How Educational Mobile App Developers Can Sell to Schools

A common question I see asked is, “How do I sell my educational mobile app to schools?” Many people building educational mobile apps are parents and educators who are creating good products. A good product isn’t enough for a viable business though; a business also needs a good marketing strategy.

However, this is still a very new market and there aren’t any “tried and true” methods yet. I’ve heard of a handful of tactics though. If you are an educational mobile app developer, perhaps some of these may work:

  1. Focus your messaging, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), and App Store Optimization (ASO) on schools. This means understanding issues that are important to schools, such as student outcomes, Common Core State Standards (CCSS), COPPA compliance, student privacy, data portability, School Information System (SIS) integration, etc.
  2. Get in touch with a school district’s technology integrator (also known as a technology specialist, technology coordinator, etc), whose job is to evaluate, integrate, deploy, and support the technology throughout their schools.
  3. Get information about which schools use mobile devices and may be receptive to or are currently seeking new mobile apps. This info isn’t cheap and can be found from organizations like MDR and EdLights.
  4. Hire an educational sales consultant to contact those people for you. LinkedIn can be a good starting point for finding one. Or try reaching out to some of the consultants who spoke at this previous Ed Market 101 session held by the Software & Information Industry Association (SIIA) in 2013.
  5. Get enough press that technology integrators take notice of you. This means targeting sources that schools pay attention to, such as conferences (e.g. ISTE), publications (e.g. Education Week), blogs (e.g. Edutopia), Twitter hashtags & chats (there are lots and lots), etc.
  6. Get into and integrate with online platforms and directories like Edmodo, Schoology, Clever, eSpark, EdSurge, and edshelf.
  7. Partner with a company that already has a contract with a school district, such as a Pearson or McGraw Hill.

Selling mobile apps to schools isn’t significantly different from selling other kinds of software to schools, in terms of requiring multiple licenses and school-wide deployment. But it does require knowing which schools use mobile devices in their curricula and understanding what schools care about and how to reach them (which is a question of both where and when).

The technology teams at school districts are constantly sold to, so many are wary of a sales pitch. Whatever you have to say, chances are they’ve heard it before. They need to justify their purchases, so sales pitches that include data on demonstrable improvements in student outcomes tend to be the most effective.

TweetWalls Are Bad For Conference Speakers

Dear Silicon Valley Mobile Monday Organizers,

Thank you for setting up the great talk on NFC technologies and lining up interesting speakers.

I dig the fact that you try out new products and like incorporating social media into your events. Very web-savvy of you. Although you don’t declare a hashtag before your events, you graciously acknowledge them at the start of the events. That’s awesome. (Tip: declare a hashtag before your events, like on your blog or Eventbrite registration page.)

But please please please, don’t project two large screens of TweetWalls behind your panelists again. Please.

Sure, some of the tweets to #mobilemonday and #momosv were insightful and thought-provoking. Seeing them enlarged like that probably motivated many more people to tweet too. Cheers to that gentle use of ego gratification. (Tip: some people love seeing their names or products on huge screens.)

But I’m not so sure everyone found the TweetWall as helpful as you might have. (Tip: not everyone likes to see other people’s names or products on huge screens.)

For me, they were visually distracting. Two bright screens makes for tough competition against dimly-lit panelists. Try sitting with the audience next time and to focus on the panelists. It’s not impossible, but it’s a might difficult.

To put it another way: those screens were like animated gifs on a page of text. Do you like animated gifs? Nah, me neither. (Tip: no one likes animated gifs.)

The TweetWall also attracted tweets that were, ah, less-than-related to the topic at hand. I’m glad some members of the audience got a chance to say Hi to their Moms or declare how they like long walks on the beach. Bully for them, really.

But I noticed the members of the audience were starting to pay more attention to the TweetWall than to the panelists. Perhaps you didn’t notice, but I did. Some were more obvious than others, pointing at the screens and taking pictures of their tweets.

The panelists eventually noticed too, when the audience started reacting and laughing at the tweets. I felt bad when one of the panelists asked, “Is anyone still listening?”

