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March 6, 2009

I went to the BRITE 09 Conference held at Columbia (since I had access to a large registration fee discount), which was geared towards branding, innovation, and marketing in the tech field. Speakers included Jeff Jarvis (author of What Would Google Do?), Jeff Howe (author of Crowdsourcing), and Seth Godin (author of Tribes).

Jeff Howe speaking at BRITE 09

Jeff Howe speaking at BRITE 09

Jeff Howe and Seth Godin’s talks appealed to me the most.  Jeff  spoke about the increasing use and reliance on communities to produce things, giving as a canonical example iStockPhoto, which began as an amateur photography site by Bruce Livingstone who simply needed photos for his own site, and found them hard to obtain at reasonable cost.  He began iStockPhoto using the gift economy model, in which users who uploaded images could download them.  He then migrated to the micropayment model, where images could be bought, royalty free, for less than a dollar.  iStockPhoto became very popular, and eventually was acquired by Getty Images.  According to Howe, the key to making a crowdsourcing project successful is to ensure the task at hand is made very modular, with each module simple enough to do in 15 minutes.  That ensures that people will participate, and make meaningful contributions that when aggregated can lead to a useful end product.

Seth Godin speaking at BRITE 09

Seth Godin speaking at BRITE 09

Seth Godin was the keynote speaker on the second day of the conference.  He discussed his book, Tribes, which discusses the modern notion of tribe in the internet age.  His driving argument was that companies or organizations that want to be successful must cater to a tribe, and adapt to the tribe rather than trying to impose their vision on the tribe.  Because of the increased transparency afforded to us by the internet, it is much harder for companies to convince us to want something, and instead, they should focus on helping members of a tribe to stay connected.

He also talked about the qualities of a tribe leader.  Generally they are outside of the mainstream, since the mainstream itself is usually not exciting enough to create or inspire a tribe.  And generally, the tribe leader is seen as charismatic, although Godin emphasized that charsima is not something your born with, it is something that results when leading a tribe whose convictions you feel strongly about.  He gave Al Gore as an example.  As a presidential candidate, he was considered quite boring and uninspiring.  He symbolized the status quo and exuded almost no charisma.  But Al Gore the Climate Change activist was outside of the mainstream, pushing a controversial agenda.  Suddenly he transformed into a charismatic and inspiring figure who was able to have a big impact on the climate change discussion.

Several other speakers were interesting as well, although I won’t describe them here.  A few of the cooler websites that popped up during some of the talks were:

  • Innovid – a technology for adding product placement into videos post production
  • Sundaysky – a technology for automatically generating a snazzy video from a normal text/image-based website

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