Reading Geek Night, March 2010

Claire Thompson, freelance PR consultant, Waves PR

Reading Geek Night is a monthly gathering bringing together folk who have something to share about technology.  Reading boasts more than its share of technology companies, from established players like Microsoft and Oracle through to upstarts like Tweetmeme.

Proof that the toilet seat debate doesn't matter

Employers have been quick to suss that there’s a room full of talent, as witnessed by announcements of vacancies made around the room, both in person and by announcement.

What lured this room full of talent last night were four presentations, all very different, all equally interesting in very different ways.

Consultant Dan Moon lead the way with an interactive discussion on how much web 2.0 can be embedded into a traditional IT infrastructure. The answer varied by company type, as was to be expected, but the elephant in the room was that whether IT departments like it or not, users will bypass systems to access the web apps that they want. Security, control and support were, not unexpectedly, the issues raised: this topic is one that merits a lot closer look. Most people seem to be living with Web 2.0 as an unavoidable fact of life, rather than proactively embracing possibilities, other than those built up on Web 2.0.

Next up was software developer Rob Ashton whose incredibly un-PC talk I grudgingly admit was very funny. He managed to prove statistically that actually the whole toilet seat up/toilet seat down debate doesn’t matter. Unless you live in a house full of males. Or a house full of females. I’d hazard a guess that Rob lives in a house in which few females ever step foot.

These high level discussions were just a warm up for some ‘deep geeking’. Alan Bradburne (freelance web developer, author of ‘Rails Social Networking Sites’ from Apress and developer of furnish.co.uk) gave a great talk on NoSQL. Now I have geek envy rather than deep geek creds or know-how, so some of the deeper bits of his talk wooshed over my head, but the big takeaway was that unstructured databases are rapidly finding their way in the brave new world. Since companies like Google, Twitter and Facebook are embracing them, and there was a list of suppliers as long as your arm on a slide, I’m guessing I’ve seen the future.

Last up was a talk from Microsoft’s Laura Blackmore who, with a colleague, shared thoughts on the changing workplace which will soon need to accommodate the ‘new millenials’ – the fresh from education generation who have never lived in a gadget-free world.

Mention too has to go to Amy Kimber, one of the Reading Twestival team, who promoted the Twestival cause admirably in a kick off chat.

Ironically, despite the quality of the speakers, my biggest learning was not to use a phone with predictive text for tweeting. So herewith apologies to organizer Jim Anning of Social Optic for the odd hamfisted tweet – and a strong recommendation for the next Reading Geek Night, on April 13, 2010, 7.30pm, Copa Bar, Reading.

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