This weekend saw the brilliant Turing Festival in Edinburgh; it was full of insight, great speakers, fascinating attendees and of course some free beer. Big thanks to the organisers for putting together a world-class line up here on our doorstep.
What is the Turing Festival?
If you haven’t heard of it before (where have you been?), the Turing Festival is in its third year and is now firmly positioned as a highlight of the Edinburgh technology calendar. I missed the first two festivals as I was on holiday but I went along expecting lots of deep thinking seminars on technology, its role in society and its future direction, and that’s exactly what I got.
I’ve chatted in the past to one of the organisers and his stated aim is to make it the SXSW (South by South West) of Europe, emulating a technology festival that is perhaps best known as the event that first put Twitter on the map. Taking advantage of the fact that lots of people are here in Edinburgh anyway, attracting big name speakers is relatively easy. Even ‘technology gods’ like a jolly I’m told, and who wouldn’t want the opportunity to talk in the Signet Library (see photo)?
And it seems as if that aim might well be achieved judging by this tweet that appeared shortly after the conclusion of proceedings:
— Brian Caulfield (@BrianCVC) August 24, 2013
Having never been to SXSW I cannot say whether or not that aim is being achieved, but the important thing to me is the festival demonstrated the progress that Edinburgh is making in becoming a centre for tech entrepreneurship.
My duty: live blogging
As I left the office on Thursday evening nonchalantly saying “Have a good weekend, I’m off to the Turing Festival tomorrow” I was reminded that I have a moral obligation. It is the expectation (well OK, my expectation) that if the company pays to send you on a jolly (aka conference) then part of the deal is to live blog – I’m a great believer that a bit of typing promotes active listening you see.
I can hardly expect the team to do it if I’m not willing can I? So Friday and Saturday had me posting my notes furiously, but rather than blog I thought I’d see how Google+ fared. Links to my notes from each talk I went to are below but first….
- Nick D’Aloisio: I’m not sure what to say about the $30 million wonder boy Nick D’Aloisio talking about his life as a businessman given that he’s now nearly reached the ripe old age of 18 but it certainly punctuated a fairly breathless Entrepreneurship session on Friday morning.
- Morning: The morning also included 7 great random thoughts from Brian Cauldfield and my particular favourite of the morning: a wonderfully upbeat talk from John Peebles on just how good Scotland is as a place to start a tech-business (a talk that John himself sums up in his own recap of the festival as “The grass is always greener. Make sure you’re shipping something.”). Other talks focused on training the entrepreneur and there was also a little joyous controversy when Jim McKelvey (founder of Square and highly proven entrepreneur) joined the panel discussion and started of by stating his belief that you should just get on with it rather than worry about learning to be an entrepreneur. This kicked off a fascinating discussion on the pros and cons of incubators and accelerators (which I judged to be a draw!).
- Future of Money: Jim continued were he left off in the afternoon with his talk on the past of Square as part of the Future of Money session. His highly entertaining talk included describing the credit card processors as parasites despite the fact that Visa were next on stage. Visa though did a good job of explaining their roadmap for the immediate future giving me hope that it will not be too long before I can dump the credit cards in favour of my mobile.
- If that talk was firmly in the immediate future then Mike Hearn from Bitcoin and Google took us well into the future with a vision of money 50 years down the line, imagining a lovely redhead called Jen, self-funding-self-driving cars, frictionless capitalism, quadracopters delivering water at the top of Munroes and taxation-killing crowd-funding. I can’t wait!
- Digital distribution: The last session on Friday was on digital distribution and it was great to hear Edinburgh University indulging in some real search engine optimisation: their free Massively Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are not only proving to be a real success but they are also driving rankings on Google. Great to see them at the front of the pack in the changes sweeping through higher education.
My notes from the Saturday sessions were rather less thorough after Friday’s free beer, but the quality of the speakers didn’t suffer.
- Trends: Local boy Andrew Girdwood did a great whistle stop tour of the current trends in digital advertising and the panel talk produced some great insights:
— Sheila Averbuch (@sheilaenn) August 24, 2013
- Startups: It was also great to see some really exciting local start-ups being given the opportunity throughout the festival to shine along side the international speakers including FanDuel, Stipso, Administrate and Distrify, all of whom are proving Scotland’s credentials.
My personal favourite talks were the two marketing related talks from Brian Doll of Github who succeeded in cementing a huge amount of my thinking that has gone into our forthcoming free marketing training. Some great quotes from his talks:
You are not Freddie Mercury
(in relation to choosing a small audience to target as part of his first talk on marketing being defined as the intentional communication of company culture)
Do things, tell people
(illustrated in his second talk as part of showing that marketing success is to actually do great things that people really want, and then to let them know.)
And of course it’s not all about the speakers; the informal chat did not let the side down either.
The full line-up
There was a lot I couldn’t get to throughout the two days (that’s the problem with so many goodies on at the same time). You can see the full program here, but here’s what I went to with links to my notes on Google+. Please bear in mind they are notes which means typos, mispellings and sometimes ill-thought-out rants and comments!
- 10-12.00 – Start-up Entrepreneurship
- 2-3.30 – Future of Money
- 4-6.00 – Digital Distribution
- 10-12.00 – Digital Marketing & Growth Hacking
- 1.30-2.30 – Turing Keynote: Neal Stephenson – some random notes
The sessions were recorded so I hope that means I’ll get to watch those sessions I couldn’t get to (especially the UX ones). Looking forward to seeing what next year brings.