Friday, January 30, 2009

No, I won't be "securing the Tampa Convention Center"

This is a semi-amusing little postscript to a story that started several months ago. In fact, it began precisely on Friday, August 22, 2008.

That morning I was sitting in a presentation at a conference in Louisville, Kentucky, performing some free association on a notepad. Specifically, I was thinking about presentations that our company could give at the 2009 conference.

But then I began thinking about a presentation that I could give at the Oracle OpenWorld 2008 Unconference. The idea was that I could give the presentation at Oracle OpenWorld, then adapt it for presentation in 2009. (I'm green, so I believe that recycling presentations is good.)

As readers of this blog know, I eventually came up with a presentation idea for the Oracle OpenWorld 2008 unconference. After that I worked on the associated playlist, found Overlook 3A, went to the overlook, and gave my presentation.

That was 2008. This is 2009...and it's time to figure out how to revamp this presentation for an entirely different audience. As far as I'm concerned, there are two differences between the Oracle OpenWorld Unconference audience and the other audience:

  • The other audience is much more knowledgeable about automated fingerprint identification systems and biometrics. While there are people at Oracle OpenWorld who are knowledgeable about these topics, the vast majority of OpenWorld attendees have other interests. Therefore, my OpenWorld presentation included some basic information about AFIS which the average attendee at the other conference wouldn't need.

  • The organization hosting the other conference has some specific rules about presentations that are not found at the Oracle OpenWorld Unconference. The 2009 conference is dedicated to exploring the scientific disciplines that are followed by the practitioners who attend this conference. Therefore, it is acceptable to talk about ideas in general, but it is not acceptable to promote a particular vendor. If I were to go to the conference and exclusively talk about my product and the Oracle database, one of the conference executives would literally stand up and stop my presentation.
These differences in and of themselves were not a concern, because I figured that my 2009 presentation would be more of a generic look at three types of biometric systems:
  • Biometric systems that are designed to be used for a particular event.

  • Biometric systems that are designed to be used at a particular location (or to secure a particular perimeter).

  • Biometric systems that are designed for both purposes.
Now back in 2008 in San Francisco, I gave several examples of such systems, and concluded with the "what if" question reflected in the title, "Securing the Moscone Center" - or, in other words, using biometrics to control entry and exit to the Moscone Center during Oracle OpenWorld.

For the 2009 presentation (which would be held in Tampa), I would concentrate on real-life examples, such as biometric systems designed for jail entry/exit, systems designed for an election, and other types of systems. Whether the "perimeter" to be protected was the perimeter of a jail, the perimeter of a school lunchroom, or the perimeter of a country (e.g. a biometric-enabled visa/passport), I wanted to explore the commonality between different types of "event-based" and "perimeter-based" systems.

You see, biometric systems are already classified in some traditional ways, the most common of which is to divide them between criminal, civil, and commercial applications. But I was wondering whether, for example, "event-based" systems would have some commonalities regardless of whether or not the system was criminal, civil, or commercial. For example, would a system designed to investigate a crime be similar in any way to a system designed for the World Cup?

So I wrote a title and a synopsis, although I had difficulty with the title. Ordinarily I would have used the word "classification" in the title, but it turns out that classification has a particular meaning in the biometric world, so I had to find an alternate word that wouldn't mislead my audience. I played around with "taxonomy" (which explains my January 21 reading) but eventually decided that I needed a better word.

But before I found a better word, I read the synopsis of my proposed presentation. After reading the synopsis, I asked myself the following question:

So what?

I was forced to conclude that my presentation idea, as then conceived, didn't really benefit the attendees of the Tampa conference. I still think it's a good idea, and may pursue it someday, but with a different audience.

At this point I'm not sure what the takeaway from this is, other than to note that an idea, once conceived, may mutate into something entirely different from what you originally envisioned. Take the church choir singer who didn't realize that the solution to his problem would also solve my later problem about idea brainstorming.

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