When we launched Strata a few years ago, our original focus was on how big data, ubiquitous computing, and new interfaces change the way we live, love, work and play. In fact, here’s a diagram we mocked up back then to describe the issues we wanted the new conference to tackle:
Back then, big data was a burgeoning field—one my co-chair Roger Magoulas first named back in 2005 – but it was hardly on the cover of every magazine. That quickly changed, and the topic became a cornerstone of the conference.
Yet big data alone wasn’t going to change our lives. It’s just information, after all. Marry the data science that helps us optimize, learn, and improve the way we decide with with a world of sensors to collect and of interfaces to control and display, however, and you’ve got a feedback loop of unprecedented proportions.
At its core, Strata is about one thing: Deciding better. Better as individuals, better as businesses, better as societies—and better as a species. We’re confronted with a daunting array of challenges, ranging from regional conflict, to energy, to pollution, to overpopulation, and many of these are by-products of the technologies we create. We think that a data-driven society can right many of these wrongs, and that innovation can overcome its own side-effects. I’m an optimist because, as Strata speaker James Burke observed, “the pessimists jump out the window.”
Now that data science, parallel computing, and realtime answers are “table-stakes” for technology discussions, Strata is moving forward. We’re adding several tracks to the program, partly because we’ve moved the event to a bigger venue, and partly because we’re addressing broader topics that apply to every facet of a business. We’re also revising other tracks to reflect how those topics have changed, with the goal of exploring new ideas among the proposals we receive.
- The Design & interfaces track looks not only at user interfaces, but at how data can inform design, from the way experiments are conducted to the way we learn how people interact with and explore information. Interfaces might be on a screen, in a car, or around your wrist, and more often than not, interfaces are two-way—so that when you read a display, it reads you back.
- The Ethics, law and society track has been part of Strata since its inception, but today an abundance of open data, insights into public surveillance, and heightened privacy concerns mean new, and often controversial, thinking on governance, ethics, and compliance. No less than the framers of the Internet are calling for a renegotiation of the pact we make with a life lived in public now that data collection is frictionless and ubiquitous and half our lives are lived online.
- The new security track focuses not only on the tools needed to secure data and assure privacy, but on the ways data can help us win the race against adaptive adversaries. Data is a good tool for defense, but many adversaries will try to game the very algorithms with which we hope to find and defeat them, engaging in data warfare both online and off.
- The Machine Data track dives into the data collected and generated by everything around us. It’s hard to store, analyze, and publish the torrent of information that today’s devices produce, and harder still to turn that torrent into understandable, meaningful insights.
- Half a century ago, the average company on the Fortune 500 had a lifespan of 50 years; today, it’s there for 15. The Business and industry track recognizes that data razes incumbents even as it raises up new leaders. Companies that have harnessed information and technology—and make better decisions as a result—not only thrive; they get to rewrite the rulebook.
The big data industry is crossing a chasm, to quote Geoffrey Moore, another Strata speaker from earlier this year. It’s moving from niche applications of data science in vertical industries—finance, ad/tech, political campaigns—into a broader, more accessible field of decision science. That’s a significant leap. Very little is as fundamental as changing how we decide. We think the next few years will connect those who work with data far more closely to those who consume it.
We’re excited to make that leap, and we hope you’ll join us. We welcome ideas for presentations and tutorials, see the Call for Proposals for details.