That’s kind of bad, don’t you think? You don’t want these great panelists thinking you’re running a comedy act, right? I mean, I guess it’s entirely possible a General Partner at Khosla Ventures, the founder of Vivotech, and directors at Qualcomm (QCOM), Motorola (MMI), NXP (NXPI), and Google (GOOG) were all in on the joke and secretly holding a contest for the funniest, most distracting tweet. I kind of doubt it though.

Again, I love how you’re embracing social media and experimenting with new technologies. That’s cool. But distracting the audience with said new technology is not so cool.

My last tip of the night – and this one comes from a TweetWall competitor, Wall of Tweets:

We suggest you to use our Wall of Tweets in front of the conference room (like in a lobby or some networking space) and not really during the presentation itself. We do support cases where you want to use our Wall of Tweets in the conference room itself but we suggest you to use it during the QnA session or breaks. Even then, our Wall of Tweets in non-intrusive, in-context solution that is situated in background allowing the real starts to shine.

Good advice there, don’t you think?

Thanks for reading. Here’s to another great (and hopefully, TweetWall-less) event in the future!

Biz Idea: Real-Time Brainstorm Note Taker

There is often a need to record the notes from a brainstorming session. Haven’t had the pleasure of doing one before? I’ll explain.

What Happens in a Brainstorming Session

If your organization hasn’t done a brainstorming session before, it’s essentially an open-ended meeting where ideas around a particular topic or problem are dreamt up and recorded. There is usually a facilitator to keep the meeting going, and to remind participations that there are no bad ideas. All ideas are accepted and no idea is judged or evaluated during these meetings. The facilitator may clarify, but that’s about it. Idea evaluation happens later.

The Problems Around Brainstorming Sessions

The notes from these sessions are typically transcribed and/or photographed. Then they are stored on an internal repository or simply emailed to each other.

Recording these sessions is just the first step too. After that, someone has to organize the information so it can be properly evaluated later. It also needs to be retrievable. Since brainstorms aren’t generating formal product specifications, some teams aren’t sure where to store these notes. As a result, sometimes they get lost in an abandoned email thread or text document on someone’s desktop.

The tools of choice? Some kind of text editor on the laptop, like an email client, online wiki page, or word processor. For photos, a smartphone with a camera or digital point-and-shoot are usually used. If the photographer forgets to share the photos, however, the team may forget and they are never seen again.

Seems like an awful wide range of tools and hurdles for such a seemingly simple task, huh?

A Potential Solution

So how about an app that allows participants to record notes in any media they choose – be it text, photograph, video, or audio? This app could be both a mobile and web app. Notes taken in one app would show up in all of the others in real-time. One participant could be typing in the ideas while another is taking photos of the session. A third could be recording audio or video as well. It would be like a collaborative, real-time Evernote.

The text interface would look like Google Wave (GOOG) – which basically is a rich-text, real-time, multi-user editor. Several participants could be adding notes all at the same time, while photos and other media appear as they are recorded. The media assets could be annotated and tagged for better organization as well.

All of this would be recorded in a single destination. Everyone would know where to look if they wanted to dig up some idea that was passed around. Since note taking happens in real time, the chance of someone forgetting to share a note is decreased as well.

Here’s another way to envision this product. You’re in a brainstorming session as a participant. You have your iPad (AAPL) out to jot down some notes. A coworker is taking photos with her iPhone of all the diagrams on the whiteboard. Each time she uploads one, you view it on your iPad and add some notes to it for context.

The facilitator is recording the audio for this session on his Nexus S sitting on the conference table. Another participant is on her laptop, with several tabs open in Chrome, adding URLs of articles mentioned in this meeting too.

Meanwhile, a coworker who’s sick at home is following along on the web app, watching the updates occur as they occur. He’s conferenced in via Skype. (I’m not sure this should be a feature of this app too, but who knows?) This way, he can see, hear, and even participate in the brainstorm.

All of the notes taken would be stored within the app and accessible at any time. Any note or media file could be emailed. Various levels of permissions could be applied as well. These session notes could be shared with other departments as a jump-off point for further brainstorms.

