Should I go to Defrag?

The question always kind of startles me, although I guess it really shouldn’t. “Should I go to Defrag?”

Well, duh! But, actually, it’s a really good question because in truth there are people that shouldn’t go to Defrag (example: lovers of the status quo that aren’t obsessively chasing innovation).

If you were to break the Defrag participants (we don’t have an “audience”) up into groups, they’d roughly look like this:

1. Enterprise-types: VP-level and C-level folks from large enterprises. They come to Defrag to lift their head up above the daily tasks at hand; to think ahead; to be exposed to new ideas; to network in an intimate setting.

2. Startup Founders (funded and unfunded): Startup CEO and CTO types. They come to Defrag to — shocker — talk about their startup and try to establish some valuable relationships.

3. Startup employees (or wanna-be employees): I’ve actually noticed a growing group of people at Defrag since the recession began — people that work for a larger company that WANT to work for a startup. They come to Defrag to seek out opportunities.

4. Press/Analysts/VCs: The analysts generally try to hide their identities; the press generally sit in a dark room typing; the VC’s are the ones at the completely packed table at lunch.

Bottom-line: if you’re A) looking for exposure to new ideas, innovation and intimate networking; B) a startup (funded or unfunded); C) searching for your next great opportunity; or D) trying to stay ahead of the curve — then yes, you should go to Defrag.

It’s a Saturday, and Defrag is 25 days away, so a quick post…

Two things:

1. I just confirmed Aneesh Chopra, CTO for the White House, as a Defrag keynoter. If you’re keeping track, you now have authorities in mobile (Tim Bray), big data (Roger Ehrenberg), tech policy (Aneesh Chopra), economics (Paul Kedrosky), business lessons (James Altucher), innovation in the enterprise (Robert Stephens and Adrian Cockcroft), social (Lili Cheng and Wendy Lea), and the nature of facts (Sam Arbesman) speaking at Defrag — and that isn’t even HALF of the keynotes.

I know it sounds like hyperbole, but it’s true: this agenda is going to blow your mind with new ideas.

2. Our hotel room block (the guarantee that we have rooms for the conference) expires this coming Friday. In other words, if you’re coming, get your room NOW. Or you might be sleeping in a van down by the river.

If you haven’t decided on whether or not to attend Defrag yet, let me offer up this: If you come, and don’t think it’s one of the top 5 tech conference experiences you’ve *ever* had, you find me and I’ll make it right. Personally.

Defrag: 10 Things to Expect

A weird thing happened on the way to Defrag this year: we announced we were capping attendance at 300 (to make sure the quality of intimate conversation is maintained), and a bunch of people who have never come before registered. A bit odd, right?

And then this morning it hit me: there’s a whole group of people who haven’t ever been to a Defrag and have no idea what to expect — not from a content standpoint, but from a “logistics” standpoint. So, in good ole-fashioned, bullet-form — here we go:

1. API Hackday: If you’re into hacking APIs (or learning about them), get your butt registered (it’s free) for the hack day on the 8th. It’s actually at the Bing offices – which are *near* the hotel where Defrag is located.

2. Pre-conference Dinners: there will be 5 pre-conference dinners – with each dinner limited to 25 people. These are sponsored dinners (ie, free) for attendees – and they revolve around a topic. Divi vs Avada – Which bestselling theme is worth it? (2021) – CollectiveRay

About one week before the show, as an attendee, you’ll receive an email from me telling you what the 5 topics are.

At that point, treat it like tickets to a Justin Bieber concert — ie, it’s first come, first served, so you’d better hurry. Once you’re signed up, you’ll find that these dinners are one of the highlights of the conference.

3. You’ll arrive at registration on morning 1 to find my amazing wife Kim, and our all-volunteer staff (ok, they get paid in beer and white russians) working away. Say “hi” — NOTHING at Defrag would happen without Kim working her magic.

4. Power-strips: Yep, we got ‘em. Grab a seat in the keynote room and what’ll ya find? — power strips. Because we understand.

5. Blazing fast Wifi: Have you ever been to a tech conference with crappy wifi? You should expect the opposite at Defrag.

I’ve been working on tech conferences for over 10 years, and if there’s one thing I’ve learned how to do, it’s hire the right guys to give us great wifi.

6. Dress code: I’ll be in jeans and flip-flops (I don’t wear shoes.) and a collared shirt. And I’ll probably be one of the most dressed up people there. Seriously, be comfortable. Defrag’s about conversation, not sports coats.

7. The people: You won’t have any trouble starting conversations because — you already did that last night over drinks at the dinners, right? Settle in, continue the threads, dig deeper, explore new ideas.

