Yesterday I went to the first Global Network of Technology Evangelists (GNoTE) conference, which took place in Santa Clara, California. I have been wondering what technology evangelism was for some time. It sounded a bit like what I have been doing, but I was not quite sure. After listening to Guy Kawasaki, the first to have coined the term, and Matt Thompson, things are much clearer: I am an inadvertent tech evangelist.
Guy Kawasaki, who is not only an excellent blogger (that is how I found out about the conference), but also a great speaker, gave a very entertaining presentation on the history of tech evangelism, starting with his work at Apple. He underscored the importance of working for a company you like (Sun, yes!), on an excellent product (the Semantic Web, yes!), and being passionate about the technology (well, as much as we Brits can - luckily I do have some French and Austrian in me). The trick then is finding ways to make the technology relate to people (foaf and blogging, so I am on a good track, but I need to make it more directly relevant - quite difficult when one is dealing with something that technical), have resilience in the face of extreme skepticism (I get a lot of that!), and not trying to convert those that have espoused a different religion (oops: people on the atom working group?) or who have lost faith (hmm, like trying to reconvert Tim Bray?) - a very common mistake apparently.
So I am not alone. There were over a hundred other attendees in the room, listening to speakers and panelist from Microsoft, Yahoo, Amazon, SixApart, Sun and a number of smaller start ups. Microsoft seems to have an Evangelist career path, with hundreds of people in that role. I learned that we at Sun have a whole organization dedicated to evangelism, run by Matt Thompson, who among many other cool things have been developing the JEDI open source educational program, which got Sacha Chua really excited. You can have a budget for doing what I have been doing? Wow! [Bernard - we need to talk...]
But even better than the talks were the networking opportunities. I met nearly everyone I had wanted to meet at the conference and more.
Fellow Sun evangelist Tim Boudreau, whom I had met a year ago in Prague was standing next to me as the conference started. We are both homeless, we discovered - why bother having a house when you are always on the road! (Now this is serious evangelism - is that why I have been reading the old and new testament, and am now traveling with the Gnostic Bible??)
I met Jeff Barr and Vinesh Varia from Amazon Web Services, whom I was able to give a quick demonstration of a simple Semantic Web Service. Nothing beats a quick hands on demo: I was asked to give this presentation again by a small group of five interested evangelists, before we all left to the restaurant. Explaining the Semantic Web in 10 minutes: Now that's evangelism!