Forgot to mention Jimmy Wales' keynote from yesterday, titled "Free Culture". Was little more than a presentation about his latest venture, Wikia. Basically, if Wikipedia is a stripmine--wide but shallow--then Wikia is an oilwell--narrow but deep. At least in theory. Worth checking out the website if you haven't already. Apparently, it's on a similar 2-year growth trajectory as Wikipedia was four years ago, so he's predicting similar success. The vision is to make all human knowledge available for free. Right now, however, it's a site where you can find 14,000+ articles on the Muppets and 35,000 articles on World of Warcraft. Very heavily weighted toward geek culture. Was interesting how he kept coming back to the possibility of wiki-generated content evolving to the point where you could gather it into a traditional book format and sell it.
As for today's keynotes and sessions...
The first keynote was by Dale Dougherty, Editor of Make magazine, in praise of traditional print formats. An interesting insight into the creator of Make, but little more. He did make one point about the advantage to customers that books & magazines offer over digital media, and that's the fact that customers get a greater sense of possession from holding them in their hands. Basically, the "I own it" case for print. Interesting point. Even with e-readers, I think there's always going to be an ephemeral feeling about digital content, like you're only one click away from a corrupted or deleted file that you'll never be able to access again (unless you buy it again).
The second speaker was Manolis Kelaidis (not "Manolo" as a number of attendees called him during Q&A). You can find his bio on the web site, but the key point was that he's been doing graduate work on building a best-of-both-worlds book, one that has pages and reads and feels like a book, but also has underlying hyperlinks that can call up images, songs, or other digital content on your computer through. He used conductive ink and underlying circuitry that connected to a processor at the back of the book. You can see pictures on Tim O's posting on O'Reilly Radar. All interesting from a scientific perspective (like something out of Popular Science), but I was skeptical about the practical applications. Apparently, however, I was the only skeptic in the room, as he received a standing ovation and everyone was gushing about his "magical" creation. Whatever. His discussion about conductive inks and flexible circuit boards, however, was pretty cool.
Final keynote was by John Ingram. This was nothing more than a sales pitch for Ingram Digital and I said as much in my conference survey. ;-)
First full session was on Next Generation Web Publishing. Speaker was Jason Hunter, Chief Technologist at Mark Logic, developers of an XML server. He gave an interesting review of the 10 key trends he feels are underlying much of the interest in Web 2.0 technologies:
1) Customers want answers, not links
2) Publishers need to make their content "sweat"
3) Content needs to be contextual
4) Google, Google, Google
5) User participation in content creation and delivery
6) Promise/potential for personalized access to content
7) Promise/potential for leveraging structured content
8) Need to enrich existing content (add structure)
9) Content analytics
10) Need for agility
More on these after I get the session slides...
(Fellow Wiley attendee) Debra Hunter asked a great question at the end of this session; essentially, what kind of content developers stand to make the most money by embracing XML? The short answer--those with the most specialized content serving specialized customers who have complex content access requirements. The speaker was put on the spot by this because O'Reilly has clearly embraced it and is rolling out a ton of unique content delivery options, but the speaker seemed to feel that the real winners would be publishers who had truly unique, authoritative content serving an audience who couldn't or wouldn't rely on simple Google searches for information, but who needed quick access to critical information--pathologists, for example, who would be willing to pay good money for a digitized diagnostic tool. The unspoken contrast to this would be O'Reilly, who certainly possesses authoritative content, but has to compete with all the information readily available on the web that might be deemed "good enough" by an individual, one who would take "good enough" for free before paying for authoritative.
Last session was by Derek Powazek about community-oriented web sites--Flickr, etc. Interesting but not particularly noteworthy. The session I was planning on attending--How is Reading Evolving?--was canceled, so I went to this one instead.
So there you have it...a peek inside the TOC conference from a publishing executive. How about a big hand for our guest blogger, Neil Edde! If you know Neil, help me nudge him into starting his own publishing blog. He's a natural!