Connectedness & us: Takeaways from GigaOM RoadMap

Drew Houston, CEO of Dropbox at GigaOM RoadMap 2011

In 2007, it was pretty obvious to us that cloud was going to become a decades-long disruption, and in 2008, we hosted our first Structure conference. Soon thereafter, we launched Mobilize to cover the mobile Internet. Those two themes stemmed from my core belief that “connectedness” changes everything. GigaOM’s editorial mission is defined by this core belief, and it’s also what we use as a yardstick for writing about companies and evaluating ideas.
So what is connectedness? Whether it was the steam engine, shipping lanes, railroads, cars and highways or the Internet — each increased our connectedness and in the process, redefined and compressed time and distance. The impact was felt in how we lived, worked, created and consumed. With the rise of anywhere computing, we are seeing time and distance compress even further.
Yesterday, along with my colleagues, we hosted our inaugural GigaOM RoadMap conference. We talked to some of the smartest people in the business to figure out how the new state of connectedness changes society and business. The idea in hosting the event was to spark a new conversation around the notion of connectedness.
After being immersed in conversation yesterday, I asked some of my colleagues to share their takeaways from the event. Here is a smattering of reactions:
Ryan Kim: I came away feeling like we’re in an era of really empowering consumers with connectivity. Shoppers are now armed with the tools to research and buy whenever they want, and they aren’t beholden to retailers and specific channels. In fact, they can become their own merchants with tools like Square. Connectivity elevates consumers and forces businesses to react.

Tom Conrad, CTO of Pandora at GigaOM RoadMap 2011

Mathew Ingram.
 The thread I was most interested in that came out of RoadMap was what Jack Dorsey called “the arc where technology meets humanness.” The Twitter and Square founder talked about using technology to help us connect more with what makes us human, Tony Fadell of Nest talked about making devices that respond more intuitively, and Mark Rolston from frog design was really passionate about getting the computer out of the way, to the point where we barely even realize there is a computer at all. Put together, all those make for a very powerful message that I wish more technology companies would pay attention to.
Colleen Taylor: Brian Chesky’s comment that “The first wave of the web was getting people who were offline to log online; the second is connecting people once they’re online; and the third wave is getting people online together offline” is what has stuck in my mind. Clearly, the future of connectivity is about linking humans, beyond their devices. Whether it’s by bringing people together in person with Airbnb or Twitter, or using the UP band or Keas to get in touch with how your body works, the future of tech is about people — not just machines.
Ryan Lawler: Jack’s comments on how technology is now enabling a return to personalization and craftsmanship that was previously undone were pretty telling. In the past, technology was all about making things faster, enabling mass production — but now that that’s done, it’s giving new life to businesses that focus on details and the consumer experience. His comments about how connectedness is making purchasing seamless and breaking down the traditional purchasing model in places like Sightglass or the Apple Store. (s aapl)
David Card: Pandora (s P) CTO Tom Conrad believes music listening modes — and by implication, business models — will remain distinct and in the connected future.  A programmed or curated radio experience will complement on-demand listening to your collection. I buy that, but I’m less convinced that Pandora is equipped to drive terrestrial radio’s local-advertising model deep into the 21st century. That will take a huge sales force, or some kind of third-party ad network. Maybe Google (s GOOG) ought to take a fresh look at radio again.
Katie Fehrenbacher: The emergence of an industry around peer-to-peer renting, led by companies like Airbnb, car-sharing company Getaround and many others, is leading to a new type of sharing economy that could one day potentially lead to more goods used more efficiently, and less goods bought and produced. It’s the age-old hippy mantra of re-use over consumption, with a new web twist.
Michael Wolf: What defines a “book” will change radically over the next decade.  Books will become connected, weaving in rich media and social streams, coming alive as the communities of readers talk, collaborate and consume within and around the book itself. Like music, books will become available anywhere on any screen, through multiple purchase models that are attuned to a consumer’s budget and consumption patterns.  As a result, book publishing itself will see the old guard adapt or die, as inefficiencies of a centuries-old industry are squeezed out and new players rise up.
Here is a link to all the stories from the conference and there is a link to the video archive of the day’s proceedings below in case you missed them.
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