Day 1 Notes from Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, CA

  • Session 1: Enterprise 2.0
    • Mayfield had talked about SLATES – (search, linking, authoring, tagging, extensions, and signals) finally being possible on Socialtext’s new platform that they have formed with Six Apart, and a bunch of other companies called the Intel Suite.
      • [I side with Matthew Ingram who wrote “Is it just me, or is Intel desperate?”]
      • I get the concept of the suite. That makes sense. And some of the components are good. Newsgator is rich and fully-featured for example. And Six Apart has Movable Type which is a good solid blogging platform. But Socialtext? (see previous wiki review here). I like Ross Mayfield (founder of Socialtext) but their product is unuseable by most normal people I have tested it on. They should have gone with Jotspot or Confluence for this suite but perhaps Joe was already too far down the path with the Google acquisition.
      • And Intel states that they are not making any money on this venture. Did they back these companies? Is this a ploy to drive up the valuations of the partner companies? I don’t get it.
    • Michael McDerment, CEO of Freshbooks, an online billing system: we are able to do benchmarking of people’s companies without them even knowing it; then we connect them to those top-tier companies on our system so that they can share information on best practices.
      • [I like what Freshbooks is doing – they’re building a very tightly focused little application and they do things like make it easy for people to use SNAIL MAIL to mail their invoices out to those people who can’t receive them by email. THAT’S brilliant. Bridging the high tech and the low-tech is something that companies often forget to do. But it’s good for business.]
    • Look at Etelos; rapid application development environment.
      • [I went to a session with Danny Hoyle from Etelos later and am not sure I get their concept. They have built their own high-level language that allows power users to build their own applications (which assumes they want to do that), but also allows people to download applications from Etelos and host them on one of their partner ISPs. I just don’t know what problem they are solving and for whom?]
    • Kedrosky: people are lazy and have work to do; they won’t change behaviours; extract data from their existing actions so that you can serve them better without them even knowing about it.
    • [Session was kind of thin and not very focussed.]
  • Session 2: SMB session:
    • SMB is something like 2-24 million companies; >100 employees; 50% of European workforce (IDC); highly fragmented;
    • ESD Survey 2005 said that 80% are looking to expand their web site, and connect it to their backoffice applications
    • 50% of small businesses aren’t even online!
    • [I like this space but think that the route to success would be through the Kiyosakis / Abrahams of the world]
    • [This also explains the Microsoft Live approach of giving businesses web sites which I hadn’t really understood until now. I had figured that anybody who wanted a site already had one but apparently that’s not the case.]
    • these small businesses only make changes when they’re in extreme pain.
    • if most small businesses don’t know what web stuff is, then what communication channels could be used to reach them? You need to go look at small business publications.
    • [there’s a big gap between this conference set of attendees and a standard small business conference list of attendees. The people in this room are all bleeding edge early adopters. NONE of the laggards in SMB are here.]
    • Adobe has seen a HUGE increase in “create PDF online”.
    • There is one company that has 100,000 POS systems. Etelos connected them to the web. So that vendor’s customers were now “using the web”, but not “having a presence on the web” – two different things.
    • Etelos guy Danny Kolke: they go get 50 restaurants and then rapidly develop an application that allows them to do email marketing, contact management, etc. and so they can rapidly
      develop a horizontal app that is equally applicable to all 50 restaurants.
      • [But that could have been done before for Access or Filemaker or FoxPro…is THAT the value add of Etelos? That with the push to move online, they will be able to aggregate potential buyers of a solution so that they can cost-share development? Still not getting it.]
  • Session 4: Launchpad
    • In The Chair – Allows people to learn how to play music by “playing along with the band” and making it more like a videogame. http://www.inthechair.com/web2beta
    • Instructables: awesome website concept that ties into passionate users. Have 30,000 users already on the site. [Cool site. Passionate entrepreneur.]
    • Klostu: These guys have Boardtracker (a search engine for Forums). The boardscape is HUGE and very active. 300 million members generating 50 Billion posts. But the boards are all
      islands and you can’t communicate with people on other boards. Klostu is a way of connecting all boards to each other. Post on as many boards as you want and people can track your activities across the boardscape. Search across all forums. Keep track of all conversations across boards. Klostu allows you to bring your 2.0 services into the boards (bring your flickr account) to the boardscape. 300M people, 3B discussions.
