Another amazing day at SolidWorks World 2008 started at this day’s General Session. Both keynote speakers are greats in their own time. Dr. Donald A. Norman has a pedigree too long for me to go into here without having to site multiple references and a lengthy list of achievements. He was billed by the SWW8 introduction as being in the ranks of Albert Einstein, Stephen Hawking and Thomas Edison for having been presented with the Benjamin Franklin Medal from the Franklin Institute. His speech was a cleaver. He discussed the design of every day things in the context of what is good design and what is poor design. One point he made was that a good design is intuitive. It doesn’t need signs just so that the user can understand the product. He spent quite a lot of time showing poorly designed products with signs everywhere on them and comparing these to well designed products that are so simple, no explanation is needed, or perhaps it only needs explanation once and then never again. He showed examples of how pointless signs are, especially when their meaning is lost. The irony of this is that I found such a pointless sign within an hour after his presentation right at SolidWorks World 2008. Those of us who saw Dr. Norman’s presentation will likely have a deeper appreciation of this sign, and yet be just as confused by what it could possible mean as anyone else would be.
Seriously, what in the world could this sign mean and why is it taped to the wall, and how come it mentions “Solid Works”? Is this instructions to the SolidWorks software not to hit the wall, or randomly placed instructions for humans not to hit SolidWorks? Or is it that for some reason, the sign’s maker was concerned people attending SWW8 would have sudden and uncontrollable urges to go around hitting this particular spot on the wall? If so, what’s so special about this spot that makes hitting it worse than striking some other spot on the wall? Oh, and why did they spell SolidWorks with a space in the middle as “Solid Works”? So much information is packaged in this meaningless sign.
The other keynote speaker was Dr. Robert Ballard. He is another person with a long laundry list of accomplishments. His most pop culture oriented claim to fame is that he was co-discoverer of the HMS Titanic. Dr. Robert Ballard talked about his program to bring ocean exploration into the class room, literally. This is being accomplished by using the most advanced communications technology available. I think he was almost bragging about the fact that he has I2 access for his many projects. I2? A.K.A. Internet 2. It’s the next generation of the Interest that is much faster and has much higher capacity than our slow old dumpy Internet. DSL vs. Cable? This is nothing and meaningless. I2 is the future. Of course, normal human beings cannot get access to I2 right now, and prolly won’t be able to for many years, but it was fun watching Dr. Ballard go into his many uses of it. How does he use I2? Because of its extremely wide bandwidth, he is able to transmit huge amounts of data. This allows him to send a ship out to sea that can launch an ocean exploring robot. That robot can be controlled from a land based location which is no where near where the exploration is going on. Everything the robot sees is transmitted half-way across the planet where it is also being controlled. This great feat was Dr. Ballard’s goal since the 1970’s and now he has made it happen.
Now, the question of this General Session really is, who is this mysterious female photographer who is silhouetted against the stage backdrop that was taking photos of all of us?