Saturday, February 28, 2009

FOWA Miami 2009

For the uninitiated FOWA stands for the Future of Web Apps, which is a series of conferences that take place to discuss ... the future of web apps. A few of the Grooveshark crew headed to Maimi to mingle with fellow techies, entrepanuars, and overall smart/ambitious fellow travelers. One thing I really would like to say is that it really is inspiring to see the level of activity at FOWA despite the economic troubles, as long as we're willing to keep innovating we'll all be able to help turn the economy around (now that we have saner partners in Washington).

Post FOWA activities mostly consisted of Barcamp, which is a totally seperate event, but was obviously timed to coincide with FOWA. Barcamp is basically an open forum for people to present their ideas, products, or whatever craziness they feel necessary to talk about. Anyone can signup for a spot and attendees get to choose which talks they decide to spend their limited time at. It really is a great forum that allows you to practice a presentation with little pressure and in a more collabarative environment. Although none of the Groovesharkers presented (the decision to attend FOWA happened really late, and hence nobody prepared anything) we were really excited by the idea and if we make it down to Barcamp Orlando we will definitely have some presentations going on.

After Barcamp came the main event was FOWA itself. The most notable speeches were done by Jason Fried, Joel Spolsky, Gary Vaynerchuk, and Francisco Rivera. I don't really want to get into much details about what they specifically talked about, because then this would get ridicously long, but we've been promised videos of the speeches will be posted online and I'll be posting those links on Facebook as soon as they come along. But, what I do want to briefly mention is Kristina Halvorson post speech Q&A on why she was the only women speaker there and on what can be done to change that.

The main reason I want to mention that speech is the huge amount of criticism I've heard about it, which is something that I unfortunately expected and proves the point of the male-centric attitude that still exists in tech. Its really hard to disagree on the facts, which are there are a) less women speakers at these type of events and less women in tech in general and b) its not directly a result of discrimination (I'm not saying it doesn't exist, but that its less of a factor) but that women are simply not signing up. Now, most people I've seen look at the issue assume that since b) is true there is no problem, which I think is being dishonest to the extreme. The main reason women don't sign up for these events as much is because of the culture and environment, they would feel uncomfortable if they did, and I think thats the main reason women are less inclined to get into tech overall. The attitude is slowly changing overtime, but we're obviously not where we need to be. My main point is there has to be a dialogue about these sort of things because it a) is a problem and b) is not going to fix itself, and when I hear the amount of cynism I do when its simply brought up, its really disheartening. Honestly what
Kristina Halvorson did was a brave thing, considering the type of hostility she knew she was going to meet, and I'm glad she did it.

Now, I haven't even mentioned the parties and mixers. See, FOWA/Barcamp happened over three days, so there was obviously alot of time to do things in between, and of course this is a great event to meet people with similar interests and get the word out about whatever you're working on. Again, don't want to get too much into details, but in short it was awesome hearing the different things other people are working on and equally awesome sharing what Grooveshark is doing with everyone else. What was definitely uplifting was the number of people who already knew about the site and loved it. Several of us were assaulted directly by Grooveshark fans after seeing our T-Shirts, and its really great to get positive feedback from people using a product they really love and that we pour alot of effort into.

With that I digress, FOWA was great and I've barely scratched the surface. Good luck to everyone I met, and keep in touch.

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