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2009-11-27 - 23:13:00 - by AlisonW - Topic: Tech: Events |

On November 17, @JeffPulver came to town with his 140 Characters Conference show, following in the footsteps of past 140conf events in New York and Los Angeles. Selecting the Indigo at the O2 as the venue was an interesting decision, given that the conference supplied no coffee nor meals (which must have annoyed those paying the full fee of £425 though it seems few, if any, did so) and none of the coffee shops at the O2 opened until shortly before 9am, so that with registration from 8am there were lots of people wandering around looking for their caffeine fix. It was also discovered, fairly quickly, that there was no WiFi available to attendees, and that there was no heating. But these weren't why people were attending.

We were there to hear about what other people were doing with Twitter, and occasionally other short message services: the "140 characters" of the title. Indeed the most interesting presentation, for me, was from Kevin Holly (@gadget37, co-inventor of SMS text messaging) who gave us the technical background about the development of texting and just why the limit is 160 characters – the 140 for Twitter et al is because the remainder get used for the 'from' and 'to' – and their using 7-bit characters to squeeze them all in.

So, initially, all the seats were filled for the sessions and the event was opened at 9am by Jeff Pulver alongside Jeffrey Hayzlett (@JeffreyHayzlett, CMO of Kodak, who sponsored the event). Pulver presented his 'State of Now' spiel – you can find it on YouTube – and Hayzlett talked about how Kodak had made use of the crowdsourcing opportunities to improve their products and their customer service, including a very interesting review of how we used Twitter to rename a product he felt had a somewhat non-marketable name. Pulver was due to be followed by 66 other people discussing everything from music to education, news services to eBay, The Police service to dreams. Although a technical breakdown with the connection to the USA and a few people having travel difficulties changed the timings it was a still a busy schedule and, with only the single lunchtime break, possibly too intensive for some.


After Stephen Fry (@stephenfry, pictured) gave us a wonderful – and extended – review of how the immediacy of 140 characters has effectively changed the world (and was crowned as a 'Twillionaire') many of the seats emptied as people moved to the back and sides of the hall or left for the coffee shop for their own discussions and a multitude of laptops and netbooks appeared.

According to Twitter, the highest concentration of their users is to be found in London and this conference had attracted many of what could be termed 'the usual suspects' on the London Social Media scene: we already have a vibrant social cafe circuit active most days of the week and spreading over the whole country. In that sense, and because just about all the attendees were experienced users and promoters of the use of these services, there was a strong sense of 'preaching to the converted' here which may not have been the case in New York or LA. Nonetheless there were other gems in the day, including hearing about the tweeting Police of the West Midlands and the education panel.

All in all a day to remember, but not necessarily repeat.
This is an extended version of my guest post on The Next Women.



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