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The value of wasted PR

A press release crossed the big-data desk at Datadoodle headquarters late last month from a “leading provider” I had never heard of. I tried to find the news in it, but after the third try I wondered who could have imagined any news there at all.

The obvious question is how the client could be so stupid as to imagine any good came from this? Aside from reminding a few readers how to spell names, there’s probably no direct value.

The value is to the industry. Sure, we suffer trivial distraction, perhaps annoyance. But from blah blah blah comes fertility. It adds to the tech industry’s accumulated detritus, which sustains a nutritious substrate.

Actual horse manure in soil, for example, grows delicious tomatoes. My father, by day a bureaucrat of a fine Sicilian hand, liked nothing more than to shovel a neighbor’s donated fertilizer onto his “farm.” Friends were urged to take home bags full of them. “Is that all you’re taking?” he’d say to anyone moving toward the gate with just one bag in hand.

A fertile substrate during a hot Alamo summer attracts lots of things. I could feel the microbial heat when I stuck my hand into the soil. Some of it stunk, some of it squirmed, but overall it pushed up strong green vines. Around the tech biz, smart people stick their hands in the dirt and know it’s a good place to plant money. Decision support is one of tech’s hottest beds.

This year’s Strata was unusually fertile. It had lots of exhibit hall booths and T-shirts, but the most important fruit was support for people who connect, explain, and influence. One explainer this time was Paige Roberts at Actian, who in about a minute explained to my business-sided mind something about Hadoop that no one else had bothered to.

All of this heat helps support a small group of people with something new or just helpful to say. In fact, meeting these people or refreshing old acquaintances is the real value in-person events.

One way or another, nearly a dozen entities made it on to my radar. Skytree CEO Martin Hack clearly made the case for his company’s machine-learning service. Lityx CEO Paul Maiste talked about his predictive analytics in the cloud. Continuuity CEO Jonathan Gray took me the furthest out of my usual zone with a developer’s platform that helps make developers make more use of Hadoop.

None of the good stuff could happen without everything else.

Jill Dyché’s keynote at TDWI 11 days later could not have happened without it. In “The New IT: How the Next Wave Is Changing BI,” Jill, who is SAS vice president best practices, uttered the line: “Culture trumps strategy … Culture trumps everything.” (Replay it here.)

That line got tweeted and retweeted, and I even heard someone repeat it later. For once, the keynote was actually better than the hot breakfast. Substance trumps substrate.