What I saw
I just spent 2 days at the LesBlogs conference in Paris, organised by Loïc Lemeur/SixApart Europe. A gathering of geeks, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and web architects, focused on “Blogs 2.0”. Days filled with speeches, panels, chats, networking lunch, dinner and drinks, sometimes dull, sometimes highly amusing and generally quite interesting.
Why not throw everything into a meme-map (Web 2.0 style):
What I liked
What speakers made the biggest impression:
- Ben Hammersley: one of the rare presentations (as opposed to panels) but undoubtedly the best. Thought-provoking (title of the speech: “Eight ideas that will really revolutionize the 21st century (and why blogging isn’t one of them)“), hilarious (“To improve horses, you have to put a fast stallion and a fast mare together, they have to shag … it’s all very technical!“) and thoroughly energising (“Remember: we are all first-row witnesses of a new renaissance, the roommates of Leonardo Da Vinci“).
- David Sifry: apart from the admiration I have for his technical skills (his most recent start-up is Technorati), he also had some pertinent things to say about ethical engineering, the responsibility of pioneers and how technology can change the world.
- Ethan Zuckerman: the uber-geek and social entrepreneur who started GeekCorps and Global Voices. A man with a mission. And long hair.
- Thomas Crampton: journalist with the International Herald Tribune, and guest blogger at Joi Ito’s site, with excellent British wit and some strong ideas on the role of journalism.
- Ben Metcalfe: a.k.a. ‘dotBen’, of BBC Backstage fame, for standing up and defending himself in a correct manner when he was attacked by Mena Trott.
And of course the networking was great: I met a lot of people while hunting for food and drinks. One particular nice chap was FactoryJoe, one of the Flockies. I was also very lucky to hang out with my fellow Belgians Francois and Denis (they would be the Shoobies), which made for interesting conversations, encounters and lots of background stories.
What I disliked
- food: it’s a detail, I know, but both ‘networking’ lunches consisted entirely of tiny, one-bite, probably way overpriced toasts. It was a common grudge during the lunch and on the backchannel. Sandwiches would have been a great idea.
- panel: in some cases the ‘panel’ formula was useful, but compare that to the Ben Hammersley slideshow … I would have liked more thought-provoking and futuristic presentations than just some light chatter. What’s happening in Scandinavia? What’s happening in Japan? Some new applications for podcasting and videoblogging? Brand new mashups of RSS and some other acronyms? Not everyone is a Hammersley, of course, as the lady from Edelman adequately demonstrated.
- backchannel: a back-channel is like a bar: people grab a pint around the counter and start chatting away. The person who invited everyone has no control over the direction of the conversation. People at the bar behave differently as they would if they were conscious that the whole scene was being filmed and shown to an audience simultaneously. My opinion: 1) having a backchannel is good, both for disruptivity and networking, 2) the language in a backchannel will be different from the language on stage, on a blog or in a 1-to-1 conversation. 3) showing the backchannel on screen is not always a good idea: it makes it harder to concentrate and the tone of voice might be out of place.
- not enough time: there’s plenty of people I would have liked to talk to, but the occasion didn’t present itself: Photomatt, Kevin Marks, dltq, Steve Olechowsky, Marc Canter, David Sifry, Mark Fletcher, Ewan McIntosh, Anina(:-), …