A Potential Business Model

And how would this service make money? By charging for storage. You could go with a freemium model and offer one brainstorming session free for 30 days. That ought to give users enough of a taste to purchase the premium plan. Or, forget freemium and just charge per session per month.

Potential Initial Target Market Segments

Creative agencies and technology startups could make a suitable beachhead segment to pursue first. They tend to hold such brainstorming sessions more often than other organizations. Once you’ve captured that niche, you can expand to other audiences.

And Beyond

And for future features? Why not hold a brainstorming session – using this tool, of course! What better way to improve your product than by using it yourself? The ideas you generate may be invaluable, and being able to record them in any form may spark other product ideas too.

Empowering the Ultra Poor with Mobile Technologies

Speaking of the ubiquity of mobile phones, want to hear a crazy fact? Mobile phones are more common than toilets in India.

Almost 45% of the population there have mobile phones, while only 31% have access to improved sanitation. This includes many of the ultra poor in India.

If you haven’t heard the term before, the ultra poor are defined as “receiving less than 80 percent of minimum caloric intake whilst spending more than 80% of income on food” by Michael Lipton (quote from Wikipedia). They are the poorest of the poor.

Funny how they have mobile phones then, huh? This is no accident. There has been a concerted effort to bring mobile technologies to the masses. The result is a dramatic shift in knowledge access. In a world where “you can tell the rich from the poor by their internet connections,” mobile technologies are becoming a great equalizer.

Building upon insights such as this, Kamael Sugrim co-founded the non-profit mPowering. She took her background in finance & marketing, Stanford MBA, experience with Salesforce (CRM) & SAP (SAP), and witty insight, and turned it upside-down, realizing she would rather follow her passions than to remain in corporate America. Thus, mPowering. As they state on their website:

We are a non-profit organization dedicated to assisting the world’s poor in their journey out of poverty. Through mobile technology and true out-of-the-box thinking, we give individuals and families the power to change their lives – forever.

Their first step has been to create mobile apps that harness the incentives of location-based gaming.

I know. Definitely out-of-the-box, huh? When I think of helping the ultra poor with mobile technologies, that’s the last thing I think of too. But it sometimes takes a radical new idea to break an established “norm” such as extreme poverty.

Here’s what Sugrim and team have done so far:

They’ve created a mobile app – Android (GOOG) at the moment – that allows children to check-in when they’re at school. Each check-in awards them some points that can be redeemed later at a food & clothing distribution center. The idea is to encourage these children to go to school, get an education, and still “earn” the basic necessities for their family. It’s a step above merely just giving the food & clothing to these families.

With the donations mPowering receives, they also give out free mobile phones to these ultra poor families, ensuring that all of them have access to this program.

Will it work? I don’t know, but this is just the start. They’ve got big plans and a motivated team. I’m sure they’ll experiment with all kinds of interesting, out-of-the-box ideas.

Intrigued? They’re taking donations right now. I’m sure they’ll be open to volunteers and fresh ideas too. Now that they’ve gotten mobile phones into the hands of their initial target group, they’ve got a platform from which to try new things.

They are initially targeting Orissa, the poorest region in India, though they plan on expanding to all countries where there is a need. Sugrim is over in Orissa this very moment, blogging, tweeting, posting, and recording videos of her travels. Follow along to see first-hand how they’re empowering the ultra poor and where they’ll go next. I’m following not just because I support their cause, but because I’m curious about which technologies they’re going to use next. Cloud computing and the ultra poor? Chatroulette for the ultra poor? Oh, the possibilities!

Biz Vision: Mobile Will Have Social 4D Awareness

Mobile Phones in Tokyo's Subways Raise your hand if you carry your mobile phone with you everywhere you go.

Wow, look at all those hands. Not a big surprise though. On a planet with 6.8B people, it is estimated that there will be 5B mobile phone subscriptions by the end of 2010. That’s more than 70% of the world’s population.

