This week, internet pioneer Jeff Pulver, hosted MoNage, a three-day conference in Boston which explored new technologies and ideas shaping messaging on the net. It was a privilege to be included among the roster of speakers that included such well-known industry advocates as Johnny Diggz, Chief Evangelist of Cisco, Nneka Chiazor, VP Public Policy and Government Affairs of Verizon, and Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter.
While MoNage focused on the messaging industry, there were several takeaways that apply to tech entrepreneurs looking to disrupt or gain traction within their industry.
Focus on empowerment and trust, not just tech.
Bob Frankston has a few important things to say about today's smart city industry.
While most of you have probably never heard of him, you can thank Frankston for the way you use computers today. His co-creation of VisiCalc was the breakthrough that helped turn computers into serious business tools.
"Big data is the answer, but what is the question? People today talk of security, how to make our technology and data more secure," Frankston said. "But security is not the right model. We should be talking about building trust relationships."
Frankston sees trust as a form of messaging that is vital for today's technologies and suggests that cities can serve in a similar capacity as the telecom industry did for early users of telecom technologies.
He also warns that focusing on the technology is the wrong approach. "Cities should be focusing on empowering, not on smart cities," he said, adding that smart city technology needs to focus on public good and enabling meaningful connections.
Adoption is driven by experience, not the tech.
Henry Broodney, IBM's Offering Manager Cognitive IoT, is considered an industry expert in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) and is involved in multiple conceptual and cutting edge projects within IBM, including IBM Watson Analytics.
After describing the cutting edge technology used to develop Olli, a conceptual transportation vehicle, Broodney reminded the room of tech and messaging innovators what it is that actually drives adoption of innovation.
"People enjoy the experience of riding around the city in one," he says. "And because of that, cities are ordering them."
To increase the chances of new technology being adopted, it needs to produce positive experiences with the utilitarian function of the technology remaining the secondary driver.
Don't make collaboration more complicated than it needs to be.
Cisco's Chief Evangelist, John Higgins (who is better known as Johnny Diggz) has learned a thing or two about collaboration as a serial entrepreneur, musician, entertainer, public speaker and advocate for social good.
While his presentation on the various messaging tools available which foster collaboration, it was when he began to play the piano on stage that the audience clearly understood the power of simplicity as a tool to encourage collaboration.
After a few brief instructions for the audience, Johnny Diggz launched into his song.
When it came time for audience participation, the room was pretty much silent.
He stopped, jokingly reminded us of our need to join in and then started playing again.
By the end of the song, most of the audience was singing along, laughing and having a good time. His lesson for all of us?
"See? Just a few steps, a few words, and we were collaborating."
His demonstration was a good reminder that technology can be complicated, but the user experience cannot.
Collaboration happens best when the process is simple to begin, easy to understand, and when participants can begin slowly until they are more comfortable and confident.
Jack Dorsey, the CEO of Twitter, also joined MoNage via Google Hangout to talk with Jeff Pulver, one of the company's early investors. You can view their conversation in the video below: