Career: The Dot Conf

I haven’t been posting very much about my digital marketing internship at GetBulb in recent times. I’m sure you’ll understand that there are NDA’s to be adhered to and so I can’t share all the exciting things that are coming up soon. What I can tell you is that they are definitely exciting things. I’m only in on Mondays and Fridays, and I sometimes even work from home, but now the company has moved for the time being to South William Street, which is pretty much my favourite part of the whole city. All winning, all the time.

This Friday just gone was a little different, however. Jane (GetBulb’s CMO) had suggested that I go with her to The Dot Conf in the National College of Ireland. I’ve never been to it but I always find these things are a great learning and networking opportunity, so of course I accepted. It only cost €10 and GetBulb were footing the bill for me so once again it was all winning, all the time.

I managed to make the trek from my boyfriend’s house to NCI and I arrived at 8am. I didn’t know anyone there, and I knew Jane would be a little be late and wouldn’t be able to stay the day. I signed in and was told my “clan” was #lolcats. I wasn’t sure if I was confused by lack of sleep or by being placed in a “clan”, so I grabbed some free breakfast and sat in the main lecture theatre.

First up was Robert Ward, the marketing manager at NCI, who welcomed all the attendees and gave a brief bit of information on some of the courses available at NCI which would be of interest to those of us in the tech industry.

Karlin Lillington, as the Master of ceremonies, was next at the mic. Karlin is an Irish Times journalist with a focus on technology, and she has a lovely, gentle presence at the stage. She provided a very comfortable segue between each speaker. She noted that the event was being livestreamed and so we should all try to be as entertaining as possible for those poor people in the NSA.

The first proper speaker was cloud computing expert Joe Drumgoole. Joe gave a genuinely compelling overview of cloud computing, starting with what life was like “BC – Before Cloud”, to what we now take for granted, to what we can expect and should expect in future. He seemed to have the same theme of nervous jokes about the NSA debacle and privacy as Karlin had. All the same, he explained very well just why we should be nervous: We are entering the end of privacy, a time when your data doesn’t belong to you and “the right to be forgotten” seems like a distant wish. It’s almost impossible to delete your social graph and start over. As an intern with an SaaS startup, I was particularly interested in his overview of this commoditisation of the cloud.

After Joe we heard from Claire Redmond of FAI. Now I don’t think I need to explain that soccer is not exactly my “thing”, but this was interesting from the perspective of engaging with users on social media and encouraging user generated content. Some of the tactics that the FAI have used are quite interesting, such as making up a day like Richard Dunne Day to engage with users. I personally find this a bit too cheezy but I refuse to argue with the figures and the figures suggest that it works. She also covered an issue that would later be reiterated throughout the day: that individuals can cause a lot of trouble for themselves or an organization by tweeting their grievances for the world to see. The main point that I took from Claire’s talk was that social media is for “good news”.

Barry Adams followed with his talk on where this “internet thing” is headed. Barry is the digital services director at Pierce Communication and does “a lot of SEO”. He discussed how the internet is consistently providing us with a more personalized version of the world. He differentiated between Smart Personalization, where you can get google results based on your location, and Dangerous Personalization, where google delivers results based on what it knows about your political beliefs, or what it know you like. He predicted that the “industrial internet” (i.e. the internet of things, like thermostats and dog collars) can only get bigger. While I am a self-confessed internet addict, it was very enlightening to see things from a different perspective. Barry urged us to remember that when it comes to the likes of Facebook: we are the product, advertisers are the customer. Lastly he encouraged the audience to take their privacy into their own hands by listing a number of encryption services.

After some questions from the audience we were told to go to the room number that corresponded with the clan we were given. Turned out an old acquaintance from Cork, Diarmuid ó Mathúna, was there and was also a #lolcat. This was an attempt at getting people to network, which is something I would usually avail of but I just ended up catching up with Diarmuid and meeting his sister Aoife.

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As you can see, the hashtag for the event was #goingdotty. When we went back in after the break they were giving out some spot prizes. Much to my surprise I won a little gift bag of beauty goodies for “insightful tweets”. It’s funny how someone who talks too much is considered insightful on Twitter. I haven’t tried the goodies yet, but that will be my next blog post I’d say.

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Next up was a dual perspective on bloggers and brands. Given that you are reading my relatively new blog right now, I’m sure you can understand that I was very interested in this.