Most even carry their phones everywhere they go. It’s not just a virtual connection to friends & family, but an entertainment center and lifesaving device. I’ll bet most people even find it hard to imagine a time before mobile phones.

Essentially, mobile phones have become anytime, anywhere devices.

And not just a simple mobile phone. A smartphone. As computing power increases and technology costs decrease, smartphones will become commodities. Someday soon, everyone will have a one. That means everyone will be carrying a lot of computing power in their pockets.

Sure, there will be hardware advances such as finger recognition, improved resolutions, brain wave controls, etc. But the basic features of smartphones, the features that make a smartphone what it is today (mobile operating system, keyboard, ability to install third-party apps) will be commoditized and ubiquitous.

What will this mean? Lots of things, though there’s one I want to focus on today:

Social 4D Awareness

Mobile devices will offer a social 4D view of a person.

With a mobile device, we already know:

  • Where they are in 3D space (latitude, longitude, and altitude)
  • When they were there in time

With mobile software, we also know:

  • Who they communicate with in their social network
  • How they are connected to each person in their social network
  • How frequently they interact with each connection

Knowing a person’s latitude, longitude and altitude gives us a 3D view of their location. Adding time to this equation gives us a 4D view of their travels. We can tell where a person is and has been, much as Google Latitude’s Location History (GOOG) currently offers.

Every person has several stores of social graphs: their email’s address book, their mobile phone’s address book, their social networks, and their connections on other social media sites. The one device that could harness all of those stores is a mobile device, especially a smartphone that offers email and third-party app capabilities.

This has many applications:


If we watch a person’s location over time, we can determine that person’s velocity. Plot that movement against a street and public transit map and it will be possible to determine the mode of transportation, be it by walking, car, bus, train, or boat. It wouldn’t make sense to get a notification of a nearby sale if you’re on a train, right?


A history of visited locations can offer a detailed view of your preferences and behaviors. Also, how long you’ve been at someplace is just as, if not more important than where you’ve been. Will you be dining at your favorite restaurant? Or just picking up some take-out? Were you at an event (assuming we can get event data), or just using the bathroom at a convention center? An always-on location tracking service doesn’t have the benefit of a conscious check-in, so determining a location’s relevance may be a factor of time.

True Social Network

A utility that is aware of who you email, call, text, and interact with on various social media sites – and how often – would have a vary accurate model of your true social network. Couple that with who you interact with offline, judging by who is in your same location for some length of time, and the accuracy improves significantly.


There may be times when you want to run into friends and acquaintances, such as at a concert, during an industry conference, when you’re traveling, etc. A mobile device that is location-aware and socially-aware can offer this, as evident in the large number of services already doing this. The same could be done for a customer’s favorite locations or chains too, of course.


People are too complexed and nuanced for a one-size-fits-all model. Products that are customizable are generally preferred. However, not everyone will take the time or know how to customize a product. That’s where products with intelligent automatic personalization will win, provided they offer the ability to adjust, refine, and opt-out. Having a social 4D awareness of a person will equip a product with the intelligence for such features.


Having this depth of knowledge means preferences can be inferred. If you travel to a new city that has your favorite restaurant, we can suggest it to you. Or if friends with similar tastes have frequented a restaurant in that new city, we can suggest that too. Same goes for movies, hotels, products, etc. In addition to external suggestions, internal suggestions of features within a product or service can also be made.


This depth of knowledge doesn’t only offer preference inferences, but behavioral predictions as well. If you tend to attend sci-fi movie premieres, we can offer a range of related activities based on that predictive inference, such as upcoming sci-fi movies, nearby restaurants, nearby friends with similar interests, etc. Or a nearby landmark that was used in the movie, if you’ve visited landmark sights in the past.


As you can imagine, any device or business entity holding this much intimate data about a person raises serious privacy concerns. Can you trust that entity to treat this data with respect? Will they offer reliable ways to opt-out and erase this data if you so choose?

Although some companies have mismanaged their privacy controls, I believe there is tremendous value to be had with predictive features. This assumes we handle your data with respect, offer total transparency, maintain crystal-clear communications, provide opt-out and deletion controls, and follow the Bill of Privacy Rights for Social Network Users.

