Sunday, September 16, 2007 by Dave Winer.
Conferences are in the air, it's that time of year again.
Sorry to be missing the TechCrunch 40 conference which starts tomorrow. I love demo-type conferences, I was one of the originators of the Demo conference, started by Stewart Alsop in the early 90s. The idea then was to take the drudgery out of going to huge shows like Comdex, where you'd have to walk past miles of meaningless booths to find the really interesting products, which often weren't even on the show floor.
And even when you found the gems, the demos usually weren't very good. So Iobbied Stewart to do a conference that would flip the equation around. Do a conference where there were no booths. The demos would be done on computers at a desk, and the demoer was seated, as were the people receiving the demo, usually two or three at a time. Ideally, the demo would be done by the person who developed the product, or the CEO of the company, so that when you asked a question, you might actually get an intelligent answer. And limit the number of people showing to 30 or 40, people chosen by Stewart, who really has a love for intelligent and interesting products. The mind of Stewart of course was key to the process. I wrote the guide to demoing software for the first Demo, which was given to all the demoers and presented at dinner the night before, by yours truly.
When Stewart left, a succession of people ran Demo. At one point, I was offered the job, but I turned it down because I was running a company. I don't think I would have been good at it anyway, because I'm more of a product developer than a connoiseur. Better to have someone like Stewart or Mike Arrington, who live to receive demos, do the choosing. In some sense I have been trying to create the perfect demo, to be a Demo God (a term I coined btw). I've not been to a Chris Shipley Demo, but I hear they're good. I'd like to go someday. I know Mike and Jason are trying to change things in this area, and change is good, and I don't doubt that Demo will adapt.
It is a shame to be missing the TechCrunch conference, but I guess there's a good reason for it, although I sure don't know what it is. Jason got very very mad at me for interrupting his speech at Gnomedex, and scorched my earth in every way he could think to. I think a mensch would regret doing that, and would say so publicly. I would like to get that out of the way so I could have fun at the conference like everyone else. But since he made me his bitch, it just wouldn't be fun being there listening to him present the demoers, thinking how mean he had been to me, in such a public and humiliating way.
5/21/99: Never demo on a development server.