Liveblogging from Mindtrek

Mindtrek 2010I’ll be liveblogging from the Mindtrek 2010 conference today in Tampere, Finland, the leading Nordic business and digital media conference, where I’ll be keynoting tomorrow.  I’ll be following sessions across all the tracks, focussing not just on mobile and cloud, but also on emergent media and new business opportunities.

The opening session is at 9:30am and right now, the trade fair is opening with sponsors, Microsoft, and Hammerkit, having prominence.  After the sudden resignation of Nokia’s Vice President and head of its MeeGo device line Ari Jaaksi this week, there’s been a change to the programme today, but we’ll have Olavi Toivainen, the Director of Product Management at Nokia in his place. Will be interesting to see what Nokia have to say about the advance of Android devices and its vision for Symbian as well as Nokia’s hardware range.

I’m making a beeline for coffee now, but keep refreshing this page for updates, and watch the #mindtrek hashtag on twitter for updates.

9:27am About to get started here.

I think I’m in love.  There are FOUR WiFi networks to choose from at this conference – all on different networks.  Plus the hotel wireless.  LEARN FROM THIS event organisers!  Multiple wireless networks mean multiple fall-over opportunities.  These guys seriously know how to do connectivity.  Trust the Finns to get this right!

9:31 I’d say the gender balance is about 70% men, 30% women here at the event, and there are about 400 people here.  We’re underway and it’s announced this is the 14th Mindtrek at Tampere.  Jarmo Viteli says that the partnership between the city, academia and business community is crucial to a successful event.  He thanks Nokia and Microsoft for their support.

Now on the stage are two young entrepreneurs who have made a book comprised only of Finnish language tweets.  They are Vuento & Styleman, and have put this together as a world first.  Good on them!  You can buy their book here.

9:40am Dave Nielsen takes the stage to talk about the Economically Unstoppable Cloud. Dave talks about the massive growth of cloudcamps around the world.  He notes that Cloud Computing is not just a piece of technology.  It is more a combination of tech and the way we use tech.  Because it’s both, Coud computing can be different depending on user type: Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS) and Software as a Service (SaaS).

IaaS gives the illusion of infinite technology.  This is useful for entrepreneurs because they can dream big. Eg: Amazon, Rackspace Cloud, Akamai.

PaaS is Cloud for developers.  The idea is that code can be written once and be scalable to however many customers you have. Eg: Azure, Difference between IaaS and PaaS is that with IaaS each customer gets to customise the OS.  With PaaS every user has access to the same OS.

SaaS is Cloud for business users who use the Cloud for apps and data storage.  Eg: Windows live mail, gmail, zoho.

So Cloud varies in accordance with users. But it’s exciting because it provides access to computing without limits and removes the delays provided by people in a corporate space. The only limitations are the design of the architecture and what we want to do.

Minimum requirements for Cloud are that they are:

  • Managed by someone else
  • On demand
  • Metered
  • Scaleable (up and down)

Barriers to entry are lower in the Cloud but that means you can fail faster just as you can succeed faster.  But cost of operations are low with APIs handling automated provisioning.

9:57 Dave shows an image of the architecture of IaaS. [JJ’s comment: I love being able to share content through multiple channels!]

Amazing thing about Amazon is that it’s a company known for selling books and it’s gone in to selling server space.  But because they thought differently about the culture of automation and operations, they were the first major supplier of server solutions, ahead of IBM and Rackspace, etc.  Corporate IT departments tend to be allergic to infrastructure breaking.  Web developers tend to be less concerned about things breaking.  Virtual machine tech combined with Web 2.0 API culture and while it was surprising, it was clearly valuable.

9:05 Dave goes on to present a skit between the typical IT admin from a corporate IT division.  He describes the IT admin as a ‘server-hugger’ – a geek version of a tree-hugger.  They have packaging and bubble wrap and tech toys and it’s like Christmas.  But it takes ages to set up and configure.  But then there’s the SysAdmin at Amazon. Instead of a UPS delivery of a server or two, we’re talking about truckloads of servers and the SysAdmin is not excited.  They take these ugly, unshelled boxes, and put them on a rack and screw them in and install software on an assembly line, and can install hundred of servers in the time it takes one IT manager to install a single server.

Further, the fallover implications of any server going down is marginal for the SysAdmin when compared with the IT Admin.  On average, one server goes down every half hour at Amazon.  But they are fixed on a circulating basis – perhaps 500 a week, when the new servers come in.  And when Amazon was first set up there were 40,000 servers to handle fallover.  Growth has been exponential since.

Dave says the benefits of standardisation are that the market opportunities from cloud are undeniable and unstoppable. He says that comparing the Amazon EC2 server infrastructure is more exciting than the Google App Engine – both are exciting but Amazon is more exciting because client capabilities are provided by Amazon’s developer community.