P.S. The scientific side of me knows the label 4D isn’t entirely accurate because time isn’t considered the 4th dimension anymore. The marketing side of me realizes that most people don’t know this and still consider the 4th dimension as time, however. So for ease of understanding, I opted for the older definition of 4D.

Technology, Mobile, Internet Business, Digital Design and Web 2.0 Conferences

Got the itch to travel? And the desire to meet colleagues from other states? And perhaps catch an interesting talk or two? How about an industry conference?

Within the world of web startups and internet businesses, there are a dizzying number of conferences. I’ve attempted to list all of the major ones here. Upcoming dates are included if they’ve been announced. Many of these conferences have already had their 2010 events, so perhaps I’ll have to create this list again early next year to catch the 2011 events before they happen. If I’ve missed anything, please let me know.

General Conferences in the United States

South by Southwest Interactive

Next date: March 11-15, 2011 in Austin, TX

This event started as an Austin, Texas-based music festival in 1987 that added the film and interactive conferences in 1994, all of which have become some of the world’s largest industry events in their respective fields.

TechCrunch Disrupt

Next date: September 27-29, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This was created in 2010 from the ashes of Michael Arrington and Jason Calacanis’ disbanded TechCrunch50 conference, to continue the vision of TC50 as a way to demo emerging Web 2.0 startups.

D: All Things Digital

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This was created by Walter Mossberg and Kara Swisher in 2003, and is held in Carlsbad, CA annually.


Next date: September 13-15, 2010 in Santa Clara, CA

Venture capitalist Stewart Alsop created this conference in 1991 as a launchpad for emerging technologies. It has since changed hands, from Chris Shipley to Matt Marshall.

Voices That Matter

Next date: June 28-29, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

Created by the educational publishing company Pearson Education in 2007, these events emphasize opportunities for learning and networking from industry leaders.


Next date: August 19-21, 2010 in Seattle, WA

This was created by former TechTV personality Chris Pirillo in 2001 as a single-track technology conference.


Next date: July 29-30, 2010 in Philadelphia, PA

Created by Wharton professor Kevin Werbach in 2002, this event explores the transformation of computing, communications, business, and society.

ReadWriteWeb Summits

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Created by the team at the ReadWriteWeb blog, these events cover a variety of topics, from the real-time web to mobile technologies.

Social Developer Summit

Next date: June 29, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

Started this year and All Facebook founder Nick O’Neill, this event aims to unite social app developers to discuss solutions and best practices for building applications in the rapidly expanding social web economy.

Inside Social Apps

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Created by the social media & gaming market research agency Inside Network, this event covers issues around the social app and gaming industry.

Virtual Goods Summit

Next date: October 12-13, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

Created by Charles Hudson of, this event focuses on the emerging market opportunity for virtual goods and economies.

Startup Lessons Learned

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event is designed to unite those interested in what it takes to succeed in building a lean startup.


Next date: August 4-6, 2010 in Amelia Island, FL

This event is aimed at entrepreneurs, thought leaders, startup founders, and consultants.

The Founder Conference

Next date: August 17, 2010 in Mountain View, CA

This event was created to allow participants to network with other startup founders, find co-founders, improve their ideas and learn how to bootstrap.


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers topics ranging from startups to design to marketing to business.

Big Omaha

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event was created by Silicon Prairie News (SPN) in 2009 and is held in Omaha, NE for entrepreneurs, innovators and creatives.


Next date: October 25, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This conference focuses on start-up failures and how to prepare & recover from them.


Next date: September 18, 2010 in Seattle, WA

Next date: September 24, 2010 in New York, NY

Next date: October 23, 2010 in San Francisco

This event was started in 2008 by Edith Yeung after a conversation she had with Gary Marshall from the Small Business Administration, and aims to be a conference that inspires entrepreneurs to create and grow their business with the help of technology.

