Web 2.0 Expo 2009

I went to the Web 2.0 Expo for the first time in San Francisco last week. I’ve been going to so many Microsoft conferences that I thought I should branch out a little and see what was going on at other conferences. This particular conference was interesting to me as we have made getting more active with Web 2.0 technologies a priority this year. (For example, people can follow us on twitter.)

This year’s theme was “The Power of Less” and it was appropriate as we are in a global economic downturn and we all must make the best of it with less. But even running ones life or ones company/organization with less, Social Media and Web 2.0 technologies can be used in powerful ways to stay connected with people and customers. We are definitely in the midst of a transformation.

Some observations/thoughts/random blabbering:
1. The keynotes were much shorter, running about 15-20 min, and more rapid fire than the long 1-2 hour keynotes at Microsoft conferences. You got a lot of different flavors of thinking about and approaching Web 2.0. The drawback was that there were speakers that just ran out of time.

2. The Web 2.0 crowd are quite creative. Different from the usual “speaker”, “exhibitor”, “staff” tags that you find on typical conference badges, they had a side table with a bunch of creative tags and people had a bunch of them all strung together. They even had a blank one where you can make up your own tag. I saw many conversations between strangers start over them. They had tags like “Twitter Addict”, “Social Media Freak”, “WebOps”, “HIRE ME”, “Stealth Mode” …etc. in addition to the ones pictured below.

3. The conference bag was a cool collapsable bag that I will keep in my car and reuse in the future. Props to a simple, non-bulky, reusable conference schwag bag.

4. I really appreciate the effort of reducing waste at this event. The conference bag had materials in it but wasn’t stuffed to the max with collateral and schwag that usually goes straight to trash. They also encouraged attendees to recycle the badges after the conference.

5. There was a side Web2Open “un-conference” going on simultaneously. They had two separate discussion areas with chairs and whiteboards and a central whiteboard calendar schedule. Anyone can come up and volunteer to lead a session or a discussion on any topic and slot a time. For example, there were sessions to practice your pitch and get critiqued as shown below. There were sessions to continue discussing a presentation….etc. And the “un-conference” had a lot of participants.

6. There were many businesses, organizations, and marketers in attendence who were grappling with how to use social media effectively for their organizations. Discussions and presentations tried to address some of these issues from business cultural adoption of Web 2.0 to how to measure effectiveness of Web 2.0.

7. Part of the conference dealt with the idea of “mobile first”. With the proliferation of mobile devices (which are really turning into the MOST personal computer that someone has with them at all times) will change the way people interact with a brand. And it may very well be that the mobile experience will be the very first way a person interacts with your brand/company. Applications are now changing as new mobile devices have eyes (camera), ears (mic), skin (multitouch), and gps.

8. For the most part, I didn’t feel like the presentations were a big sales pitch, like many of the other conferences that I’ve been to previously. Most of the talks did a good job presenting big ideas, trends, and observations, but a person seeking some step by step method of adopting Web 2.0 within their organization was out of luck. What was typically presented was more of strategic ideas, directions, or guidlines, but it was up to the particular organization to figure out how to implement these ideas and how to measure their success.

9. Tim O’Reilly interviewed Stephen Elop, President of Microsoft Business Division, during the first keynote and he sorta let out that we may be seeing some Microsoft Office stuff coming to the iphone. There were some news generated from this.

10. I did attend two company sponsered talks by both Salesforce.com and RackSpace, who talked about Cloud Computing and how IT is being transformed. I’ve been hearing a lot of the Cloud discussions direct from Microsoft and from analysts, so it was good to hear an actual Cloud service providers take on the Cloud, even though some of it was a sales pitch. The RackSpace presentation was done by Chief Strategy Officer Lew Moorman, who was named President of Rackspace Cloud Division that very morning.

11. There was a talk where a Venture Capital guy mentioned that it was important to build a strong loyal community and then figure out how to monetize. This seemed odd to me especially in the current economic situation. To me, it would be important to have a pretty clear idea of how you are going to monetize a business, before embarking on the startup. I think the days of just jumping in and figuring how to make money later are over. As powerful of a tool that I think it is, Twitter is still trying to figure out their revenue model.

12. In the conference slides, they pretty much all started out posting the conference session and speaker’s twitter addresses. While the talks are happenning, a large portion of the audience are thumbs-on with their mobile devices. As a speaker, you just have to get used to doing presentations to an audience with their heads down, I guess. After the sessions, people can go up to mic in the aisles to ask questions, but the speakers also took questions via twitter. In fact, Tim O’Reilly even had a laptop on stage while interviewing guests during the keynote and took questions via twitter.

13. Many of the agency and consultants that presented, wisely noted that it was important for a business to step back and ask why they want to use a specific web 2.0 technology and what was the purpose? Not every Web 2.0 type of technology is appropriate for every type of business or business need. So it was important to really think through what a company wants to accomplish before embarking on using such technologies. Also, they advised that companies should just choose and focus on a few Web 2.0 strategies rather than try using everything Web 2.0 for their companies.

14. Another theme that appeared in various forms in different sessions was about failure. Does failure matter in a Web 2.0 world? And pretty much all speakers said that you WILL fail with Web 2.0 at sometime. When failure happens, just own it and own up to it, be honest and move on. This will make your company much more authentic. They cited a few examples of business that tried all sorts of Web 2.0-like things and failed miserably just to pick themselves up and try something else out and go through this cycle for years until they figured out a model that worked for them.

15. Tim O’Reilly, announcing being a new grandfather, likened the Web 2.0 concept as being a baby when the term Web 2.0 was coined. And over the years the baby has learned to crawl and just now this baby is starting to walk.

16. Among the tiny url services out there, the conference and most of the presenters were using bit.ly.

Takeshi Eto
VP Marketing and Business Development

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