Debriefing from the South Sound Technology Conference

For about 3 years now I ahve been planning on attending the South Sound Technology Conference but haven't had much opportunity. This year I just put it on the calendar and pushed through to go and I'm quite glad I did.

I very much enjoyed the keynote by Congressman Adam Smith. I was particularly keen on his interpretation of what's wrong with education in WA today. Parent participation in the education experience. Some stories and supporting facts which followed really underscored a problem which presents, in some ways, more challenges to educating our kids than budget cuts.

The panel which followed gave me some insights into the Institute of Technology at UW:Tacoma that gave me encouragement for the future of high-tech in Tacoma.

I then attended a presentation by Dr. George Mobus on "Peak Oil and Society" which was pretty compelling. Dr. Mobus presented a different economic look (called Bio-Physical Economics) at energy supplies and the coming challenges we face. He demonstrated the relationship between money and energy; and how oil prices have a causal relationship to recessions. Something we might not know is that we seem to have peaked on oil production; which is the natural precursor to running out. In fact, oil production seems to have peaked in 1994 and in 2011 for the first time, it is declining.

One argument made for continuing to use oil is that we use it more efficiently; but there is Jevon's Paradox which says the higher the efficiency we develop with technology, the more resource we consume.

Some links:

Instead of sticking around for the following panel I jumped over to the panel formed after the Mobile Application Development presentation by Brian Forth @ Sitecrafting. 3 very different application developers gave some insights into the future of the mobile computing platform and by way of discussion gave a great insight into the proprietary, license-fee-heavy, and dominating position large companies have over the platform.

Microsoft had great representation on this panel in the form of Mark Brown, CEO of IdentityMine, and how he pushed the Windows 7 Mobile Platform. The most heartening thing I came away with was the significant number of developers who continue to steer clear of the monopolistic position Microsoft takes in the industry. Seeing these developers embracing (cautiously, especially in a down economy and the financial pressures of supporting multiple platforms) diversity of technology and responsible development was not only encouraging but made me think about getting my CISSP so at some point I could have something to offer some of these other developers (because we know how well Microsoft has security covered).

After lunch I sat in on the IT in the South Sound breakout which was probably the most interactive one I experienced. I look forward to seeing some of the networking events which might come from this.

Here are some notes I took and some observations made during the conference.

If we had waited in 1999 and not created the Institute of Technology in Tacoma, we would be looking at a far different economic landscape in Tacoma today. There are many tech companies here in the south sound which might never have been here, and hundreds of jobs that certianly wouldn't be here.

The Institute has been doing great work; while doubling the students in the program, they cut staff by as much as 2/3. Truly they are providing a rich value to Tacoma and the south sound and should be supported by our local businesses to continue to promote jobs and businesses here.

A quote from the lunchtime keynote by Egils Milbergs, Executive Dir. of the Econ. Dev. Commission of WA State: "Recession is the incubator of innovation"

The software-as-a-service (or SAAS) concept is a lot like outsourcing. There are a number of factors which you take for granted when you have service in-house. One leading problem in SAAS I see is when the provider doesn't inform you of infrastructure changes or updates which can impact your business systems, schedules or deadlines.

A good way to present IT costs to non-IT managers is to break it down to a per-person model. In the past I have used a systems like one that simply measures year by year, another measures comparatively in terms of other products or ROI in terms of labor savings. I hope to have some time to spend in assessing our IT in terms of cost per person which might give management a better understanding.

Suggested media:
"Waiting for Superman" movie about education
"The boy who harnessed the wind" a book by William Kamkwamba & Bryan Mealer

Note: Ok with all that posting I'm good until September before I do another one!

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