SF New Tech

Next date: July 20, 2010 in San Francisco

These are a series of regular events for startup entrepreneurs, VCs, journalists, recruiters, and others in the industry.

Startup Weekend

Next date: June 25-27, 2010 in Chicago, IL

Next date: September 17-19, 2010 in Edmonton, Canada

Created by Andrew Hyde, this event became a non-profit when Marc Nager and Clint Nelsen took over all operations. Ticket prices are typically much lower than other conferences.

Startup School

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This was created by Paul Graham in 2004 for technical entrepreneurs to learn about building startups.


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Founded by Dave McClure & Dan Martell, this exclusive, invitation-only event is dedicated to educating and helping the next generation of internet startups around issues of fund raising, option pools, and term sheets.

Maker Faire

Next date: July 10, 2010 in Aspen, CO (mini event)

Next date: September 25-26, 2010 in New York, NY

This was created by Make Magazine to celebrate arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset.


Next date: June 15-17, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA

Created in 1995 by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) covers the video game industry.


Next date: July 30-August 1, 2010 in Las Vegas, NV

Created in 1993, this is one of the largest and oldest continuously-running conferences for the hacker community.

SF MusicTech Summit

Next date: December 6, 2010 in San Francisco

This event covers the music and technology space.

Hacks/Hackers Unite

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This was created by Rich Gordon, Burt Herman & Aron Pilhofer as a hands-on workshop to build storytelling applications on tablet devices. This past 2010 event was the first.

Lunch 2.0

Next date: Varies; there are lots of them

These events are informal gatherings organized by various companies who hold a short presentation, then break off for lunch and networking.

General Conferences in Europe


Next date: December 8-9, 201 in Paris, France

This was created by Loïc Le Meur in 2005 as a conference covering technology, the Internet, and entrepreneurism.

The Next Web

Next date: April 27-29, 2011 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

This was created by Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, Arjen Schat & Patrick de Laive as a means to bring the professional web industry together in Europe.

O’Reilly Conferences

Web 2.0 Summit

Next date: November 15-17, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This is an invitation-only conference where Internet executives gather to debate and determine business strategy.

Web 2.0 Expo

Next date: September 27-30, 2010 in New York, NY

Next date: March 28-31, 2011 in San Francisco, CA

This is a spin-off of the Web 2.0 Summit and has open registration.


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This is run by local volunteers and gives presenters 5 minutes each to present their ideas to the audience.


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This covers web performance and operations.


Next date: July 19-23, 2010 in Portland, OR

This covers the vast open source industry.

Gov 2.0 Summit

Next date: September 7-8, 2010 in Washington, DC

This is an invitation-only conference that covers the intersection of web technologies and the US government.

Tools of Change for Publishing

Next date: February 14-16, 2011 in New York, NY

This covers technologies in the publishing space.


Next date: No new dates announced yet

This was originally created in 2004 as a joke by Tim O’Reilly and Sara Winge. More recently, topical Foo Camps have been held at various locations and by various organizers.


Next date: Varies; there are lots of them

This started in 2005 as a spin-off of Foo Camp and has evolved into a series of user-organized conferences and unconferences all around the world.

GigaOM Events


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers green technologies and businesses.


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers the cloud computing industry.


Next date: September 30, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This event covers the mobile computing industry.

NewTeeVee Live

Next date: November 10, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This event covers the online video industry.


Next date: December 9, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This event covers the tools, technologies and practices shaping the future of work.

The Bunker Summit

Next date: No new dates announced yet

This is an invitation-only retreat for 150 selected executives to confer about creating new opportunities across industries.

Bunker Sessions

Next date: July 28, 2010 in San Francisco, CA (open source software in enterprise)

Next date: August 25, 2010 in San Francisco, CA (e-books and publishing)

Next date: September 29, 2010 in San Francisco, CA (mobile technologies in healthcare)

Next date: October 27, 2010 in San Francisco, CA (app marketplaces and TV)

These are a series of town hall meetings covering a wide variety of topics.

Carsonfied Events

Future of Web Apps Conference

Next date: October 4-6, 2010 in London, United Kingdom

This is a conference on the web development industry.

