Greetings from a drizzly morning in Seattle. I've got some observations for you from Gnomedex 5.0 which I hope can help with all the great things you are working on.
As a father of two wonderful ladies, I tend look at crowd make up everywhere I go.
And, sad to say, this geek-fest is male dominated on the order of 10 to 1. I think I counted 15 women but I might be high. Probably some long rant in here about women and computer science/tech but nothing that hasn't already been said by people smarter then me.
Locked -n- loaded with hardware.
If you compare this Gnomedex 5.0 to Reboot7, the number of guys with laptops pounding away was amazing. At Reboot7, Robert Scoble, Rachel Clarke and I, were the only Tablet PCs I saw. Here at Gnomedex, I counted 11 and of those only 4 were Microsoft people. That's pretty good. The other observation was, again compared to Reboot7, a very large concentration of laptop users in the audience. More then I'd seen in a while. And they love those Apple Laptops.
The wireless stuff had it's issues, oh well. As I walked around, I counted 10 very happy (not smug mind you) guys using edge cards from Verizon and/or Sprint's PCS Vision Card.
The one observation I'll note is that with 400 of 500 people pounding away on keyboards, you have to wonder if the speakers are getting more and more irritated with this phenomenon. It was telling on the faces of some presenters.
The big "buzz" announcement was Microsoft "embracing" RSS.
For RSS announcement feedback, Robert has a good list of links on the announcement. He linked to all sides of the argument, balanced, well done.
Here is my take as it relates to you starting/building a company.
I typically ask people to think about Ebay as it relates to the Internet. Without the Internet and the resulting widespread adoption, Ebay is almost impossible to pull off. You simply had to have people connected. Dial up sucked but it worked.
So, as you look at RSS being promoted by Microsoft, what becomes possible?
Ignore the evil empire stuff and ignore the howls about Microsoft changing the standards (they're not), etc, etc, it is not relevant to how you parse through this announcement.
The simple economic fact is millions, not a few but millions, of people will get two things. One, exposure to the letters RSS and, two, a platform that has the basic plumbing to make it work for Sue and Sam six pack. It's plumbing that "everybody" is now going to have.
So, if you have a combination of high speed connected customers and those same customers/potential customers that can easily get a stream of data from you, what can you now do that you couldn't do before? What will you deliver that you couldn't deliver before?
There is a much more subtle and equally important item.
This is going to make keeping customers and knowing more about customers harder, not easier. Think about this for a second. To sign up for your RSS feed I need to tell you exactly zero about me. To stop getting it, buh bye, you are gone from my RSS reader feed.
My advice? Think like a DJ. Yeah, that dying breed of recording spinning experts who were masters at talking "to you." A good DJ, a really good DJ, talks to you. When they say I hope "you" are having a good day, it feels like a direct conversation to, well, you.
From my perspective, the greatest challenge, and most interesting thing to watch will be a Sears or a Wal-Mart trying to pull this off. Amazon? Sure, direct feeds about new books, etc. Airlines? Sure, RSS feeds on flight specials, status, etc. Right, all of that is obvious and just new ways to get you data they already send you via other means.
Nice but, sorry, not earth shattering.
Wal-Mart talking "to you" about some interesting in the electronics department? The associate working the camera counter in a store just outside of Memphis blogging about something interesting she realized about using some new camera? With all the corporate goop on top of her? Yeah, it will be super interesting to watch.
But, in the meantime, while Corporate America tries to "get it", you've already got it and should exploit the hell out of it to grow your business.
Microsoft is is doing what they do best which is plumbing. Ignore the anti/pro Microsoft debates, waste of your time. The only thing that should matter to you is will full RSS support inside IE and Longhorn with true XML support in all Microsoft Office products, help you get your message/product/service in front of more people. My answer is a resounding yes.
In general, lots of smart people having lots of good conversations. The Gnomedex web site has updates you can read and, of course, it's rockin on Technorati.