The Elephant in the Room at PSFK Conference New York

Yesterday I attended PSFK Conference New York. My overriding impression of the conference was that we marketing professionals are all struggling to define what we’re doing. There were loads of smart people presenting their perspective on the web 2.0 world and none of them were wrong, although they often openly contradicted each other.

At one point Rob Kallin, founder of Etsy.com, the online craft market place, and Andrew Hoppin from NASA seemed to be trading jabs about the laugh-ability or viability of Second Life as a useful collaboration tool. Although I personally dislike Second Life due to what I consider a poor user interface, it is valuable to some people. Andrew Hoppin gave the example of people living on the space station being able to share the same virtual space with people back on Earth is a good thing. He’s right! Second Life may be the best existing tool available for that at present.

Noelle Weaver, from SS+K, kicked off the “Social Media” session by asking the attendees how many of them have tried to erase a social media profile in the past few weeks. In a room full of Web 2.0 thinkers, a surprising number of hands went up, roughly 15% by my estimate. A room full of social-media-types erasing profiles? Another interesting contradiction.

By the end of the presentations the Indian proverb about the blind men touching an elephant and then describing what an the animal was like based on their impression. The morale of that story is that basically that people who are too insistent that their personal view is right are ignorant. That wasn’t the case at the PSFK event though. It was about sharing viewpoints and trying to figure out what this gigantic creature in our midst really is. If we keep describing what we feel this thing is and share those thoughts, we’re going to figure it out.

Looking back on the day, Grant McCracken pin-pointed the key to success for all of us in this business with a concept he called “brute noticing.” (Slides from his presentation available here.) It’s a term I really love. He said our clients depend on us “seeing things early and clearly, on grasping new patterns.” Since this creature is growing and changing so fast, no one person can figure it all out alone.

Follow up: PSFK has started posting some of the videos shot that day on YouTube. Below is one where Steve Rubel says the most newsbite-friendly line of the whole conference, “The Web site is dead.” He does admit saying he likes “saying things are dead.” It made for a great line at the conference. For more video from the conference, click here.

 

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