What is the connection between IT, a cutting edge component of human endeavor in the 21st century, and circus, a popular mode of entertainment in the pre-digital era? It is not easy to draw the connection. But that is what one of the 'Poster Boys' of computer software is attempting to do.
After setting the alternate computing choices arena on fire with Linux, its pioneer, Red Hat's Bob Young has set himself a different target, it seems. To take the formalism and boredom associated with technology dissemination efforts and give it some zest. For this, he has chosen the age-old entertainment medium-- Circus. Young has exchanged his Red Hat for the top hat at his new venture, Lulu Tech Circus to make this happen.
The first Tech Circus show opens in the US on September 27. Young aims to make the show a combination of technology classroom and a half-geek funhouse. The show itself will not focus on any particular theme, as is norm with trade shows in recent years. It will showcase a host of things. Visitors to the show will not be herded like cattle from one stall to another.
Instead, they will be allowed to learn first-hand on how to use gadgets like cell phone, edit picture files on a PC or experience the next generation digital devises
The show will aim to remove the overwhelming feeling among the trade show participants of being used ...like so much cattle fodder for the vendors. Instead the Tech Circus will focus on empowering customers through knowledge and understanding.
Maybe, Young is initiating another trend in the Mecca of Technology. Will this too spread to other parts of the world and India too? There has been a proliferation of technology shows. Separate visiting hours for business and non-business people have become the norm. Many of these shows do try to lessen the serious atmosphere with quiz show, games, instant prices etc. And in India, they do replicate the atmosphere of a carnival or a local fair. Yet, the overwhelming attention is devoted to instant enquiries leading to potential sales. The fun part is relegated to the background. And invariably, businesses have frowned upon the large number of young, student and family group visitors, with their eye set on immediate sales.
The long term view to cultivate future customers by demystifying technological products and services is rarely the norm. And this is an aspect which Bob Young hopes to give a lot of attention. The key, he says, is to make learning about technology fun. If the show can attract the tech masses, businesses will follow. "As a business, if we can get it right, we have tapped in to two sides of the same coin, and if we can get the enthusiasts there, we can get the vendors to come."
Technology dissemination is not the job of just government agencies. It should become the critical part of business strategy too. Let us watch how the Technology Circus rolls on the years to come.