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At the end of October I attended The Web Summit (now rebranded to The Summit) in Dublin, Ireland. Hosted at RDC Dublin, this mammoth conference has been dubbed 'The European SXSW'.
I’ve never been to SXSW but from reading about it and now having attended The Summit I can agree with this. The list of speakers was overwhelming just to look at, and the quality of those speakers were the highest you’d find in Europe. I couldn’t wait.
Usually I attend search related conferences and this was more of a general technology so was slightly different.The scope of the talks themselves were also varied. Some I could take some useful notes, others were more about strategic thinking and general information.
Rob Scoble & Shel Israel
Rob Scoble & Shel Israel gave a talk on The Age of Context, a discussion based on their recently released book. It gave an extremely interesting look into the future of technology surrounding mobile, sensors and data.
Although nothing actionable quite yet, as an online marketer it was very interesting to see how data can be used to improve a general user experience beyond websites and into your everyday life.
On stage, Rob illustrated one example by wearing ski goggles that acts similar to Google Glass to provide you with visual information based on your skiing activity (such as your speed, altitude, location etc).
Other examples included a supermarket that could track, in real time, what people touch in any given aisle. This data can then be used in a contextual manner. It was so interesting I bought the book, from Rob, after the talk.
- Keywords to link basis is becoming old.
- From their tests, Bing found they were better than Google when it came to finding the best results, so they put it to the test with Bing it On.
- They also found that Google was also used as a brand. Tests showed removing brand, or placing the Google brand on Bing results gave better results.
- Contextual experiences are the future of search (see Rob Scoble and Shel Israel above).
Tony Hawk and Kevin Rose
The Foundation itself has now awarded 525 grants to help free, public skateparks in low-income communities across the US, and how his introduction into technology from his series of computer games (I owned Pro Skater 3 myself) brought him into the world of online and how it can help real people via the Foundation.
Bryan said no to Google’s offer for Blue Bottle Coffee and understood revenue would have been at least fivefold, but said that brand integrity should always take priority.
Nichola Mendelson: VP EMEA at Facebook
- There are now more smartphones than toothbrushes.
- Zuckerberg focussed on mobile very quickly. Facebook went from 0-40% revenue in 18 months via mobile.
- Mobile is now the dominant platform, and will continue to be so for a long time. Mobile is the first time since the 1960’s when a new technology takes over since tv overtook radio.
- Every day audience size of Europe logs in 4-5 times per day on a mobile device.
- 1 in 4 minutess of general time on mobile is using either Facebook or Instagram.
Stephen McIntyreL MD, Twitter Ireland
- 2.3m tweets per day, 75% are from mobile.
- Creating a truly historic tweet, you have to be ready for an emotional moment. Examples include Obama, or Adidas’ own tweet after Murray’s Wimbledon win.
- Old marketing tactics still apply on mobile.
- Storytelling has gone from a close campfire to hashtags, but essentially we’re still storytelling
- Major events are great for marketing, such as this genius tweet from Visit England after a certain football match.
- TV conversations can now be analysed. Stephen shows a visual view of layers between a user, a TV programme, their engagement on Twitter whilst watching that programme, and how this data can be used for brands to identify their audience.
Stephen summarised by saying that conversations are key to winning business. Stephen used an example of a tweet when settling into the new Twitter HQ in Dublin. A local coffeeshop interacted with him, and even embedded a walking route to them as a tweet.
24 hours later Stephen had one of their scones on his desk.
Shane Smith, Founder of VICE
Someone who I was really looking forward to hear speak was Shane Smith (Founder of VICE) who was interviewed by David Carr (New York Times). As well as the fact that I’m a personal fan of Smith and VICE itself, I found that he was also extremely switched on when it came to online.
As a publisher he said that engaging content will never be created by an algorithm no matter how sophisticated they are, and that right now is the best time to be a content provider. He added, “No investment into tech can create content, no algorithm can do it. It can aggregate not create. People create content for people”.
Elon Musk, Enda Kenny, Shervin Pishevar & Mark Little
The Summit concluded with a panel discussion with Elon Musk (SpaceX, Tesla Motors, Paypal), Enda Kenny (Irish Prime Minister), Shervin Pishevar & Mark Little. Musk, who has been described as the real-life Tony Stark by "Iron Man" director Jon Favreau, was the only person who made his entrance in a car - which was also the car he created himself.
The panel mainly covered how technology can play a part in helping the general population in the distant future, and his plans for SpaceX. One aim for Musk is to, within his lifetime, see the possibility of sustainable life on Mars and contributing towards humans becoming the first multi-planetary species.
As well as the conference talks, there was also a large hall (well, tow large halls) filled with startups waiting to tell you more about what they do. There were so many that it’d take a while to mention them all, but here are a few:
- OnScroll. This tool is extremely clever. OnScroll is a new ad technology startup that enables publishers, networks and agencies to serve viewable-only inventory. They are already working with some of the UK's biggest publishers including AutoTrader, The Independent and the Evening Standard, enabling them to create the world's first viewable only ad exchange. Not only are they a cool company, but they made me confident about their choice of steak restaurant.
- TripGems. As someone who travels frequently, and someone who also likes to experience things outside of the normal tourist handbook, this site is extremely useful for me to share about hidden gems within any location. I find that I have a few Word documents that I share to people if they ask me about a place I’ve been before - this makes it more public and interactive.
- WeSwap. A great little product for people who have trouble swapping currency. You open an account and you can then swap currency directly with another user who is trying to source it. No banks, no hidden charges. Just social currency.
- SnappCar. The best way to summarise this would be to dub SnappCar as the Airbnb for cars. You can hire cars from friends and family, as well as hire out your own car to others. On the back of their business card it says “250 million cars are not used for 23 hours of the day”. This statistic is very interesting, considering that I don’t use my car all the time. A great solution to earn some cash from the car you already own, and is fully insured by Achmea (in The Netherlands).
- BragBet. An app for sports fans. You join with your mates as a team, the team adds money into a colective pot, and each week a chosen captain each decides on what to bet on. A great way to add a social layer to the betting process.
Oh, and food!
I’ve attended many conferences and expos over the years. Until Web Summit, food at an event isn’t always the best, and sometimes opt to eat away from the venue.
Paddy Cosgrave, organiser of The Summit, identified this issue and decided to take it a step further by extending The Summit to host a food festival at the lunch break. In partnership with Good Food Ireland, The Food Summit brought the largest food showcase in Ireland right to a tech conference.
What impressed me most about The Food Summit was when I was chatting to Margaret Jeffares, the founder of Good Food Ireland, who told me that the whole concept was only 10 days old.
10 days to create, plan, organise and execute a food festival featuring chefs from Ireland's top restaurants and hotels as well as artisan food producers from across the country - to feed 10,000 people.
And the food was great too. Venison sausages, chicken curries, oysters, sandwiches, fresh apples, cider, crisps - all local produce and all of the best quality and standards. I think other events such as this should take the same route.