After the recent defrag conference, I traded emails with event organizer Eric Norlin. Defrag was the second Norlin Inc event I’d been to after attending Glue conference in May this year. After defrag I tweeted saying that Defrag and Glue, along with Antipodean event Webstock, are the three best conferences I’ve attended (and I’ve done a few). Eric was flattered, if a little inquisitive, and asked me to explain my reasoning.

I’ll preface my thoughts by saying that Eric has asked me to be on the advisory board for Glue conference 2010 – eagle eyed readers will know however that I was singing the praises of Eric’s events well before the offer was made – if anything my place on the board will (I hope) drive it to even greater heights. I’m genuinely honored that Eric asked me – and it’s a position I’ll take seriously.

So what makes a great event?

Well let me first answer that question by philosophizing a little bit. Most of us genuinely feel a deeper reason to be involved in tech than the money it pays – I’ve had ongoing conversations with people at events who all express the desire to be involved with something that actually “makes a difference”. For me it’s about enabling small businesses to have access to tools formerly the domain of large enterprises. For others it’s beautiful case studies like SETI or the human genome project. Still others feel passion for unlocking collaboration with enterprise. Whatever the reason, these are all “higher callings” as I like to term them.

If you accept my contention then, it’s not a major leap to thinking that the events we attend should also explore these areas. While I’m happy enough to spend a day discussing enterprise microblogging technologies, or the benefits of OAuth (we’re geeks after all), I’m even more excited to be part of conversations like happened on the first day of Defrag.

As Matt said in his recent post when opining on Webstock;

Past events have touched on print media and journalism, television, film, distribution, logistics, central and local government, hardware, retail, libraries and information management, politics and law, games and game theory, organisational psychology, economics, product design, visual design, management theory, occupational therapy, architecture and even horticulture.  Horticulture?  Yes. In this modern-day web of things, even a pot plant can have a Twitter account…. The glue that brings these disparate disciplines together is the web and the wider internet, the potentiality of devices and communication protocols and networks that can be combined and recombined to create new businesses; and to decimate old ones.

Most of you will have seen the neo-industrial rantings of Andy Kessler (that I later dubbed feudalism 2.0) and the almost poetic counterpoint of Stowe Boyd who bought my requested perspective of social and environmental equity to Kessler’s harsh position. It’s these conversations that really excite me.

So what for Glue then? After all, “Glue is the only conference devoted solely to solving the web application integration problem-set” as Eric points out. Well I believe that as well as glue between applications and users, we, as technologists, have an obligation to explore the glue that binds our solutions to the outside world, to explore ways that what we do can make things better for people, and to take a long hard look at where we are as a society, and technologies place in that.

I’d love to have readers perspective on the broader glue, and any thoughts they have for how we can look at and ponder how what we do can drive change for good… over to you all.

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Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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