Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


ASI Exchange in Vancouver

I just got back from the ASI Exchange. There were perhaps 300 or so exhibitors, from companies to grad students. It was a good overview of some of the companies doing interesting technology work here in BC.

I've talked about the difference between Ottawa and Vancouver before: Vancouver seems to be much more heavily focused on software solutions, whereas Ottawa has had roots in telecom and manufacturing. I noticed as well a lot of wireless solutions and collaboration/groupware type solutions.

The number and quality of grad student presentations was amazing. I talked to Chris Snow (a UBC Master's candidate) about UWB wireless (here's a link to his poster on UWB [PDF] ), and some other UBC students next to him about Bluetooth. Right when I walked in the door, I stopped and chatted to Vanesa Mirzaee. She had done some really interesting work on analyzing history documents and mapping them to various ontologies. This gleaned information like events, places, and people that were connected through various documents.

I immediately saw overlaps with lots of social networking concepts, and pointed out a couple of different networks for her to join (for the record: Flickr, LinkedIn, and Zerendipity).

I had fun stopping by the Nokia booth. Really good people there. I don't think they enjoyed me mentioning the failure of the current NGage (you mean you have to take the battery out to put a new game in?). They were pretty good about it, and even let myself and Mary play with a prototype they had in the next 7600 series. It's going to be another side talker, and it's meant to be a rich media device, retailing for about 1000EUROs (it's unlikely to make it to North America for a while). Bluetooth, but no WiFi, and there was talk of a 1GB MMC card.

Some BCIT students had a presentation about Asterisk, the open-source Linux PBX. They were hoping to deliver applications on top of the Asterisk platform, as part of their client-server course. This got me to thinking about the potential of having a 1- or 2-year certificate program in VoIP. The local universities (BCIT, SFU Harbour Centre, Tech UBC) are very much setup to offer these types of programs. This is again why I think that Vancouver is having a bit of a software renaissance -- there are many qualified people here, and most of them don't want to leave the west coast.

I even saw some people from UVic. Of course lots of engineering students (who I didn't know), but Mary ran into Victor Chong, whom I vaguely remembered. He's part of CHISEL, the Computer Human Interface Software Engineering Lab. I mentioned how the site was broken, but I was wrong -- it runs on Drupal, and has since been fixed up and works really well.

Probably my most successful contact was David Brett, CEO of Knexa. Knexa is based here in Vancouver and produces knowledge management software.

David was interested when I mentioned that I'm the #1 hit for "vancouver knowledge management". Ironically, that result actually points to the website of the Vancouver KM community of practice site, but my site ranks higher.

I've just briefly looked at Knexa's site, and yes, it does violate a number of my Search Engine Voodoo tips. I hope to talk to David about these concepts, as well as the intersection of traditional KM, social networks, and personal web publishing.

Interestingly, the main function of the ASI Exchange actually seems to be about producing a directory. Only the dead-tree edition was available -- it takes months to create the soft copy. They did have everyone register at computer terminals when coming in the door (I left my affiliation blank and wrote "VoIP, Social Networking, Information Architect" on my badge), which would seem to be the perfect opportunity to kick-off a social networking site. Note to SNs: have a conference to kick-start your network.