There are many good reasons to come to France but technology conferences (unless they are hosted by someone like O’Reilly) are not one of them.
Since we were in the neighborhood we couldn’t resist stopping in for a few hours of day 2 at the third annual Les Blogs conference now renamed Le Web to account for what is supposed to be a broader focus on the Internet and technology.
The first surprise was the fact that most of the presentations were vague marketing pitches without much content or time allowed for Q&A and interaction. One presenter from last year, Mena Trott, was so nervous she gave a 5 minute talk and ran off stage rather than offer Q&A; this despite the fact that her firm, Six Apart, was staging the event.
Certainly the worst aspect of the conference was the fact that the man leading it, Loic Le Meur , is a self-absorbed technology entertainer. So much so that he aborted the scheduled conference program to insert French politicians who came and gave stump speeches without even offering an open forum to discuss the many policy issues holding back commercial technology innovation in France.
In so doing this he insulted and offended the pan-European audience he had hoped to build and they were visibly and vocally upset.
Ironically the poor handling of the content led to better than average networking activity as most fled the presentation room to find other people to talk to. The conference was sold out and there were several hundred fairly interesting people in attendance. With many of them swearing off coming to Le Web 4 it may create an opportunity to do something new to provide the true emerging Internet technology conference many are seeking.
As in all bad situations we spent some time trying to get some interesting or useful information and there were a few small bits to be found.
Myspace: They certainly offers some interesting lessons on user-generated content and site use as well as the potential for the very success of site to precipitate a decline. Myspace picked up where Friendster left off, particularly for musicians and the pre-18 crowd that wanted to reach them.
Because Myspace didn’t explicitly prevent the use of HTML in forms, users were able to exploit the loophole to create highly individualized and often quite ugly personal pages. This was a major feature that young users loved.
The large number of friends a typical of Myspace users is more about the projected audience that a person feels they are playing to and looking to fit into rather than the traditional concepts of friendship.
Because Myspace has become so successful marketers and advertisers are injecting so much spam that the user community is being crushed by it. Teens, although impressionable, hate intrusive ads and will migrate away eventually.
The Myspace perspectives above were presented by Danah Boyd and those interested in knowing more will enjoy visiting www.danah.org.
Second Life: There is palpable cynicism around the success of Second Life. I’d guess the reason is that they are showcased at so many conferences and by the media that people are tired of hearing about it. So although they presented their usual impressive statistics the crowd has started to see through them and realize that there are very few regular users of Second Life.
Despite their approaching 2M registrations they have just 18,000 concurrent users. Although the company does post a metric of 700,000 â€œactiveâ€ users the math suggests that what we would all consider a real active users to be something less than 500,000. We will have hard numbers to post later.
Still Second Life is growing and it is yet to be seen how it will evolve over time. There was a bit of consensus around multi-player online game experts that the considerable IP issues may have to be tackled before we can go much further in these online areas.
Mobile Phones: Creative uses for mobile phones are likely to remain a hot investment area in 2007 and 2008 as the number of subscribers expands from the current 2B to 4B by 2010. One firm, BLYK, is focused on free, advertising supported phones for a big chunk of the next 2B users. Mobile phones have become the third or forth item people always carry with them (along with wallet/purse, keys and a watch) and as such is fertile ground for new applications.
Again personalization of the device and its functions is the key for consumers. From little personalized carry straps to ringtones to LEDs to the ability to beam a photo or song as a gift are all important aspects to end users. Most know that most common application people use on a mobile phone is the clock. Ignoring these consumer preferences and use cases would be a big mistake.
Many mobile users are holding back on broad adoption of data-based services because pricing remains a mystery.
Six Apart: Mena Trott of Six Apart said little before running off stage. Her comments included the fact that personal bloggers are documenting their personal experience to share with others, care about design flexibility, get good use of prompts to come up with new posts, love to post photos and feel that privacy and control is critical even if they don’t use it. Nothing remarkable from her.