A couple of weeks ago I attended Social Connections 14 in Berlin. I flew in on the Tuesday morning and out again on Wednesday evening, so it was a flying visit as well as a rather tiring couple of days. I was fortunate enough to deliver two sessions there.

The first was a session with Luis Suarez about AI. It wasn’t focused on a particular technology, but more on its role in technological solutions and what it can and can’t provide for us. The session arose out of discussions we had on Watson Workspace during IBM Think at the beginning of the year. It became apparent through the discussion that our thoughts had a lot of synergy and there was the potential for a thought-provoking session. As the session came together and we shared various links we came across during the year, our ideas distilled into content that generated a lot of discussion even for a session at 8:30 in the morning. Beyond the slides the discussion moved into the impact of ethics in AI and the fact that many AI implementations have concentrated on good decision-making rather than simple, clear explanation of the reasoning behind those decisions. There is work going on in that area though, and it’s a key requirement for the future to help give us greater confidence in the results of AI and augment that intelligence with better training more quickly. I can see me using some of the history of AI to help users understand the role they need to take in order to make a successful solution. I particularly like complex problems with a lot of angles and no simple answers, so the position of AI – whatever you choose to understand in that term – within technological solutions is one that interests me a lot. I’m sure I’ll be revisiting it a lot over the coming years.

The second session built on an interest I’ve had for nearly a year now on Node-RED, particularly two projects that Stefano Pogliani has been involved in to provide easier integration into Watson Workspace and IBM Connections. This was just a short 30 minute session, so it didn’t dive deep into the details. But it showcased well the reasons to use Node-RED and the ease of getting up and running.

Beyond the two sessions I was involved in, it was good to see a number of other excellent and informative sessions. As ever with a conference like this, there were sessions I wasn’t able to attend. But it was also good to catch up with a variety of community members and engage in some interesting discussions. Progress on the relevant IBM technologies this year may not have been what was expected and there were no marquee announcements beyond the new IBM Collaboration Solutions Community (here are the links if you already have access or want to sign up). Hopefully we’ll hear more as things ramp up to IBM Think next year. The buzz around Domino has certainly shown that greater transparency and a “rolling thunder” of news works well for the more user-focused solutions that ICS embodies.

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