Instant Video and The Office 2.0 Grand Experiment

Posted on September 8, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Last week I was fortunate to be able to attend the Office 2.0 conference in San Francisco.  This was my first time to attend this conference, so I was pleasantly surprised to learn that the entire conference is somewhat of an ‘experiment’ for all those attending.  Here’s how the founder, Ismael Ghalimi, and the conference organizers characterized the event:

“The Office 2.0 Conference is a collective experiment organized every year in San Francisco, CA and aimed at discovering the future of online productivity & collaboration. It is a unique gathering of visionaries, thought leaders, and customers using innovative online services for getting things done at the office, at home, and on the go.”

Specifically, the agenda was created in a short amount of time (something like 3 months ago there was no agenda nor any confirmed speakers).  Organizing in so little time was an experiment in how well the web 2.0 tools could work together.  Participants were all given an HP 2133 mini-notebook computer, a Suse Linux device, to use at the conference then keep afterwards, even though most of us are Mac or (gasp!) Windows users.  This was an experiment with a device that was very different from our normal office tool. The entire conference was ‘paperless’ using only cloud-based applications such as Google Calendar,Google Docs, Presdo, and Clearspace.  For example, we accessed the conference agenda via a Google Calendar, and could, with the click of a button, add the session to our personal calendar. This was an experiment in living completely in the cloud.  I went one step further and had Google Calendar send a reminder to my iPhone so I’d know where the next session met.

Living only in the cloud was frustrating.  I had online access while in the conference area, but not when I was in my hotel room, so I was out of touch when not online.  The HP mini-notebook was difficult to use on two dimensions.  First,  I’m not that familiar with Linux so I had difficulty with the apps that were preloaded. For example, I thought I downloaded some photos, but I couldn’t find them.  In addition,  I had difficulty with the technical aspects of the device.  The curser is controlled by a very sensitive touchpad which frustrated me after a while.  I eventually plugged in my mouse.  The cloud apps themselves were ok from the limited amount of time I spent on them, and I look forward to working on them a bit more to understand the functionality.  I’m sure the cloud is the future and I want to understand what’s out there.

Billing the key components of the conference as part of an experiment motivated me to try new things and also set expectations so hiccups and glitches would be tolerated.   All of us came ready to learn and experiment ourselves.  Certainly we learned a lot.

But an instantly responsive aspect of the conference fascinated me: the instant posting of video of each session using Veodia I have seen notes or audio files posted on a website after a session at other conferences, or links to blogs that summarize someone’s opinion.  But the Office 2.0 organizers had arranged to have each session videotaped and instantly posted on the website so those who missed the session could watch it.  The files were immediate availability online or through mobile devices such as the iPhone and the HP 2133 Mini-Note PC.  That means that the files could be watched by those who attended another session, or who were not even at the conference itself, in real time.  It allowed the conference to include participants all over the globe. It also provided us with a rich archive of all the speakers and their content.  Couple that with the backchannels in use (Twitter was the most popular, I suspect, but there was also an RSS feed that was continually updated) and we experienced a truly global Office 2.0 conference that was (and will be) able to reach way beyond just the several hundred of us in physical attendance. 

There were a number of remote ‘attendees’ who were able to watch the video, and join in conversations on the website.  I saw there Tweets and their replies to our online conversations.  For me, it brought ‘collaboration’ to a whole new level.

It was a unique and informative conference.  Thank you to Ismael, Mae, Susan, Oliver and all those who contributed to the design and delivery.  It was definitely worth the time and money it cost to attend.  I won’t miss it next year…and neither should you.


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