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Information Summit in New York

This trip to New York for the SIIA Information Industry Summit 2006 has been a massive disappointment. Mostly because of me: I’ve got an awful cold and am not in prime form for all the networking I usually enjoy.

But the fact is that most of the sessions today were just plain dull. I guess that’s what happens at an event where the CEOs of big corporations are given their moment in the sun. They pitch their company or their position on free trade or Google Print, and there’s no response, no controversy. Harold “Terry” McGraw was this morning’s keynote speaker and not a single person asked a question when he was finished.

Even after a much more interesting presentation, an interview with the founder of Audible, the audience had nothing much to ask or add. Although the theme of the conference is “Users Taking Control” and the SIIA organizers said that we attendees were users, too, I have never been to a less interactive event.

I imagine I’d feel more comfortable at one of the conferences not composed of “C-level” people, with younger entrepreneurs and jean-clad techies. Not because I’m 20-something or jean-clad, but because their energy and alertness to the world that’s hurtling at us would be a more interesting, inspiring atmosphere than today’s meeting of the suits.

There was one serious question asked that deserves mention, addressed to the chief scientist of Akamai, a major online business systems provider. Someone asked what he thought of growing activism by people and companies around the world, and especially in Asia, aimed at changing the American and western dominance of the Internet. Unfortunately, his response was purely technical: he said that no one dominates the Internet and the proof is that there are so many security holes.

Considering that Mr McGraw opened the conference with the announcement that New York is the greatest city on earth, I guess it’s a good thing that there weren’t too many attendees from from other countries. I can’t imagine someone in London or Beijing welcoming people in that way–it’s a bizarre American trait that goes against all traditions of hospitality I know of.

The best presentation by far was by David Worlock, the UK head of Electronic Publishing Services. He gave a clear, crisp, detailed overview of opportunities and risks in publishing in Russia. I’m
hoping for better things tomorrow!

(No, there was not a mention of anyone’s blogging the conference, though Esther Dyson was there and I hope there are other star bloggers in the crowd.)

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