Thursday, 30 October 2008

Some Cool Stuff at FOWA Expo Oct '08

So I couldn't resist just giving you a quick low down on the coolest or most memorable things I saw at The Future of Web Apps Expo at London's Excel. These are listed in no particular order and simply represent the things that made a lasting impression on me for one reason or another and I just thought you might like to share them...

The MySpace Bus

Loved this bus!!!

A striking statement parked right next to the stand and making a great visual statement! I have heard from marketeering friends of mine that by making a big visual statement at a show like FOWA you will obtain stacks of free exposure/coverage simply because people will photograph your 'statement' and post pictures all over the web on your behalf – Superb!! (if you have the budget??)

I don't think anyone from MySpace was actually at the bus and in reality it was generally used for storing beer bought cheaply at the local cash and carry and sneaked in past security. As a result this corner of the expo hall was invariably inhabited by some gregarious characters in the latter hours of the afternoon.

Impromptu Butchers Blog PITCH

Great to see Mike Butcher in full flow when he did an on location Butchers Blog podcast incorporating a TechCrunch PITCH! For 10 early stage businesses. Highlight for me was when the assembled crowd were asked to vote for the best pitch by standing behind the person of their choice. Mayhem ensued as 100 or more people scrambled to cast their vote.

I don't actually remember who won the pitch event but that lucky individual secured a write up in TechCrunch and the FOWA expo bag belonging to Mark Zuckerberg (of Facebook fame) – Wooooo!!! :-)

Human Rummble Tumble

Enormous purple letters inhabited by real people wandered the expo hall on the first day, spelling the word 'Rummble' and handing out info on their location based search tool, which recommends people, places and content.

The letters were appealing homemade to look at and many were held together with lashings of silver gaffa tape! Also amusingly the people inside to suits were strangely disinterested in the service they were promoting, one guy spent most of the morning trying to talk on his mobile phone despite the fact that due to the restrictions of the costume he couldn't comfortably get the phone next to his ear! - Brilliant fun to watch!

However the best bit was the total foam carnage that occurred when someone suggested that the Rummble letters try and cram themselves on the MySpace bus, needless to say, just a few minutes later a a large pile of unidentifiable foam pieces were left.

The letters were not seen on day two :-(

Google Beers – Beer Googles

Next to the expo stand was an empty booth, simply title 'Google Beers', this caused much speculation and many jokes at the expense of Google throughout the show. A lesson to us all that putting our precious business name to an empty exhibition stand isn't too sensible!!

However, in the end it turned out that the lovely guys at Google had sent a few thousand pounds worth of beer, which was escorted into the hall at the end of the last day just before the Diggnation show. The chaos caused by a few free beers was just amazing, kids running from all corners of the hall to grab as many bottles as possible, limited only by the amount they could carry. Check out my short video clip to get an idea of what it was like – Great fun to watch, obviously I had already secured my own beers :-)

I don't think Google were actually at FOWA and they clearly feel no requirement for brand presence, but I can't help but think they missed a trick with the name, Beer Googles clearly seems much more apt!?

Cheers Google!

Microsoft's GIANT iPhone!?!?

OK, so no startup company wants to think Microsoft is cool, but I was strangely drawn to what appeared to be a GIANT iPhone, yes I know, Mac on the Microsoft stand!!??? Odd!

Apparently this lovely looking and impressive piece of kit is called the 'Surface' and is used as in store installations for demoing new products and services or by museums and exhibitions for interactive learning and engagement.

Essentially it is an interactive coffee table which has a touch screen and operates much like an iPhone but on a much bigger scale. Including features that enable scaling and orientation of virtual objects with a a sweep of the hand. You can also place objects on the surface which it will recognises and react accordingly...

... I wonder what it would do if I put my cupper on it without a coaster!!!?? But seriously against my better judgement I just couldn't help loving this spectacular piece of eye candy.

(although I couldn't resist showing you this... credit sarcasticgamer)

The Zuckerberg Experience

FOWA is renowned as the expo where you can literally rub shoulders with the 'Rock Stars' of the Tech world and London FOWA 08 proved to be no different. I will admit that I was very excited to see Mark Zuckerberg, of Facebook fame, talk to an intimate audience of around 1000 people, it was a real thrill!

To be honest the content of his interview contained no real surprises and was aimed specifically at the audience of software developers he was addressing. However, I was interested to see how this young, techie and very successful man would present himself in front of a relatively large and over excited audience. It was clear to me that he had been coached and groomed in the art of public speaking and therefore he came across as confident, if not actually relaxed.

Zuckerberg mentioned that he still likes to get his hands on the FaceBook code from time to time, particularly to fix bugs, I wonder when he feels he made the transition from geek coding away, to rock star performing to packed arenas....


Obviously I could not fail to mention Live Diggnation as part of my best bits, this was my first experience of the show, and whilst the guys themselves are obviously entertaining in a Wayne's World-esq kind of way. What struck me most was the hype and frenzy that was generated by the crowd, Kevin Rose and the other guy whose name I will look up in a moment (Alex Albrecht), have clearly escalated to the level of super stardom, at least within this circle of up and coming young geeks and geekets.

To be honest I am a little bewildered by the mass hysteria the show caused and I know that makes me sound old, but I will also admit that I enjoyed it immensely, check out my short video clip to get a flavour and check out that girls laugh!!!!

Aftershow Party

Finally, I could not end without quickly mentioning the aftershow parties at The Fox pub...

... what to say? The beer and wine flowed freely and often it was actually FREE, which was greatly appreciated after a long day in the exhibition hall, although it did mean that things tended to get a bit messy as a result! I met and spoke to dozens of great people and enjoyed watching the crowd react to the Diggnation boys guest appearance in the pub. I discovered this YouTube clip (credit alexmuller) which summed up my impression of the crowd reaction...

“I can't believe we said Kevin and he actually turned around, OMG, OMG, OMG!” Brilliant entertainment!

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