Business of Software 2009: Excellent

I just returned from the Business of Software 2009 conference, and can summarize it as excellent. Here are some thoughts on specific bits of it, mostly interesting to people who were there.

  • Geoffrey Moore’s opening talk was an early highlight of the conference; I’ve often been disappointed when a well-known person from somewhat outside a conference’s focus is invited to talk, but it turned out that Geoff had ample highly relevant content. Most notably, his 9-point recommendation for small software firms is dead on.
  • It is highly likely that my next project will be in one of the 20-something categories that Paul Graham thinks will grow. I’m not sure if this is saying much, though, because his points were so numerous and broad.
  • Mat Clayton had strong points about A/B testing, but I felt a bit dirty merely being in the room for his list of “dirty tactics” for social networking promotion. I heard similar feedback from other attendees.
  • Don Norman’s talk was excellent, but would have been more excellent if it was a bit shorter and thus tighter.
  • My favorite talk of the conference was Ryan Carson’s. In conversations about his talk, I heard the idea of several directions that the essence of Ryan’s message was to trade off, to give up profits in order to do various good things instead. I strongly suspect, though, that Ryan is doing the best he can, i.e. the strategy he proclaims is also how he maximizes profits (for a company like his).
  • Paul Kenny talked about telling stories. You must do this. I can’t explain just how important this talk was, so I won’t.
  • Pecha Kucha was this conference’s name for lightning talks. As elsewhere, these talks are usually very dense and very good, because the format forces the speaker to discard all the slow parts, all the boring parts, all the exposition, and instead go directly for their key points. It works.
  • I noticed a large number of people using TweetDeck, and adopted it myself. It is a higher-mental-bandwidth way to consume Twitter and Facebook data streams, and is well suited to the a sane Twitter usage pattern of one short intense sessions per day.

I have only a few criticisms:

  • A few of the speakers went long. Though it would annoy the speaker, it would be much better for the conference if all sessions were promptly stopped on time.
  • Luke Hohmann’s talk on “Innovation Games” felt like a sales pitch for his company, even though he tried hard to talk mostly in general terms.
  • The schedule was a bit too dense. We needed more slack between / before / after, to discuss and absorb the information.
  • It would have been nice to have a talk address the business of custom software development.
  • The swag, in the form of a slanket / snuggie, is much too physically large for an event attended mostly via air travel. Of course I could have discarded it (and some attendees did), this would have felt like waste. I would have preferred if Neil had simply scrapped it and kept that money as profit.

6 thoughts on “Business of Software 2009: Excellent”

  1. Thanks for posting your review.

    I agree with most of your points.

    I really liked Geoff Moore a lot, but I found I got more value out of Kathy Sierra’s presentation. Could be because I’d been exposed to Moore’s ideas for some time now (through his books), but Kathy’s content was different — and still very useful.

    Question: Anything you would have changed about my presentation (“inbound marketing/sales”) that would have made it more useful to you? Always looking for feedback.

    Hope to see you at the Boston conference.

    Dharmesh Shah

  2. Thanks for the summary Kyle. I too really enjoyed the conference and hope to take some time to go through my notes and re-digest (so to speak) the huge amount of content I was exposed to. From my point of view the best talk was from Paul Kenny. This is because he had a single really strong theme/message that he discussed and he approached this from various angles and with various examples for an entire hour. Dharmesh and Joel were also terrific because their content was very relevant to where I am at with my product and business. Thanks to all the speakers – the overall quality was top notch.

  3. I agree on Ryan Carson’s talk. I was rather skeptical going in, but I was blown away. I came back to the office and gave an overview of the conference and focused on this talk.

    I overhead others at the conference who had mixed feelings about it. I think many are massively underestimated the amount of productivity that can be gained when people are happy.

    Plus to be honest, you could pay me less by providing a better working environment. The reason is that I spend an enormous amount time working, and hence a better work environment is worth a lot to me. It seems the current trend is to cut back amenities, but that just makes me want to go home to my two monitors, killer stereo, and Mac, and not work more in the office.

    This is a zen approach, but sometimes doing “less” can actually create more value.

    I also felt that Clayton’s talk focused too much on “hit and run” marketing. This might work, but it was against the spirit of the conference.

    But overall a huge thumbs on the conference. I loved it. I think I sold my entire office on going next year.

  4. Thanks for the summary Kyle. I thoroughly enjoyed the conference and experience, and the excellent line up of speakers did not disappoint. However, it was the unexpected sessions that gave me a surprise.

    Who would have thought a software developer would get anything of value from Jennifer Aackers talk on Beyond Happiness? I found myself scribbling away madly during the talk, and was thoroughly engaged. No mean feat at the end of the day following on from Kathy Sierra! Realising the the entire software process was actually all about the experience of happiness, both for those designing, building and marketing, through to the end user experience.

    Paul Kenny’s talk on embracing your inner salesman, and Michael Lopp’s talk on ‘communicating’, delegating and strategic direction were both wake up calls for me to re-evaluate my working process.

    Thanks to the organisers for having the vision to include some left field topics.

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