Last year I blogged at this time from the MarkLogic Digital Publishing Summit in New York under the heading – the event is held in the splendid Grand Ballroom of the Plaza Hotel, scene of so many magic 1930s social moments – “Where debutantes danced”. They very kindly invited me back this year, and I can report that the atmosphere was just the same, and that amongst the host of senior executives, marketeers, designers and architects that made up the 600 registrations for this event, the widespread representation that MarkLogic has in the industry was complemented by some really interesting new players still young to all of this. The debutantes are still dancing.

Chris Anderson led off the first waltz, but he was not there to tell us that the web is dead. In some ways I would have preferred him to be in that mode, since I think some challenging arguments about how we use the internet, and may in the future use mobile networks, arise from this. Instead, he wanted to review his own experiences with Wired and its recent device developments. And there is no doubt that Wired has done beautiful things, or that it has a future in the iPad world. Yet I always pause when I hear anyone (even Chris) re-assuring me that the whole design, as it was in paper, goes into the digital world as one. I think that the day is not far hence when Wired will publish by the article, leaving subscribers to pick the articles they want on publication, and allowing each subscription to download a certain number per annum. Build your own Wired around a custom view and then let some advertizers sponsor a free download may yet be the way forward. But you can do nothing without the metadata to allow you to automatically associate content with interests, and the theme of the day was already emerging here: value in terms of content is not now only (or at all) about proprietory content, but it is all about metadata and mark-up, and the ability to make content face many directions at once on the networks.

From a waltz to a crazy polka: Dave Kellogg’s annual storming of the walls of industry ignorance and isolationism is a pure delight. He is as persuasive on a platform as in his blog, but here he was preaching to the converted. There is now a genuine sense of having moved the media industry dial along a notch. Even if the newspaper and magazine businesses still face real problems, and some book publishers don’t get it, a huge proportion of industry revenues now lie in the services and solutions area, and entertainment itself can increasingly be seen in that light. But Dave’s strength as philosopher – in – ordinary to the data using classes were at their best when he emphasized the issues surrounding ambiguity (all Twain lovers rejoice at the quote which rectifies Rumsfeld and points out that the most dangerous knowledge is “what you know that ain’t so”. And above all, Dave takes us back to the central importance of getting our data right – the revenge of the nerds – before we move to higher levels of re-invention. Starting again in a fresh attempt to understand the different needs of a network customer, it seemed to me as I listened to him, is the real therapy media needs.

This session and the others can be accesses on the MarkLogic website. In the afternoon I had the pleasure of speaking to this audience, and then moderating a panel of such quality that moderation was reduced to trying to get a word in edgewise from time to time to ask a slanted question of my own. Maureen McMahon of Kaplan, Ken Brooks of Cengage, Steve Kotrch of Simon and Schuster and David Aldea of McGraw Hill quite splendidly represented progressive publishing in all its many forms, but these were not starry-eyed idealists, but real publishing operators chasing margin improvement and better customer satisfaction.

At one point I found myself re-emphasizing my conviction that learning processes are all about workflow, and moving content from the static and passive usage to active engagement in the networked life of users became somwhat a theme of the session. Since every conference has a “learning moment” too, then I will share one of mine around the theme of education as workflow. I learnt that there are 5 million students using online courses in the US , and that 25% of all US students take a course online at some point. Then connect that with another stated assertion: US students send 6 texts per hour and average 3339 texts per month. By the time drinks arrived in the Plaza’s wonderful Oak Room (no, 4.30 pm is not too early after a day like this!), I was convinced of one more thing: even if students and parents and educators say they want it they are fibbing: the Humpty Dumpty of the educational textbook cannot be put back together again.

If you set up a conference about re-invention in digital marketplces then it never fades – it just re-iterates through processes of transformation! (

A copy of David’s slides are available on the download page –


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  1. Debutantes Still Dancing – David Worlock | Developing digital … | World Media Information on November 8, 2010 00:10

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