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Conference Review: #JBoye14

The Intranetizen team is very fortunate to attend a number of conferences each year and we do our best to write them up to you can learn what we learnt, but also so you can get a feel for the best way to spend your conference dollars in future years. Sharon was fortunate to attend JBoye before (2012), but none of us had been back until now. Jonathan was invited to speak at the 2014 anniversary event, here’s what he thought about the conference.

Conference structure

The conference is spread over three days with a reception and dinner the nights before and after the conference itself. You’ll get a standard mix of large room keynote presentations and break-out rooms hosting a range of speakers and topics arranged into theme streams. So far, so ordinary.

There are two things that make JBoye Aarhus extraordinary and that make such a difference to the appeal:

Well-considered social events: Too many conference organisers seem to believe their work is to get the 09:00-17:00 figured out and that the rest is supplementary, ephemeral or just a hit to profits. I’m not naive. I know that it’s the conference tracks that will probably persuade your boss to cough up and pay for you to go and I’m also fully aware that to pay for venues, drinks and meals for hundreds does not come cheap but here’s the thing: as in business, social matters. It’s the social elements where the real networking occurs and ideas really come to life. It was in the social events that I discussed customer wants versus needs, about open source versus “paid-for” and about table football. Friendships made, networks built and all on JBoye time. Smart thinking.

Challenging perspectives: If I was to categorise my work, I’d describe it as digital workplace technologies with a side of external digital. Delegates I spoke to would also place themselves somewhere on the internal:external digital spectrum and much of the conference content mirrored this. But I can’t think of another conference where I’ve been challenged to think about the importance of art, about the relevance of dark matter to my work and about the nonsense of digital revolution (Hint: It’s all evolution + overblown hyped-up buzzword labelling)

So that’s the win here. Great content, well thought out social and relevant and challenging perspectives.

Our conference highlights

Now, having been effusive in my opening gambit, JBoye still fails like every other streams conference in that I have to make a choice about who you’ll go to see which inevitably means you’ll miss most of the presentations. (It’s worse still if you’re also a presenter!). So I regret that these conference highlights are very selective based on my availability and personal whims. That’s the way it rolls.

So my thanks to Relly Annett-Baker (@rellyAB) who spoke entertainingly on the topic of future perfect tense.  I expect 300 people got 300 different takeaways, but I took away a few things namely that to succeed on our future technology roadmap, we need to have thoughtful consideration to the past. Lego bricks in today’s shops fit perfectly to those made 30 years ago from my childhood. Do our technology worlds fit so nicely?

Veteran Bebo White was outstanding. Here’s a man who has seen so much and was able to had some helpful grounding to the considerable and misplaced hype around big data. “When we moved from hectobytes to kilobytes, did someone shout ‘Wow, BIG DATA’ “, asked Bebo. It’s a rhetorical question because this is a blog and the answer is “no”. Big data is just lots of data: giving it a label certainly helps position its importance with senior executives but let’s not kid ourselves that it’s anything particularly new. Anti-hype. Brilliant.

Other honourable mentions to Erland Høyersten, Director to ARos who described the importance of art in stretching our thinking and providing new perspectives, to Claus Knuth whose quirky, brilliant presentation on gamification, motivation, reptilian thinking and action orientated technology was outstanding. Thank yous to David Campillo, Lien de Leenheer, Todd Moran, Tracy Green, Jake DiMare, Iain Gray, MMTDigital team, Srdjan Bakovic, Jon Olson, Philippe Parker, Peter Gaardsøe and many others for their valuable contributions to my learning.

Logistics

The event took place over three nicely paced days, with a mixture of workshops, small-group sessions and larger plenary ones. This offered both the chance to hear from some big names and to get involved in one-to-one discussions in sessions or over coffee. Evenings were packed, too, with social events every night.

We’ve talked before about the importance of tech logistics in helping people balance conference and the day job, as well as the value of the Twitter stream in powering the backchannel and marketing the event. Credit due to the J Boye team for getting conference basics right: good rooms, adequate power provision, pretty solid wifi (except in my bedroom, but you weren’t to know) and good food. Too much food!

Getting there

Ok, I’ll be candid: Aarhus is not an easy place to get to. As a resident of Not London, getting to Aarhus meant a train to the big city, a train across it, a train to a awful airport in an awful bit of Essex, a seat on a terrible airline to a beautiful Danish city.

In the interests of clarity, I did have other choices of course (nearly always more than one way to skin any travel cat) but I confess that Bristol to Hamburg flight and a 4 hour train journey north, or Bristol to Copenhagen and then a train journey all the way back across the country didn’t appeal either particularly.

But I’ll stop the travel moan as the JBoye team have heard it all before. Before I went, I didn’t understand why this conference was in Aarhus but during the event I had the ah-ha moment. Part of the reason it works is because of the relative isolation. The journey is almost part of the experience. You’ve arrived, congratulations, now switch off from real life and learn for 2-3 days.

I have suggested an additional JBoye Europe conference, somewhere super central like Brussels. I don’t think it should replace the Aarhus event but it might help overcome the where-the-hell-is-that attitude that many may have towards this excellent event.

Conclusions

Great conference, go. I do wonder if the Philadelphia event has the same vibe as Aarhus, but if you’re in Europe, get yourself there in November 2015. Thanks Janus and team, thoroughly enjoyed it.




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