industry as-it-happens.


2 thoughts on “Reflections on EpCon 2010

  1. Hi Mark,

    Glad you made it out to EpCon 2010 and love the 2011 recommendation 🙂

    Thanks for the blog! (I skimmed it and will digest your thoughts again after finishing my school assignments).

    What is “SMECon”?

    I would still likely argue it’s unfair to name the conference, “SMECon, Social Media & Entrepreneurship”.

    We had a couple of Nanotechnology sessions which I don’t think you had attended (neither did I :P, but I heard some good feedback). There was also a Cisco presentation on technology impact on Health Care (I didn’t attend either, but also heard some good feedback :P). It seems I have the same bias as you for the breakout selections 🙂

    Currently, social media and entrepreneurship is receiving a lot of hype. The keynotes were entrepreneurship-like, I suppose, but wouldn’t you say that all the great speakers are entrepreneurial?! XD (And indeed, I felt all of our keynotes were EPIC entrepreneurial speakers). Tech start-ups are making interesting news these days and is a very appealing topic to tech students.

    Were you able to make it to the Cloud Computing panel? That had some great questions and discussions! I wasn’t in the Gaming panel one but I would imagine the discussion being heated there too.

    If you have any suggestions for tech topics, we would love to hear them once I get the web feedback form up (working on that…) 🙂



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