LIFT 2010 posterSo, LIFT10 is over... time for a little retrospective.

I brought a big sack of trepidation with me; the last two LIFTs I came to were so excellent that I was fully prepared to have my expectations confounded. Fortunately Laurent, Nicholas and their incredibly efficient team poured battery acid into the face of my pessimism by delivering what I thought was another excellent event.

It wasn't all roses - the Accenture talk on the last day was exactly the opposite of what I expect from LIFT, a quite salesy jargon-laden talk showing off ideas which I thought became pass&ecaute; when we slipped into a new millenium. The Old New Media session was also a little disappointing - I thought it'd be the high point for me, but I felt Catherine and Virginia concentrated too much time on showing us video clips and not enough on the really promising insights they started out with, and I lost focus during Mercedes' talk. To be fair to the latter, I have my suspicions that a career spent absorbing new ideas through bulletpoints may have degraded my ability to take in a more sophisticated presentation, and I'm looking forward to reading Mrs Bunz' talk in full.

But don't let a couple of quibbles fool you - LIFT maintained its well-above-average hit rate of interesting talks per day. Particular highlights (for me) included:

  • Bjorn Jeffrey showing off Mag+; I'd oohed and aahed over the video a few times before, but hearing his tantalising explanation of 4 out of their 10 design principles was nonetheless fantastic, and I had the pleasure of hunting him down later for a more in-depth chat;
  • Christian Heller asking us to rethink the "privacy = freedom" equation we all take for granted;
  • Rahaf Harfoush of the World Economic Forum talking about the Obama campaign, its use of social media, and what that means post-campaign;
  • Aubrey de Grey on regenerative medicine;
  • Basile Zimmermann on tecnological and cultural differences between China and the West;
  • Jamais Cascio on everyday approaches to futurism;

And those were the ones that were *excellent* - there were plenty of others which I found "merely" great. On top of this, it was pleasing to see good representation from the Brit contingent (in the form of Alice and Russell) and a way better-than-normal male/female balance of speakers.

2010-05-05 10.44.40I also enjoyed the workshops. On day 1 I re-ran Mobile Mountains for a group of 15-20, which seemed to go down well (though I really do need to start varying the format a bit more to keep it fresh for myself), and on day 3 I went to Fred Destin's very participative workshop on Hacking Venture Capital... where we had the opportunity to spend 5 minutes preparing a pitch for a fictional company to a real VC, then turn the tables and play investors ourselves in a really fun negotiation game. Great stuff.

And this year even more than before, I found the conversations outside the talks really great: the Swiss democratic system, what the publishing industry does next, how Wikipedia was built on porn, the pleasure of poring through Silicon Valley emails published in court cases, were all fascinating lunchtime and evening topics.

Oh, and then there was the art. And the startups.

And the frogThink workshop where we looked at ways to improve the conference experience, and I mind-thieved a simple but beautifully effective brainstorming format.

And the wi-fi worked. All the time.

So kudos once more to the LIFT-folk for another great year, and roll on 2011!