Today sees the launch of a special five-part guest blog from the WPP Digital un-conference Stream. Attended by Huffington Post's Roy Sekoff, the event is three days of holistic thinking on the future of communications and technology. This week we will share the thoughts of just five people who attended Stream. A CEO (Sir Martin Sorrell, WPP), A Mobile Start Up, (Nathan Eagle, Txteagle), A Car Man (Alex Hultgren, Ford), A Sound Girl (Caroline Drucker, SoundCloud) and an Ad Man (David Sable, Y&R). They are all very different. Read on to get a taste of what is possible if you put 300 people working in the creative, media and technology industries in an all-inclusive, two-trident Greek Holiday Resort.
This year's fifth Stream conference (sixth if you include the First Asian one initiated this year) proved yet again that Yossi Vardi's unconference format not only lets participants talk about what they want to talk about, but unleashes the creative talent in all of us -- of all sorts (some voices are stronger than others).
Effectively it's a user-generated or crowd-sourced conference format, which is highly interactive and demands and gets total participation. No predetermined format, no agenda, nobody laying down a roadmap -- it's totally democratic, even anarchic. Held at the appropriately practical, but unluxurious (not what many are used to or expect) re-branded Gold Coast resort (formerly a Club Med) at legendary Marathon, outside Athens, this year's Stream 11 attracted more than 300 participants, almost equally drawn from WPP clients, media owners new and old, and WPP agencies. Some were Greek virgins, but many returned for yet another digital fix, sponsored by Microsoft, Google, Adobe, Spotify, 24/7 RealMedia, AOL, Facebook, MediaMind, Yahoo!, EA, Vice, Buddy Media, Eloqua, Possible Worldwide, Wild Tangent and Xaxis.
There is no agenda at Stream.
With no schedule agreed in advance, the session slots are picked onsite. The white-board was quickly filled in on Thursday evening with subjects for one hundred sessions of an hour each, for Friday and Saturday mornings and afternoons in three hour bursts. Vice led an appropriately edgy and controversial presentation after the opening dinner, which was followed by the start of the first full day of business. Friday morning's sessions included "New Disrupters: the next billion $ companies" , "There is no privacy, get over it!", "Brands are the new media companies", "Content is the new advertising", and "The Data Deluge Problem: What data really matters?"
Friday afternoon sessions ranged from mobile phones in Africa to mind reading, and from Google+ to the Future of the Living Room.
And the evening consisted of over twenty 'Streamlined Ignite' sessions on a slate of topics. From the topical (Erin Byrne, Grey Healthcare on Why Dr. Google should lose his medical license) to the future (David Rowan, WIRED on How 3D printing will change your life), to the strange (Alex Jenkins, Contagious Magazine on how to moonlight as a Chilean miner without offending the world) and the humorous (Chris DiBona, Google on Dodging Reporters and Their Pesky Questions).
With entrants for the Gadgethon including Esther Dyson's Valkee light-emitting earplugs for jet lag; Arnon Katz's REM-Dreamer (a lucid dream stimulant); Yosi Taguri's voice controlled PAH! app; a Scotte vest from Gary Shainberg and The Trip Suitcase by TravelTeq with in built speakers, iPhone charger and seat -- for the ashcloud stuck frequent-traveler. The winner was an electronic musical "choir" beating out the voice-activated on-line game. Saturday saw more morning and afternoon sessions covering gaming, politics, Greece, Smart TV, and Indonesian digital.
And the final event was the Saturday night talent Extravaganza and Midnight Cooking Madness. Acts included Ze Frank an American online performance artist, founder of Star.me turned karaoke slide presenter; Yoni Bloch an Israeli rock-star, song writer, composer and hi-tech entrepreneur who sang a user generated video (You can create your own here) and recipes from the likes of JWT, Adobe, Yahoo! and more.
All up, it is truly extraordinary what 300 people can produce in 48-hours with no preparation.
It is an opportunity to see first-hand the latest gadgets and technology from our sponsors -- with live demonstrations on all the time. It is a unique opportunity for all to discuss digital opportunities and problems from all angles, in a pleasant and relaxed environment and build understanding and relationships. It's also a great opportunity for media owners, both new and old, and our agencies to show clients what they can do to help them tackle big new media opportunities, whether pc or mobile or video or social. It's what world leaders should have experienced at the eG20 - more the real digital world and not a pre-selected agenda and format.
There are plenty of Stream product extensions possible and planned -- geographical and virtual. The unconference really lets people let their hair down and discuss openly and informally what's on their mind. If only we could link all our clients, all our media owners and all 150,000 WPPers in this way. Maybe we can and will and help ease some of Greece's economic problems at the same time.