    • Sharpcast: The coolest feature in Project Hummingbird was a multiple file type sync tool that allowed you to write a Word file on your PC, save it to OD, open it on the web using Zimbra’s editing tool, make more changes, save it again, then open it on the Mac. Perfectly fluid online/offline/multi-device experience. Nice.
    • Stikkit: smart sticky notes that you type into and it interprets what you want and dumps the data into your regular  applications. Not currently connected to any other applications though. Still early stage. Tried to be “smart, not clever”
    • Turn:
      AWESOME. these guys have taken massive complexity (what type/size/shape/content of ad do I place where when and why?) and made it possible for publishers and advertisers to maximize their revenues. They have a bidding network for cost-per-action, no risk, and automatic process improvement (revenue maximization.)
    • Sphere = “find blogs and similar content to this article” – connects traditional media to other bloggers. Embeds a button at the end of normal news stories that gives choices such as “find blogs writing about this story”
    • OmniDrive: storage aggregator. it allows you to have local copies of all of your data stored in every single location. It looks like a local drive on your PC and on your Mac but any file that is saved into it is automatically synced in the background to the other machines and also up to the website where the files are all available as well.
    • Adify: (larry@adify.com) build a network of niche sites underneath you and then flow ads through that network.
      • sportsyndicator: this guy went from zero to a huge network in a month – he works for himself.
      • adify is a way to consolidate fragmented tiny niches
      • matchbin = aggregating small newspapers
      • ready to rare = aggregating comic advertisers
      • washingtonpost.com is aggregating 1500 bloggers and then running ads through that network using the Adify back-end.
      • “Let 1000 networks bloom”
      • [**there is something very important here but I’m not sure what to connect it to. It’s something to do with Pena’s insistence on “bringing order to chaos” and “consolidation of fragmented industries and domains.”]
    • oDesk: a tool to find developers and manage those relationships. (online HR talent database + mgmt tool + payment engine). [I heard a couple of people nearby who were using the system and who were happy with it.]
    • Venyo: a universal reputation tool that works across all systems (Vindex – the global trust index by Venyo). They partnered with every web 2.0 (sort of the thin edge of the wedge of the Sxip or People Aggregator approach.)
      • [but reputation points are contextual – there are two degrees. The reputation of the ranker and the reputation they assign to the target. It doesn’t seem to address that at all.]
    • Timebridge: Outlook tool-bar; easy to put proposed meetings into Outlook; proposed times are saved as tentative spots on the TimeBridge server;  If I delete one of the proposed times from Outlook, it’s deleted as an option on the TB server; For other non-outlook users, they get the web client list of optional times and he can specify availability to the server. When I go back to my calendar, all of the proposed times are now gone, leaving only the remaining confirmed appt.
      • [This is an AWESOME little application, well-designed and well-executed!]
  • Session 5: Keynote
    • HARNESSING COLLECTIVE INTELLIGENCE: (look up the “Top sites on the internet -2005” Craigslist at #7 with 18 employees. Great slide on how they disrupted the $15B classifieds industry…with 18 employees. Oh, now they have **21** employees. 😉

    • A PLATFORM BEATS AN APPLICATION EVERY SINGLE TIME. Quote from Debra _____, VP of Operations, Windows Live,  “Being on someone’s platform” will mean being hosted on their infrastructure.
    • Google has hundreds of thousands of servers. Skype has 12 servers for 5 million users.
    • Conversation with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google:
      • QUESTION: At what point does Google tip over and get more enemies? ANSWER: we stay focused on making sure that we keep the users’ best interests at heart. Most big enterprises stop caring about interests and begin to work for themselves first and their customers second.
        • [This supports my general dislike of companies that employ disrepectful
          practices with their customers like putting in switching barriers and creating lock-in.]
      • PORTABILITY OF DATA: Audience QUESTION: We want “portabiity” of people’s data. Like the ability for people to carry their search data with them to Yahoo. ANSWER: “We want this to happen because we see that as a safety valve on bad business practices on our part.”
