The first day at Le Web ’08 was a mixed day. The venue is great, as a space, but problems came out of this conference being the first to use the building, from heating that was not working correct, incorrectly positioned wifi that performed poorly and a badly chosen caterer that did not understand the need for lots of coffee and food.
I was not impressed with the first set of speakers, from the major sponsors Microsoft, Google and MySpace. Steve Gilmor interviewed Dan’l Lewin from Microsoft first, a series of soft questions that were easily turned into a business pitch, despite Gilmor’s seeming dislike in general for the big company, I was not impressed with the interview. The only thing I remember about the Google interview, with Nikesh Arora, is a comment about how scanning all the books in multiple languages will help them develop a translator and I missed the MySpace interview entirely but caught Amit Kapur being interviewed in the Press Room, where he probably delivered the same message in about 3 minutes, the launch of the MySpaceID and the toolbar. Overall, the corporate speakers were delivering a sales pitch, very little of interest.
David Weinberger was something else, a passionate talk about leadership in the post-information age. I blogged my notes and suggest again that you watch the video. This was great. Also memorable was Helen Fisher, talking about love. I’ve got a post to do about her biological basis for love. A third talk that had me thinking was my Paulo Coehlo, who discussed how he puts his work online, seeding it in the torrents, because it gives people access and has been shown to increase sales. (another full post to follow). I’ve heard plenty of genre writers talking about this (sci-fi, fantasy) but this is the first ‘mainstream’ author I’ve heard discussing it.
I missed many of the later sessions, spening most of my time catching up with friends and doing what conferences like this are best for – the networking. There was also a great Finnish sauna built into a truck that had been driven here. They seemed to do a great business as people got colder and colder, a moment to warm up.
At the start of the second day, the heating seems to have been improved and the wifi is walking. The catering is still poor and we’re subject to a interview with the internet minister fromt he French government, but it looks like it could be a good day.