Some thoughts on the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference

I attended the O’Reilly Tools of Change conference in New York City, February 13-15. (Is it odd that these folks put together a conference that falls on Valentine’s Day? Or am I just an old sentimentalist?) Someone asked for a show of hands at one point and determined that half the people there are in publishing and scared to death of what this “digital revolution” means; the other half were entrepreneurs or at least entrepreneurially minded and hoping to start some kind of digital publishing or related venture.

Some of the folks and ventures and ideas I ran into there:

Opening keynote by LeVar Burton, he of Kunta Kinte fame from the “Roots” TV miniseries. Lifelong scifi reader. His mother was an English teacher. His main point: the importance of these two words: “What if.” @levarburton

Tim Carmody: editor at Wired and Wired.com. Link to his about page at Google+@tcarmody

Some articles he’s written:

“Ten Reading Revolutions before E-books”

“A Bookfuturist Manifesto”

“E-Books Are Still Waiting for Their Avant-Garde”

One of his points: yes, the publishing industry is in the midst of chaos, but guess what, it has happened before and will happen again. Don’t worry. Tells us that when paper moved from being cloth-based to wood pulp-based, the abundance created was co-equal to the digital abundance now available.

Vocabulary lesson: skeuomorph: old technology reformatted to new technology.

Barbara Genco: manager of special projects at Library Journal. @BarbaraAGenco

Says library “power users” (use library more than 4X/month) buy a lot of books as well. 9,000 libraries in the U.S. (I actually thought this number seemed low. Doesn’t every small town have its own library? How many small towns in the U.S.?) 169 million Americans use a public library.

Convergence! See this article from Boston Globe about libraries hosting their own bookstores.

Matt MacInnis: CEO of Inkling  @stanine

Reinventing books and publishing. To copy content from books to ebooks is folly, he says. The future of publishing is high fidelity content—media rich, interactive content. Check out their website. I think this guy is on to something. Also, under each chair in the auditorium was an envelope with a card inside that included a code for a free copy of one of two Inkling iPad app books: Speakeasy Cocktails or Master Your DSLR Camera.

I got the camera book. It is beautiful and instructive and useful and fun. Can’t wait to learn more about my camera. Thanks, Inkling.

Mark Johnson: CEO of Zite (personalized magazine for iPhone and iPad)   @philosophygeek

He spoke about recommendations, online recommendations. Search is not useful for everything: it doesn’t help us find the interesting stuff. Clay Shirkey said: “Curation comes up when search stops working.” Amazon, Netflix, and Pandora are the three canonical recommendation-engine-driven sites. (Canonical? Really?)

I downloaded Zite on to my iPhone and iPad. It learns what is interesting for you (for me!) from content, from social web, and from your own interactions. So far it seems a good fit and I’ve only loaded links to Delicious and Twitter. I’d recommend Zite as your own personal interest magazine.

To be continued…

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