Future of Web Design Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This is a conference on the web design industry.

ThinkVitamin Online Conferences

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

These are a series of online video tutorials covering a variety of topics.

UBM TechWeb Events


Next date: September 28-30, 2010 in Mumbai, India

Next date: October 18-22, 2010 in New York, NY

Next date: May 8-12, 2011 in Las Vegas, NV

This series of events covers a spectrum of IT and mobile technologies.

Enterprise 2.0

Next date: November 8-11, 2010 in Santa Clara, CA

This event covers technology and software in the enterprise space.

Cloud Connect Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event focuses on cloud computing and the cloud eco-system.

Environments for Humans Events

In Control Web Design Workshop Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers web design practices, trends and technologies.

CSS Summit

Next date: July 28, 2010 online

This virtual event consists of a series of videos covering CSS development techniques.

Web Optimization Summit

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This event covers web performance optimization techniques.

Mobile Technology Conferences

Mobile World Congress

Next date: November 17-18, 2010 in Hong Kong, China

Next date: February 14-17, 2011 in Barcelona, Spain

This event covers the mobile industry with an international audience.

Mobile 2.0 Conference

Next date: September 20-21, 2010 in Mountain View, CA & San Francisco, CA

Created by five entrepreneurs in the mobile space, this event covers on mobile applications, services, ecosystems, and disruptive innovations.

MobiSys Conference

Next date: June 15-18, 2010 in San Francisco, CA

This event is held by the ACM Special Interest Group on mobile technologies (SIGMOBILE).


Next date: August 24-26, 2010 in Las Vegas, NV

This event focuses specifically on mobile applications.

Web Design Conferences

An Event Apart

Next date: September 16-18, 2010 in Washington, DC

Next date: November 1-2, 2010 in San Diego, CA

This was created by Eric Meyer and Jeffrey Zeldman in 2005 for passionate practitioners of standards-based web design.


Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This was created by Brad Smith as an event to explore the future of web design, content creation, user experience and business strategy.


Next date: June 22, 2010 in Santa Clara, CA (eye tracking)

Next date: July 13, 2010 in Palo Alto, CA

These events are held by the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of the ACM Special Interest Group on Computer-Human Interaction (SIGCHI).

AIGA Design Conference

Next date: October 13-16, 2011 in Phoenix, AZ

These events are held by AIGA, a professional association for the design industry.

Computer Hardware Conferences


Next date: November 16-17, 2010 online

This long-running computer expo has been in operation since 1979. It is now operated by UBM TechWeb. The next event will be entirely online.


Next date: March 1-5, 2011 in Hanover, Germany

This is the world’s largest computer expo. It was created as a spin-off of the Hanover Fair in 1986.

Computex Taipei

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

This is the world’s second-largest computer expo. It was created by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and the Taipei Computer Association (TCA) in 1981.

Company-specific Conferences

Google I/O Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Google hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest products and technologies.

Facebook f8 conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Facebook hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest features and technologies.

Apple Worldwide Developers Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Apple hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest products and technologies.

Microsoft MIX Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Microsoft hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest products and technologies.

Twitter Chirp Conference

Next date: Already past, no new dates announced yet

Twitter hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest features and technologies.

Adobe MAX

Next date: October 23-27, 2010 in Los Angeles, CA

Adobe hosts this conference as a platform to present their latest features and technologies.

Props to: Casey Allen

The Fourth Wave

When venture capitalist John Doerr has a theory, people sit up and listen. Over at the TechCrunch Disrupt 2010 conference (happening today), he’s presenting what he calls the Third Wave. As reported by TechCrunch yesterday:

The First Wave was personal computers and the wave of disruption that caused. The second wave was the Internet, ditto. We are now, says Doerr, in the Third Wave.

What exactly is the Third Wave? It’s the tectonic shifts we’re seeing in mobile platforms (read his post here about the iPad), the social graph (particularly Facebook), and online commerce. All of these things are related and being accelerated by each other (Facebook is the largest mobile application, Zynga leverages Facebook and also stokes Facebook growth, Groupon is social/flash commerce, etc.).

