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December 7, 2011

Five things I learned from day one of Le Web 11

1. All that's old is new again

Mike McCue

Publishers that are working with Flipboard for special content sections are able to sell their adverts in that app at about the rates they were able to in print, according to Mike McCue, CEO of Flipboard. New distribution channels = new opportunities for revenue

2. New teams work in new ways

facebook.jpg

Joanna Shields, VP & Marketing Director EMEA, Facebook talked about how virtual teams are able to work together in the company internationally, but using social tools to keep themselves better connected than they would be if they were sat next to each other. Zuckerberg has a Friday open mic where staff anywhere in the world can ask him questions. Our workstyles are changing fundamentally.

3. The one thing more useful than data is MORE data

Denis Crowley

Foursquare is starting to use that vast database of checkins it has built up through Mayorships and points and badges to build a recommendation engine, and that's what their Explore product is. Build a fun product to capture data, and then build a new product on top of that data... And that data, because it's crowd-sourced and up-to-date, is being used as a default location API by many other companies - could they also be pushing data back in to add to the value of the data? Liveblog here.

4. The dark times are what makes you

instagram.jpg

Kevin Systrom, CEO, Instagram pointed out that many startups go wrong because they don't have enough problems to focus their minds. Their pivot allowed them to figure out exactly what they were. (Want to know the story of Instragram's pivot?)

5. Small teams can overturn conventional wisdom - with enough money

George Whitesides

The final presentation of the day, from George Whitesides, CEO, Virgin Galactic, pointed the way to overturning the assumption that things that are the preserve of the big - be it business or, in this case, government, can be overturned by a small, innovative team - as long as that team has enough money. Liveblog here.

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Le Web: LinkedIn gets down to business

Allen Blue

How is life after the LinkedIn IPO? Exciting, loads of new faces and very little turnover, suggests Allen Blue, Co-Founder & Vice President of Product Management, LinkedIn. But that doesn't come easy, he suggests. You have to work hard to build a future and opportunities for each employee, so that they feel that the best opportunity is right where they are.

LikedIn wants to help in three big areas:

  1. Better decision making
  2. Better innovators
  3. Help get things done

They think about mobile in that way. In 2000, BlackBerry was the mobile king, but it was also a problem, as people were spending all their time on the mobile and not on their lives. So the next stage will be about balance.

LinkedIn offers "outbound intelligence" - the ability to research and make connections before walking into meetings - they call it meeting intelligence. And then the news product is the first step towards keeping people informed. And lastly, they want to support face-to-face meetings. Which brings us to Cardmunch, which is a lovely little app that allows you to upload photos of business cards from your mobile, and upload them for processing. Works great for me. LinkedIn wants to declare victory over business cards - but hasn't quite made it yet.

MG Seigler

MG Seigler raises the issue of co-existence with Facebook, and Blue seems unchallenged by the idea, given that professional gives them a defensible position against the social giant.

LinkedIn Answers suffered because often asking a question is admitting ignorance, and thus professionally dangerous. They contemplated anonymous question asking as a response, but settled instead for creating a better environment. The real professional identity concept is important to them.

What they are building is a data resources about people and their professional networks - they'd love to see that built into more applications through the API.

Not the most earth-shattering session - but confirms my impression of an established web product hitting its stride in terms of usefulness.


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Le Web: Eric Schmidt and his Android buddy

Eric Schmidt

Eric Scmidt, the executive chairman of Google kicks off the afternoon session, and he's backing the conference theme of  "social, mobile, local" . Is it just a fad asks Loïc? No, says Schmidt. has been with us for 10,000 years. Everything is mobile first these days, that's where all the talent is going, he suggests. Why? "Old timers like me assumed that computing would be these big boxes on desks, but it's a service, something that can help you anywhere. "

And as if to prove the point, Hugo Barra is up to talk about Android's Ice Cream Sandwich Much of this has been shown before: face recognition to unlock a phone, the multitasking button, the improvements to widgets. Social is very deeply integrated with the People sec ion of the phone, allowing aggregation of people's social network activity attached to their details, via open APIs.

