November 2010 Archives

What's Just Outside Your Focus?

Focus is a good thing. To know what you're doing, you need to know what you're not doing. So companies define their space, focus their attention, and get to work. But.

What if customers frame their needs differently from you? What if a competitor looks at the world from another angle? What if something that is off-target in your frame turns out to be on-target for another way of looking at things?

When do you notice that last year's off-target product from an adjacent market turns out to be this year's competitor?

What if the customer you've focused all of your attention on realizes that he's been working in an analytics silo and decides to see what else is out there?

No answers today
This isn't one of those questions with a general answer. The question is the point. Focus to get things done, but don't stop wondering what's just outside that might become relevant.

That's my target from the virtual firing range at the National Museum of the Marine Corps. Turns out I'm quite the marksman when the rifle's firing a laser, there's no wind, recoil, noise, or other distractions—and most especially when nobody's shooting back. If you're near Quantico, Virginia, the museum is well worth your visit.

Decompressing Defrag

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I mentioned earlier that I would again make the trip to Colorado for Defrag. While its schedule competed with other attractive events this year, Eric Norlin has assembled an outstanding event that attracts an exceptional community. If, in the future, you want me to come to your event, make sure it doesn't compete with Defrag. Here's a little of what you missed this time.

(RSS readers, click through for more embedded media than I usually include.)

Defrag doesn't just start with coffee and good morning. It rocks the house, no cobwebs allowed.

This was my second Defrag, and I've noticed a tradition of early controversy feeding engagement on Day 1. Last year, Andy Kessler got people fired up with his take on productive/creative jobs (search). We started with a lot less heat this year, but then some of Vivek Wadhwa's comments on culture and innovation rubbed people the wrong way. The thing is, disagreement at Defrag is a catalyst—it really gets discussions going.

The high point this year had to be Jeff Jonas on the new physics of big data. The Twitter back channel (#defragcon) went nearly silent as a roomful of bright people struggled to keep up with a firehose of big ideas. I expect a high proportion of Defrag attendees will download his slides (PPT) for a slower review.

Maggie Fox dug up the roots of our notion of privacy in Privacy is a Commodity, Not a Place. Even as I disagreed with some of her conclusions, I appreciated the historical perspective. That's the thing about Defrag: it's not enough to pitch an answer; we want to see the foundation, too.

Paul Kedrosky is always fun, and this year he took us from the debris that falls on Southern California freeways to finding trends in police reports, an unconventional economic indicator, and the effects of the overinstrumentation of everything. Or maybe it was a comedy routine—it's hard to tell with him.

Dion Hinchcliffe's talk on the future of social analytics came just before my session, giving me a few minutes' anxiety about overlapping material. Not to worry, we had totally different perspectives. Here's Dion's deck:

When my turn came in the breakout, I pretended I had the main stage and gave 10 minutes on And Not Or, analytics silos, mixing sources and methods, and the strategic value of information. I may have talked a bit fast—did I mention I had 10 minutes for all that?

Lunch with speakers, drinks with people who don't always have time to hang around at other conferences, and a crowd that can mix social trends, technology, math, science, politics, and whatever else they think of. Most of all, a setting where I'm guaranteed to learn something important. Yeah, I'll be back.

About Nathan Gilliatt

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  • Voracious learner and explorer. Analyst tracking technologies and markets in intelligence, analytics and social media. Advisor to buyers, sellers and investors. Writing my next book.
  • Principal, Social Target
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