Reflecting on Discover Blockchains Houston
17th September 2018
Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to fly to Houston, Texas to speak at the Discover Blockchains Conference — which is a series of conferences that are somewhat more educational in nature than many of the other conferences I have attended so far this year. One of the main points of departure was that there was no exhibition hall or booths. It was purely stages and seats, and was wholly dedicated to the content being put on (with some nice complimentary refreshments as well).
The speakers and panels were divided into two tracks, and generally the subject matter of any two speakers/panels that were appearing at the same time were distinct enough that there was not a high likelihood of audiences facing tough choices. One example of this was my talk, which was at the same time as a talk about the pharmaceutical industry and blockchain technology, which would leave it unlikely that someone would feel torn about which to attend.
The lack of an exhibition hall or floor made for a much more compact conference. Functionally, this created a much more relaxed atmosphere, and also helped to establish a pattern whereby people would watch speakers, then take breaks at the refreshments station and chat. It also made it easy, as a speaker, to continue the conversation after one was done. Due to some technical difficulties at the start of my presentation (only ate up a few minutes, thankfully), I was not able to have the Q&A portion at the end. However, I was able to ask any interested parties to meet me by the refreshments table, and indeed a small group of 6–10 people and I continued the conversation about quantum computing and blockchain technology for longer than my talk had been!
Generally, it seemed like there was a decent interest level in what I had to say. There were people taking pictures of various slides, and definitely a large number of attentive listeners in the audience (you can always tell when people are checked out, the heads go down and the phones come out), which, as a speaker, is always the goal.
This was a conference that tried to keep its daytime agenda focused on content, and had a specific networking event at the end of the day for some light libations and the usual exchanging of business cards and contact info. While I do not necessarily think this would be the best way to run all blockchain conferences, I did really appreciate it as a change-of-pace from some of the more Expo-style conferences I have attended previously.
From what I heard from some speakers who had presented at previous Discover Blockchains conferences, the one in Houston had a reasonably high draw, and perhaps unsurprisingly, had (I was told) somewhat more new faces to the scene than in previous locations, like Seattle.
Discover Blockchains did a good job of inviting a broad list of speakers, representing different elements of the blockchain/cryptocurrency industry. You had people representing projects, like me, as well as more distinctly focused people — like traders, GPU miners, and IoT specialists. While there was some breaking down into groups along those lines at the networking event, I was pleasantly surprised at the cross-pollination I both witnessed and directly experienced.
Overall, it was a pleasant and productive experience that was also in many ways distinct from the other conferences I have attended this year. I think that the price depression still being seen throughout the market at large has had a net effect of lowering some of the intensity of the moment, allowing some of the less-profit-focused ideas to be heard. To my mind, that is a good thing.
17th September 2018