Conferences, knowledge dissemination and the discovery of peers

As seen the traditional process used by companies to disseminate information and collect potential customers is becoming less and less useful; i is just the beginning of an overall transformation of how companies look at external information sources (like consulting companies).

In the beginning of the commercial computer era, most users were connected through user clubs, since most software was developed in-house, and the software market was still in its infancy. Groups like SHARE, the first unix communities, VAX users groups and such provided the essential knowledge technicians needed, and were centered on the idea that software and hardware vendors were few, and user experiences were centered on real and concrete evidence.

Unconference Unconference by MichaelBee

With the consolidation of the shrinkwrapped software market and the multiplication of deployable technologies, the need for directions and information was not satisfiable with user conferences, and the consultancies were born – fundamentally, people with deep knowledge of a specific sector, reselling this knowledge to reduce the risk of implementation of a new technologies, or the time necessary to implement it. This period marked the beginning of comparison tools (like the infamous Quadrant), necessary in a world where one solution was exluding all the others.

Open standards, open source and the substantial opening of IT architectures changed everything again; this, and the fact that consultancies were no longer current or reliable on trends that change in a very short time (anyone remembers the “push web” craze? the original Microsoft internet killer, Microsoft network? WAP?) and were found to be not so impartial after all.

This void is being filled by a new generation of knowledge disseminator, be it small and efficient consultancies like RedMonk (that show that openness can be effective) and vertical conferences, that are less trade shows and more conversations. This resurgence of exchanging information as peers is what is really innovative, or maybe a return to the roots; the fact that customers are being treated less as passive suppliers of money, and more as partners in a long-term strategy, in a way that is strikingly similar to the kind of partnership that OSS companies create with their customers.

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