        • [I LOVE this idea. It fits with my concept that by building in a mechanism that lets your customers walk away from you, you create self-correcting structure – that will keep you honest and customer-respecting.  Since structure drives behaviour, if you use standard enterprise “lock-in” you can then screw your customers, knowing that they have nowhere else to go anyway.]
      • It’s a mistake to “bet against the internet”. It rolls over industries that hide/protect/lock down information.
      • SAAS IS GOOD FOR USERS AND DEVELOPERS: If your software is in a data center, it MUST work 24×7. That drives more reliability by all coders building those apps. In the old days, they would ship software, users would install it, and it would break down in data centers all over the place but not at the same time. When it’s all in a data center, it means that when it breaks, you have 10,000 angry customers yelling at you to fix it NOW. This drives an entirely different level of rigor in your software design and coding. It also means that the users are now focused on doing their work – not on fixing theirsoftware. So moving to SaaS is good for your developers and good for your users.
      • TIPPING POINT OF SAAS: It’s “fundamentally better to keep your money in a bank than in your pocket. It’s (now) fundamentally better to run apps centrally than on the desktop. This is the beginning of a very important period.”
        • [This is a GREAT quote – I will remember the moment I heard that.]
      • 20% RULE: 70/10/20: It continues to scale well. We’re going to keep going with this model. 70% is their core work; 10% is (?) and 20% is projects of their own choosing. This model works very well for us.
      • INNOVATION: Innovation classification: We have a ton of people making suggestions, so we have a system in place to manage that explosion of innovation.
        • [I think that every single company should have an innovation pipeline process internally that allows all employees to submit innovation ideas (remembering that innovation can take place in any aspect of the business from product design to development to production to support/service, to operations, to finance, and to business models, marketing, pricing, and selling.]
        • [Good links on this include: Eric Von Hippel’s Democratization of Innovation (pdf download at his site , Amazon link )
      • PARTNERING: We realized we didn’t know how to work with partners. Now we have decided to begin working with them to make money for both of us. Working towards a more mature model there finally.
      • OFFLINE ADVERTISING: We’re moving into newsaper and traditional advertising so that we can make those markets more efficient and to to enable people to do cross-media spend planning. We’re bridging the two worlds and making it possible to work across offline and online in one cohesive way.
      • PEOPLE: Question: How do you keep the smartest people? Answer: People don’t work for money. We have group-based consensus decision making. We did our strategy for next year by asking 29 questions to teams distributed across the entire
        company and letting them figure out answers to those questions…. “what are the limits of technoogy?” “how do we deal with running out of power?”, etc. Ask your very smart people the questions!!!
        • [Awesome. Every company could emulate this. Even if 90% of the material that comes back from your people isn’t used, surely there would be some incredibly valuable input on the market, the economic landscape, disruptive forces to watch out for and potential offerings.]
      • SCALE: QUESTION: Will another YouTube develop? ANSWER: Of course. All network effect companies have to create a product with a huge set of trade-offs and priorities and some will end up at one end of the power law distribution, others will end up at the other end. That’s just basic economics.
  • Session 6: High Order Bits: Joi Ito on Worlds of Warcraft
    • $300M/yr next year; $500M ancillary economic market surrounding it.
    • HOLY COW!!!
    • The four pillars of gaming: strategy, achievement, narrative, community.
    • Each person has a different balance of what they’re interested in.
    • Here is the paper that John Seely Brown and Douglas wrote about multi-player games.
    • [This “movement” is stunning. This game takes 100 hours just to do some basic stuff. Then hundreds of hours to get to an “endgame” (like a quest) where people can work together to achieve a goal (like finding and slaying a dragon together.)
    • [This is tying together some very deep-rooted human drives – sharing, learning, teaching, self-development, coaching/mentoring, creating, building community, creative instinct, building economies, establishing reputations, building identity, and many more.]
    • The distinction between real and immersive is over
    • Here is a clip of South park playing World of Warcraft that is pretty funny (if you don’t like South Park and don’t know anything about World of Warcraft, the humour will be lost on you.)