John Doerr’s Waves of Disruptive Technologies

To summarize, it sounds to me like Doerr is saying:

  1. The First Wave is personal computing
  2. The Second Wave is the internet
  3. The Third Wave is social media & mobile devices

Common Traits of Disruptive Technologies

When I look at these waves, I see several common traits. Each subsequent wave builds upon one another. Also, each wave:

  • Increases the level of communication the previous technology affords. These advances, to some extent, mirror real-world interactivity, and extend beyond it. For instance, real-world interactivity only happens at a specific time, a specific location, and by the specific people who are present. Online interactivity can do this, and be at any time, at any place, and by multiple people in real-time or delayed-time. Additional information about the other person can also be shared, such as location, work history, and favorite restaurants, providing a context that real-world interactivity may not.

  • Decreases the distance & friction between two or more parties, consumer-to-consumer, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-business, and business-to-business. Each of those entities can be plural as well. This means the velocity of communication has gone from weeks to minutes to immediate. This also means traditional layers of hierarchy have broken down. A grade school student can contact a CEO or the President of the United States, for example. Or a fast food franchise can send a coupon to your phone if you walk by one of their restaurants.

  • Increases the utility of the previous technology for the user. The personal computer allows a person to write reports, spreadsheets, and presentations. The internet allows a person to conduct research on any topic in the world. Social media allows a person to communicate with friends, family, customers, and more. Mobile devices allow a person to conduct any of these operations wherever that person is located. It is becoming easier, faster, and in some ways, more effective & efficient, to accomplish all the tasks you need to accomplish.

  • Increases the level of intimacy of the technology, while conversely decreasing the level of privacy. A personal computer enables a person to publish print newsletters and reach a limited, yet known audience. The internet enables a person to publish websites and reach a vast, yet unknown audience. Social media enables people to publish thoughts, opinions, and self-expressions, and reach a vast, yet selective audience. Mobile devices enable people to publish anywhere, not just at their laptops, but on a train, plane, or even the toilet. The Third Wave allows you to share your intimate thoughts during potentially intimate moments, though the services are still struggling with the appropriate levels of privacy.

  • Increases the relevancy & clarity of the message. As the intimacy level increases with each wave, the sender is able to know more and more about the receiver. This enables the sender to customize and personalize each message, making it more relevant and useful to the receiver. A skilled sender will also know how to use the latest technologies to send a clear message that can prompt action and be measurable. There is still value to broadcasting a common message to the masses, though sending customized messages to targeted individuals will yield a higher conversion rate & return on investment.

Predicting the Fourth Wave

When placed in this light, I think it’s possible to draw tentative conclusions on what the Fourth Wave may look like. Some trends that I foresee are:

  • Predictive computing. Communications have sped up to real-time now. How much faster can you get than that? How about happening before it even happens? There are indications that predictive computing may already be here, so perhaps this will be just another trait of the Third Wave. Facebook already has a data science team that may know who you may hook up with. Ferreals.

  • Life action streams. Foursquare allows you to publish where you are when you are there, though it’s just a single message and not an exact note of when you arrive and when you leave. Miso allows you to publish what you are watching when you watch it, though it doesn’t let anyone know if you are tuning into the commercials or channel-surfing. The Fourth Wave may offer a continuous stream of all your actions. It’s a bit scary, but I could see its usefulness in ethnographic studies, television ratings, and perhaps tracking your children when they are at Disneyland with you, in case they get lost (mobile phones with GPS can already do this though).

  • Bio-sharing. Devices could be implanted into us to provide someone with immediate information about our bodies. To some extent, this is already being being done in the medical community, like the pacemakers that transmit a heart’s condition in real-time. But how about a device that monitors how well the body is holding up to chemotherapy? Or how happy or angry you are at a game? Could be a good predictor of riots. I suppose some enterprising individual could foresee social media uses too, like sharing when you’re hungry and when you’re sleeping.

What do you think may be in the Fourth Wave?

Photo via: cliff1066™