Starring Me as Third Donkey

This blog’s title is taken from the amazing and fabulous Karen Ball‘s debut novel of the same name. Yes, yes… the rumours are true. I had a speaking role at my very first Tools of Change conference.

Now, I know you only really want to read about my brush with TOC celebrity, but you’ll have to read through a few of the other workshops before you get to the good stuff.

The first of my choose-your-own-workshops was all about how annoying forms are online – sign up for this, give us your address (again) and give us your gender, your age… Companies are often obsessed with getting contact details, but Jonathan LeBlanc from XCommerce was suggesting that what’s much more important for a company that’s trying to sell something is what you are DOING online, as opposed to who you are.

The next talk was CREATING A STRONG YOUTH MEDIA BRAND given by Frederik Wiedeman from ReD Associates and Kasper Tostesen from Danish Broadcasting (DB) who were trying to reinvent the Danish version of the BBC for their teenage audience. They had great engagement with young children and with adults, but the “young adults” thought DB was boring and irrelevent. So DB embarked on a study to get to know the people that were rejecting their brand and came up with a very clear picture of how they could target them.

Their questions were: who are they? What are the like? What are their unmet needs? What are the possibilities that media could provide and how can we bring that into the DB? They said that the biggest learning from the whole exercise was that they had been focusing on segmenting audiences and creating something for each age and niche, when they should have been aiming for the common ground between all of them.

And, now here’s the celebrity bit. In the METADATA IS NOT A THING session, I had to think on my feet. Laura Dawson of Firebrand Technologies started her talk by asking if there were any editors in the room. Several people in the room raised their hands, but I was wearing a bright orange stripey jumper and got called on to… gulp… stand up. Up I stood and she asked, “When you acquire a book, what do you know about it?” At this moment, I forgot the title of the talk entirely and responded from my gut. “That it’s good!” I belted out to the room. I got a chuckle. (Yay!)

What she wanted me to say was that I knew the author, the title (probably), the approximate length, the approximate pub date, etc. Which… she easily transition back into her speech… is all metadata. Metadata is all the information about a book that isn’t the book. And then she went around the departments showing how each stage added more to the metadata, how metadata changed over time and how it’s usefulness varies from user to user. She wants everyone in publishing houses to be invested and involved in the building of the information around the book.

So, okay, my speaking role wasn’t even as big as the third donkey, but maybe one day I’ll be able to come back and give a talk on the exciting Hot Key projects that are in development at the moment.

I’ll blog about the evening keynotes speeches later (no more starring roles, I’m sorry to say) but I’ve bought two physical books (signed, yay!) tonight from the speakers, so that should give you an idea of how good their talks were.