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PC Forum – Day 2

DesertPC Forum day 2 was one of the best in all the 12 years I have been attending. It started out with Esther interviewing with Eric Schmidt, Chairman & CEO, Google. He wouldn’t talk about the rumored IPO but he was very bullish about the potential for Google. Eric then joined in on a panel, "From Player to Platform: The Context Makes the Connection", along with Jon Miller, Chairman & CEO, America Online and Dan Rosensweig, Chief Operating Officer, Yahoo!.
Dan said that Yahoo!’s goal is to give people what they want, when they want, how they want it, on whatever device they want. Jon said that in the past few months AOL has begun to feel they may be gaining in their war on spam even though they are seeing more than 2.5 billion spam emails daily. Dan said that more than 90% of the spam to Yahoo! users is caught. That means that the incredible amount of spam that people see is less than ten percent of what actually gets sent.
There was a lot of discussion about social networks such as Orkut and LinkedIn. I don’t think these are for everyone but they clearly are part of the emerging social software models. I finally threw in the towel and joined LinkedIn.

The next panel was on "The Accountable Net: Security and Risk". It started off with an incredible presentation by Major General Kenneth Hess, Chief of Safety, US Air Force. He said that the Columbia Accident Investigation Board concluded that the causes of the tragedy were rooted in history and culture. NASA did not learn from the lessons of it’s past. Bad things were happening in the organization but they got "normalized". Basically, the organization was not in touch with itself.
General Hess was joined on the panel by David Johnson, Distinguished Visiting Practitioner, New York Law School, Robert Liscouski, Assistant Secretary, Infrastructure Protection, US Department of Homeland Security, and Bruce Schneier, CTO & Founder, Counterpane Internet Security. In spite of the many issues and challenges being faced by the Net, there was con census regulation would be unlikely to fix the problems and would surely create some new ones. I plan to read Bruce’s new book — Beyond Fear.
The final panel was "The Secret Life of the CIO: What Do Enterprise Customers Really Want?". Participants were Shai Agassi, Executive Board Member, SAP, Dawn Lepore, Vice Chairman, Charles Schwab, and Rafael Sanchez, Chief Information Officer, Burger King. It was a wide-ranging discussion. Dawn refuted the HBR story saying IT may not "matter" anymore and she also said innovation was the key to exploiting IT.
After lunch, Steven Johnson talked about his new book — Mind Wide Open: Your Brain and the Neuroscience of Everyday Life. It was a mind expanding talk. Attendees got a copy of the book and I am anxious to read it. It is about how your mind works and what your mind different than other people’s minds. I was fortunate to sit next to Steven on the flight to Phoenix. He is an incredibly bright and articulate young man.
During the afternoon, nine technology startup companies gave their pitches and demonstrations. Most of them related in some way to the panels and theme of the conference. Focus areas included new directions in search and attention management, extracting meaning from text and unstructured data, and a Linux based infrastructure for mail and calendaring. Here are the company names and you can Google to them if you want more information.

  • Convoq
  • Informative
  • N8 Systems
  • Scalix
  • Intelligent Results
  • MetaCarta
  • Language Weaver
  • Mindfabric
  • Technorati

After dinner Esther interviewed Neal Stephenson, author of Snow Crash. Neal is a prolific writer and talked about writing a novel is similar to writing software code. I feel very fortunate and humbled to have heard from so many brilliant people today.

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