About the X Media Lab in Melbourne

Wow, what a weekend.  I am seriously jet-lagged.    Just returned from X-Media Lab, which is an intensive three-day workshop held periodically in different cities throughout Asia:  Dubai, Shanghai, Seoul, Singapore, Mumbai.   Last weekend XML took place in Melbourne, Australia.

How XML works:  ten individuals with experience in digital media arrive from all corners of the globe.  16 companies are chosen for the workshop from a competitive field.   On the first day, the experts present their vision and background as it pertains to the subject matter of the lab.  (Our topic was “DIY Media”).   During the next two days, each of the 16 companies has the opportunity to review their project in one-on-one sessions with the experts.   The result is a combination of brainstorming, pitching, debate, challenge, refinement and collaborative creativity.   Very fun.  It’s unlike any other conference.

The XML workshop is the brainchild of Australian impressario Brendan Harkin.   He and his tireless partner Megan Elliott make the whole thing work:  coordinating the travel of 10 speakers, finding and screening the projects, securing the venue and government support. Given the global scale of what they’ve accomplished, it’s impressively smooth in execution. Plus they make every attendee feel welcome with a warm personal touch.

XML is a refreshing change from the low standards of most contemporary conferences.  Is it just me, or is everybody experiencing conference fatigue these days?  Personally I am bored of the standard panel format where ill-prepared minor luminaries drone on aimlessly, mouthing brochure-ware that is better suited to a corporate web site.  (That’s why we actively seek to bar panels from GDC Mobile.)

Thankfully, XML eschews the boring panel format in favor of solo presentations by individual speakers:  this puts a greater workload on the speakers because they have to prepare fresh material, but it also raises the stakes.   Every speaker works harder to make their material original, informative, and relevant.   No XML speaker dares to bring a canned corporate presentation.   Result: huge entertainment value and information value for the attendees.

In my next post, I will attempt to summarize some of the terrific info I gleaned from some of the speakers.  In the meantime, you can check out the superb summaries posted by Brad Howarth who live-blogged the whole event at Lagrange Point.

Final note on the XML format:  each evening is lubricated with plenty of booze to facilitate chit chat and socializing.  The value of making friendly connections at confabs is hugely underrated.  It’s not necessary to host an elaborate after hours party in a noisy nightclub:  just a good glass of a fat Australian cabernet or a tasty ozzie beer and some decent munchies were sufficient to foster a chummy atmosphere where broadcasting execs mingled with telecoms geeks and web kids and performance artists.   Cheers!