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.

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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.

1 Comment

Good stuff Nathan! I really appreciate you sharing your experience. It's a way for those of us who could not attend Defrag to benefit from the expertise represented there.

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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.
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