8. The Environment: What you won’t find at Defrag are “drive-by attendees” — you know the type, run in, do my keynote, and *zip*, back to the office; or, pop by for a few hours because the office is right down the street. Nope. Defrag is nestled against the foothills of the rockies. Nooks and crannies provide plenty of spaces for conversations, thinking, reading or writing. And the community that is Defrag will be hanging out at Defrag.

9. The evening reception and post-evening reception: The evening reception is an open bar. And after the evening reception, you’ll find a large number of attendees moving into the hotel bar, while others organize into dinner parties for nearby restaurants. Either way, make sure not to “enjoy” yourself too much, you’re at altitude and hydration is key. Day 2 awaits…

10. By the end of it all, you’ll have a bag full of goodies you didn’t expect (we set a minimum value for everything in schwag bag and NO PAPER), maybe a prize or two (yea, we’re giving away cool things), a ton of new friends/business contacts, and a firm decision that there’s no way you’re missing Defrag next year.

Defrag Wrap-up, Part 1

Defrag’s over, and my sense was that it was our best yet. I wanted to share some quick thoughts/reflections, and then come back in a later post (in a few weeks) and share my “here’s where we’re gonna improve” post that I do annually. 1.

One of the ironies of being the guy that creates the agenda is that I barely get to see any speakers. I catch them in snippets, mostly — not whole chunks.

I’ve actually identified this as a problem this year, and have some things going in place next year to fix it (ie, bringing in a “speaker manager” and staging area from our AV company, so as to remove that from my plate).

In the meantime, the speakers that I did get to see part or most of were incredible. Jeff Ma was the perfect closer for day 1. David Weinberger brought unparalleled passion to morning 2.

Paul Kedrosky led us down a road that only Paul can lead us down (and wonderfully), and Jeff Jonas astounded us with his work.

My sense is that the rest of the speakers were equally as impactful….

Defrag’s over, and my sense was that it was our best yet. I wanted to share some quick thoughts/reflections, and then come back in a later post (in a few weeks) and share my “here’s where we’re gonna improve” post that I do annually.

1. One of the ironies of being the guy that creates the agenda is that I barely get to see any speakers. I catch them in snippets, mostly — not whole chunks.

I’ve actually identified this as a problem this year, and have some things going in place next year to fix it (ie, bringing in a “speaker manager” and staging area from our AV company, so as to remove that from my plate).

In the meantime, the speakers that I did get to see part or most of were incredible. Jeff Ma was the perfect closer for day 1.

David Weinberger brought unparalleled passion to morning 2. Paul Kedrosky led us down a road that only Paul can lead us down (and wonderfully), and Jeff Jonas astounded us with his work. My sense is that the rest of the speakers were equally as impactful.

2. Something really wonderful (I’ve been calling it “magical” – half in jest) happened this year. The “community” that we’ve been fostering as a core group of people really coalesced into the show itself.

I had countless people who had never been before approaching me and tell me that they felt like the environment was so welcoming, that they could approach anyone, that it was almost as if “they’d been here before.”

And for those that had been here before, I think there was a qualitative difference. I don’t quite know how to put my finger on it yet, but Defrag (the gathering) really is like a family reunion in a lot of ways (the Cluetrain authors are now gathering there on an annual basis).

3. As a result of #2, I’m coming out of this show with a completely different outlook. Normally, the type A in me exits the show saying, “and next year, we’ll be X bigger,” or “and next year, we’ll have so-and-so here.” This year that’s really not the case.

I don’t care if we ever grow by one more person. That’s irrelevant to me. The group of people we have assembled are so amazing, so happy, so involved — than adding to them doesn’t matter.

In fact, adding to them might damage what we have, so we’re actually gonna cap Defrag’s size right around this year’s number. As a tertiary result, I no longer care if TechCrunch (for example), or some enterprise, or anyone else decides to send someone. I love the people that are coming and that is there. And if you don’t know the coolness that is being at Defrag — well, it’s really more your loss than anything else.

I hope all of that’s coming across the right way (humble, thankful, amazed).

4. Lastly, a huge thank you to everyone at this year’s Defrag. You were an absolutely amazing group of people –and (as witnessed above) you’ve transformed what Defrag will be forever.

Next year is Defrag’s fifth year of existence, and I cannot WAIT to do this for another 5 years, so that I can be sitting here talking about how Defrag’s 10th anniversary is coming.

We’re gonna do a lot of special events to celebrate next year’s fifth incarnation of the show — I hope all of you Defrag alumni will plan to attend.