#toccon 4: Bridging Gulfs of Understanding

I’ve been in New York this week at O’Reilly’s Tools of Change for Publishing Conference. This is a conference with incredibly high production values and which manages the difficult balance of running like clockwork without seeming too pre-packaged.

I have been surprised by how few British publishers I have encountered here. I know there’s a sense of ennui at another conference season, and yes, the conference plus several days in New York does not come cheap. But what is important about ToC is that this is a conference that makes a serious attempt to bridge the gulf between the tech community and the publishing community. This week I have had UX Design explained to me in language I can understand, and listened to people from outside the publishing industry who have developed tools that can change publishing for the better. By no means have I agreed with everything I have heard – but I also have a profound sense of how the edifices around our industry – and in particular the “content” publishers prize so highly are simply dissolving. The inevitable result is a shift from monetizing content to monetizing service. Software has gone this way, to everyone’s benefit, and there’s a lesson in that.

Yesterday evening’s final keynote was from Jeff Jaffe, CEO of the World Wide Web Consortium, where he works alongside Sir Tim Bernes Lee. This understated man has enormous influence over the future of publishing. It was incredibly heartening to hear him talking about how W3C understands that although all industries are impacted by the web, Publishing is impacted more than most. He drew attention to the fact that W3C is aware of the challenges publishers face, and is entering a dialogue with the industry in the way it has previously done with the broadcasting industry. I was sad that there were relatively few British publishers there to hear him say this. When I find out more about how and where this dialogue will be conducted I’ll post more about it here.


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