Paula Hurley is also a DIT grad. She works for Market Match, a boutique PR agency, where she works with huge beauty brands. She gave her perspective on the mutually beneficial relationships that PR agencies and bloggers can have. She sang the praises of blogs, including the fact that they are different from traditional media. In her opinion the most successful blogs are the ones that are honest without entirely slating a brand or a product. She gave some very insightful ideas on how to approach PR agencies to develop a relationship with them. It’s always interesting to see how different areas of business have different cultures and expectations. Finally she explained how to maintain a healthy relationship with brands by being certain that the product is a good fit.

Following Paula was the hilariously addictive listening of Kirstie McDermott of Frillseeker. She gave the perspective of a blogger, which really rounded out my view of the whole relationship. “Remember, PR is a business,” she preached. She gave a very real idea of how up and down the relationship can be. Yes, it can be mutually beneficial, but you just have to learn not to take things too personally when it doesn’t work out. Some of the more common moans that she has found from the blogging community include last minute invites, giving sachets as samples, and claiming that you’re getting an exclusive when three others got the “exclusive” last week.

To be perfectly honest, the next speaker was not in my comfort zone, so I found my concentration drifting. Andrea Magnorsky is a game developer with beauty and brains to kill, but games never took my fancy thus far, and they weren’t about to last Friday.

The last speaker in this segment was Naoise McNally of One Fab Day, a unique Irish wedding resource website. Her business partner, Susan, wasn’t there on Friday, but I’m pretty sure I knew her brother in college. Small world and all that. Naoise was another fantastic speaker who started by giving some very real reasons why they started this particular business. The rest of her talk was divided into her advice on growing your business, developing your content and setting up a business model. She finished with some very interesting case studies and how they work.

Another Q&A session followed these, and then everyone went to their separate “Deep Dives”. While I would have happily gone to all of them, we were only able to go to one. I chose Fashion and PR with Sarah Williams from Arnotts. She discussed the impact of social media on fashion PR. Once again I found myself quite surprised at the effectiveness of certain tactics that I would have found annoying or counter-intuitive. Like Claire Redmond, she discussed the advantages and dangers of user generated content and bloggers. Even the idea of twitter parties and live-tweeting catwalk events was surprising to me because apparently it’s very effective.

After a particularly delicious lunch which included healthy frozen yoghurt smothered in not-so-healthy toppings, we were treated to the comedy stylings of fellow Corkonian, Colm O’Regan. Colm gave a painfully hilarious presentation on the Leaving Cert which hit almost every nail on the head. I say almost because I’m very picky about my comedy, but Colm O’Regan was just brilliant!

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At this stage my eyes were drooping because I had been up since very early. Nonetheless a very interesting talk from Cian ó Mongáin of Google perked me up. He discussed the moments that matter, and how our interactions with transactions are changing.

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Following Cian was James McNamara, online news editor with http://www.irishmirror.ie. Again, I’m not going to lie, I didn’t really engage with what he was saying.

Jon Morter was up next. He was responsible for that whole Rage Against the X Factor a few years back, and is considered to be a “social media hellraiser”. He runs the Condescending Corporate Brand page on Facebook, which highlights all the things that brands do wrong when engaging with social media. While a lot of what he looked at was justified, I felt that some of it was either a means to keep the page going or else he just sweats the small stuff too much. Nevertheless he was very clever and funny, so it all went down a treat.

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Briefly, after Jon, there was a giveaway from The Marker Hotel for the first 10 tweeters to use the hashtag #cronuts for a taste of the latest trend in pastry. I was lucky enough to be one of them. These things are the most delicious artery cloggers I’ve ever tasted. I ate one and gave the others away, but as I sit here typing this I just wish I had one stickying up my keyboard right now.

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The last panel was a group of 5 with varying businesses who sat for a Q&A about carving out a business online. These speakers were

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Some of the advice they gave about online business was to be aware of the whole process, even if you can’t do it all yourself, learn to market your content, keep a handle on your accounts, and of course strive to work at what you love.

Sadly I missed James Whelton, the keynote speaker, because I had to run to a quick photoshoot. I really enjoyed the day though. It gave me a bit of food for thought on my career, and it also gave me a better insight into the broader tech industry. Having spent just that one day #goingdotty, I’m keen to hit up another one of these events soon and make a few more connections.

If you have any questions about the day, or about my internship, be sure to comment and I’ll do my best to answer.

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