Keynote speakers posted for Search Engine Strategies Chicago

The keynote speakers for Search Engine Strategies Chicago have just been posted to the website for the SEM conference. And check out the heavy hitters:
Lawrence Lessig, the Professor of Law at Stanford Law School, is giving the opening keynote on Monday, Dec. 8;
Bill Tancer, the General Manager of Global Research at Hitwise, is giving the morning keynote on Tuesday, Dec. 9; and
Josh James, the President and Chief Executive Officer of Omniture, is giving the morning keynote on Wednesday, Dec. 10.

Anne%20Kennedy.jpg That’s quite a line up. Or, as my good friend Anne Kennedy, the Managing Partner of Beyond Ink and a member of the SES Advisory Board, says, whether you’re a “seasoned search maven or hopeful newbie, you’ll find speakers who share expertise, new research, horizon’s edge views and knuckles-in-the code tactics” at SES Chicago.

Take Professor Lessig, for example. For much of his career, he has focused on law and technology, especially as it affects copyright. He is the author of Code v2 (2007), Free Culture (2004), The Future of Ideas (2001) and Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace (1999). He was also a columnist for Wired, Red Herring, and the Industry Standard.

According to a recent article by Kim Heart in The Washington Post, Professor Lessig is among the signers of a letter that went to the Barack Obama and John McCain campaigns. The letter was also signed by Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales.

The letter asked the candidates to insist on using a new method to choose debate questions. While that job is usually left to the media host, the members of the “Open Debate Coalition” say they aren’t “hard-hitting enough.”

Instead, they want to let people submit questions, then vote on their favorites, over the Internet. The top 25 questions would have the potential of getting asked during the debates.

“This cycle’s YouTube debates were a milestone for Internet participation in presidential debates,” the letter said. “But they put too much discretion in the hands of gatekeepers. Many of the questions chosen by TV producers were considered gimmicky… and never would have bubbled up on their own.”

So, do you think what Professor Lessig says at SES Chicago will be on the mid-term? All I know is that I can’t wait for the Q&A following his keynote.

The following day, Bill Tancer takes the stage. He’s the author of “Click: What Millions of People Are Doing Online and Why It Matters.”

Bill, who I’ve known for years, is the author of a weekly online column for TIME, “The Science of Search.” He is a frequent guest on CNBC, and has been quoted extensively in the press, including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Today and Business Week.

Bill recently had a “naked lunch” with Andy Greenberg of Hey, I didn’t make this up. Click on “We Are What We Google” and read the article for yourself.

In the article, Bill is quoted as saying, “What I find really fascinating is how much we tell search engines – more than we tell surveys, more than our family members, more even than our priests or rabbis.”

Are you skeptical of this claim? Bill backs it up with his analysis of searches beginning with “fear of.” It reveals search engine users are afraid of flying, heights, clowns, intimacy and death, in that order.

Looking at searches beginning with “how to,” he observes that the phrase “how to tie a tie” edges out “how to have sex” and “how to kiss” for the top spot.

And Bill’s analysis of searches beginning with “why” shows that most queries are related to school projects. But these fall sharply during the summer and Christmas holidays. During those periods, more existential questions like “Why did she leave me?” and “Why did God do this to me?” pop to the surface.

But wait! There’s more! The following day, Josh James is the keynoter.

James co-founded Omniture in 1996 and, under his leadership, it has evolved into one of the fastest-growing publicly traded software companies with more than 4,700 customers across 75 countries and over 1,100 employees. His market vision, leadership and entrepreneurial philosophy have enabled Omniture to achieve greater than 75% growth for more than five consecutive years, as well as to maintain customer retention rates of greater than 95%.

James is also the founder of Silicon Slopes – a private sector initiative whose mission is to promote the interests of high-tech in Utah. A recent article by Tom Harvey in The Salt Lake Tribune said that the Omniture CEO was motivated to found Silicon Slopes in 2007 to change the misperception that Utah is “A quirky state at the edge of the desert dominated by a single religion and defined by its far-right politics and weird liquor laws.”

For example, is sending out thousands of promotional posters this year that depict the Silicon Slopes running along the Wasatch Mountains from Logan to Provo, listing an array of high-tech companies with operations here, as well as ski resorts and signs pointing to Moab and other attractions.

While I haven’t met Josh James yet, I did interview Huw Roberts of Omniture earlier this year at SES London. Roberts talked about the importance of web analytics to effective search engine marketing for businesses of any size.

Huw Roberts, Omniture, at SES London 2008

There you have it: The keynote speakers for Search Engine Strategies Chicago.

And I’ve got to agree with Anne. Whether you’re a “seasoned search maven or hopeful newbie, you’ll find speakers who share expertise, new research, horizon’s edge views and knuckles-in-the code tactics” at SES Chicago.

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