The ecosystem of Cloud is diversifying greatly.  The older models of SaaS, like Application Service Provider is coming back into fashion as the infrastructure is becoming cheaper and software automation is growing in sophistication.  On demand is the emergent area of SaaS.

Businesses as diverse as small business, enterprise IT and governments and the public sector are all benefiting from the spread of Cloud computing. Savings in terms of hardware costs and efficiency of collaboration are obvious sources of those benefits.  But the biggest groups affected by Cloud are the Vendors.  Traditional web hosting companies, ISVs and system integrators need to be offering cloud computing and cloud services to compete in the emergent environment.

Dave talks about the benefits, risks, and opportunities of Cloud.  You can dream bigger, but you still need significant configuration.  It’s possible to do high gain with low pain.  Opportunities are in security, compliance, data loss, etc.  Data is the new oil – find it and go there.  IaaS versus PaaS is worth thinking about.

Dave concludes that Cloud is something so powerful it will not stop.  Either set it up now or buy it from your competitors tomorrow.

10:30am Next keynote speaker is up: Lauri Kivinen, talking about the Finnish national broadcaster, YLE.  Kivenan has a background working with Nokia, so there are synergies between the tech landscape and media landscape.  The topic of his talk is ‘Something old, something new, something borrowed something blue and a lucky sixpence in her shoe’.  He says this is an opportunity to talk about basically anything happening at Yle (pronounced ‘Ooohlay’ in Finland).

Lauri describes the spread of media channels of Yle and notes the 4 TV channels, 6 radio channels mobile communications, internet content and event oriented content.  He notes that there is a shift ion Finland towards internet channels to receive content.  Pikku Kakkonen – the children’s platform – attracts huge engagement from children in Finland.  But all products are multimedia. Don’t make content just for a single platform, but across multiple channels.

The advantage of YLE is that it is multuiplatform.  This is not possible in other parts of Scandinavia and indeed elsewhere.  The benefit to the audiences is that content is delivered in the channel which suits them best.

Yle uses 95% of its funds on producing and distributing Finnish content.  Only 5% on foreign language content.  Very clear public service mandate to create regional and localised content.  It also requires that content exercises equality , objectivity, fairness, freedom of speech, promoting civilisation and cultural product.  These are considered central to the idea of democracy.

Yle seeks to be the most significant producer of electronic media content for finns as well as being near and dear, and a bold pioneer in journalism and culture.  They value reliability, independence, versatility and valuing human beings as well as Finnishness.

Goal is to maintain a comprehensive public service for segmented audiences and to do so, ensuring overall efficiency.  The European Commission uses the Finnish system as an example of a well-run service.  Finland is the only country in Europe whose public service cannot be funded by sponsorship, commercial or authorisation fees. All funding is based on payments collected from the public.

But with all of this multi-channel strategy, still one third of Finnish households don’t have access to the internet.  Still only tens of thousands of users of the on-demand online service [JJ’s comment: probably similar percentile in the Uk with BBC iPlayer and 4OD].  Over 100,000 listeners to Finnish radio channels.  The gurus say that people want On-demand, but the statistics say that overwhelming majority (about 95%) of television content is mainstream broadcast content, not even time shifted content.  Of course this has implications for spending on multichannel content.  If people aren’t engaging with new media then why should Yle spend more on new services?  And if it’s in the best interests of Finnish people to access multichannel content, then and how do you shift behaviours?

[JJ’c comment: I think this may well be a hardware and software issue in terms of interaction design as much as habit]

Lauri says the central developing points for is to provide fewer services but with richer content, networked journalism, accessing people wherever they are and with whatever equipment they have.  They also want to ensure unlimited mobility and want to focus on services for young adults. In terms of unlimited mobility, Lauri notes that given the volume of new ‘reading’ devices (eg: iPads, Android, etc) there’s a question about whether they make Yle content accessible to all devices.  He notes it probably won’t happen.  Devices beginning with A [JJ’s comment: read ‘Android’], they might make for.

Lauri shares a model for the development of broadcasting content to shared media content. Have to develop content for the 100,000 viewers, not the 10,000 PC channel users.  But it’s important to be a lighthouse for emergent media and to become a skilled organiser of content.  Journalism is not dead.  The skill of organising information, creativity, perspective and competences of journalism to sift through sources is key to developing a multichannel platform of content that meets public sector objectives.

Lauri goes through some of Yle’s products including baby sites, teen sites and the animation series Pasila.  He concludes that if Yle is not in the new media domains, then it lets its country down.  but there is much that is still puzzling about the traffic patterns and behaviours of Finnish citizens.  He chose the title of this keynote because it represents the multiplicity of tasks media players have today.  He says the ‘lucky sixpence’ in the shoe is a reference to the Finnish government making a decision on the licence fee today!

11:30am – we’re having a break for lunch and we’ll continue at 12:30pm.

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