  • Session 7 / High Order Bit: Ben Trott, Six Apart
    • Talking about Vox
    • “open data is as important as open source”
    • it should be easy for people to get their data in and out of your service.
    • Vox is a place to aggregate people’s identit, pulling from google, youtube, amazon.com, yahoo, etc.
    • GData, + OpenSearch + Media RSS = Open Media Profile (a new service that allows people to access all media at any service.)
    • [Vox is an example of what Boris Mann and I were calling the “me-sphere” – the place that aggregates all of my stuff from all of the other sites into one larger identity.]
    • It can pull your existing blog items from your existing services.
    • [I checked out the site afterwards – not sure I “get it”. You can only have private, familiy, and public. No ad-hoc groups. Most people would live in ad-hoc groups. It has obviously been designed to aim at the family crowd but it will be interesting to see if they get any take-up there. And the no ad-hoc groups settings simply makes their pool of potential users smaller without adding anything of value to the ones that sign up.]
  • Session 8/ Discussion with Arthur Sulzberger Jr.,  NY Times, and Barry Diller, News Corp:
    • Question: Is Google friend or foe? Diller: You can work together on the one hand and then go into a room and beat the hell out of each other and that’s okay. That’s the way of the world.
    • Question: what if Google dominates your industry and you become just inventory supply for Google? Diller: the media industry has been 6-7 companies switching positions over time. Who cares who is leading?
    • Question: Where is the growth? Diller: advertising properties for sure, but there are other properties that are growing faster.
    • Question: Where are you going to get content? Diller: The time has come (finally) to begin CREATING content sometime in the next couple of years. I’m not talking 2 minute shorts, and not feature films but something in the middle. You can create something in the middle.
    • Question: what do you want to say about politicians? Diller: Net neutrality is a joke. Who’s on the other side?? It would be insane to let the net fragmentation people win. It’s a magic box – the first time in history that we can push a button and publish something across the world. Why would we screw that up?
    • Audience question: NYTimes isn’t capitalizing on citizen journalism the way that BBC or others are doing? Why not? Answer: We’re continuing to go that direction but have had to balance against the fact that we have our name on that post once it’s posted.
    • Audience question: I’m building a social media network. How do I keep building value? Diller: Don’t sell it to private equity for god’s sake. Equity is built by holding on. You may have to sell a bit of it. If you want to build equity, hold onto it if you want to create equity value. If I was buying you, I would have a different story but you’re asking me for advice here in this session and that’s my real advice.

What were the highlights of the day? Here are some of the most interesting things that come to mind in no particular order:

  • I met Rich Levandov, General Partner at Masthead Venture Partners and got to hear all about Chumby, the coolest little device I have heard of in a long while. It is a small touch screen device that has wi-fi built in and that can display flash widgets, exchange and display photos from your friends, and which could have a ton of uses. BRILLIANT! I wish the team all the best. This
    has so many applications, their biggest challenge will be staying focused!
  • Watching Eric Schmidt speak was a real treat. He was sharp, incisive, didn’t go for the fake bait that was offered up by John Battelle, and answered the questions in a very forthright manner. I particularly liked his comments on the recent Department of Justice
    subpoena issue. Battelle questioned him on how Google would comply (or not) with the Patriot Act and unfortunately Schmidt said, “We would comply with the law” which means that even though the law is too far-reaching and draconian, they would have to follow it. (That atrocious piece of legal police state infrastructure says that companies that are required to provide information under the act are not allowed to tell the public that they are being forced to give up their data.)
  • Barry Diller was entertaining and seemed like he “gets it”.
  • Sulzberger looked like he was trying to convey the message, “Hey, we’re really part of the cool kids – can we hang out?” and came across really lame.
  • My other overwhelming impression of the day was that the spectrum of understanding of web 2.0 is still very broad. I would describe it as a standard power law diagram. A few people who know a LOT, some people in the middle who know some, and the rest of the universe that knows very little and the tail goes a LOOOOONNNGG way out. Consider that 50% of U.S. businesses are not even on the web yet. We’ll be having “Blogging 101” conversations for YEARS.

That’s about it. Interesting day, but I suspect that tomorrow will be the meat of the event.