"We started thinking about phones as computers, and forgot that they were communication devices," says Schmidt. "We've really gone back to that."

Androids

And now we've switched to an Android tablet with Ice Cream Sandwich, to show how quickly they can go from a lock screen, to taking a panoramic photo to sharing it - about four or five clicks. Also, Near Filed Communication - Android Beam - the two phones go back to back, and the web page is shared between them (looks kinda awkward, to be honest, but the audience reaction suggest that I'm not in the majority in thinking that). There's an API for the NFC stuff, and they're hoping to see lots of games stuff - he demos Fruit Ninja being played on one phone, and thus triggering a link to the Android Store on the other.

Schmid takes over to talk about an analytics platform for social, which they're launching shortly. This will allow people to track the effect interactions across the social graph are having. That should be cool.

Hugo Barra

In response to questions, he starts talking politics - suggesting that the political system is going through serious struggles, with a major danger of a recession again in 2012. But then there's a cyber world, in parallel world of mobile phones and information - and the expectations of citizens are being defined by what they can do on the web. He thinks these two worlds will merge in equilibrium that balance and improve each other. We can capture the activities of dictators from the start, preparing for their trial before it begins.

The way to be successful is to build platforms at scale. Big info dump of the standard Android activation figures. New entrepreneurs should be looking to be build platforms that scale very, very fast.

It's been clear for years that you'll have many IP addresses attached to you - you'll have a lot of highly, personalised device around you. Evolution? Computers will do what they do well, and so will we. We'll do creativity, intuition, enjoyment and entertainment, and computers will solve the needle in the haystack problem. The explosion of big data - a power law straight up - and we'll start analysing that for predictions, for information.

Loïc asks about Schmid's apparent interest in engaging with politics, and Schmidt brings it back to the Arab Spring. He suggests that it's easier to start a revolution than to finish it. Deposing a leader can be easier than finding the system that will replace it. He reminds us that it took France 100 years to stabilise into a democracy after the revolution. The modern mobile consumer won't wait that long.

Oh, and he thinks Silicon Valley needs a competitor. Entrepreneurship skews young, because those people have less to lose, and fewer family responsibilities. That draws them to cities - and that measn that several places in Europe have the chance of being that competitor city. The role of city authorities? Make sure the citizens have access to fixed and wireless broadband. The citizens will take care of the rest. Schimdt loves (in jest) laws that prevent people inventing particular products. Premature regulation is a danger. But governments shouldn't turn the internet off - if they don't like the image in the mirror, smashing the mirror doesn't help. They should accept that the internet is the engine of growth for western countries - Europe is not going to return to a low wage, manufacturing economy.

He doesn't have much tolerance for people going excuses for not launching where they are - just do it. Competition is good.

Eric Schmidt

Talking of competition, Loïc asks about Facebook. Scmidt points out that in the Arab Spring, they used Facebook to get things going, Twitter to get people out, and then YouTube to record the results. Google+ is a social signal that they can use to find you better content. Last week's changes in YouTube are built on that idea. Scmidt doesn't know that Facebook is "beatable". It defines one area - he thinks Google is better doing something a little different. However, he contends that Android is ahead of the iPhone is terms of price, and volume. He maintains the line that Android started before the iPhone... Loïc shies away from asking the question about the fact that it started off looking like a Blackberry.

Rather curiously, he claims that by 2012 the majority of TVs will have GoogleTv embedded in them. Really? How? When? Was this a pre-announcement announcement, or a bit of FUD?

An questioner asks what Google are doing to get apps like Flipboard onto the platform. Schmidt suggest that we're in a transition from iOS dominating to Android, because developers will go where the numbers are. He thinks it will take six months for that transition to happen. We'll see.

Robert Scoble askas about the lack of noise control in Google+ - Schmidt talks about algorithmic filtering, with giving advanced users some controls to tweak that.

Le Web: Kevin Rose, Digging Painful Experience

Kevin Rose & Sarah Lane

Leo Laporte, Sarah Lane and Kevin Rose are having something of a love-in on stage, reminiscing about their early days on TechTV, and Rose's move from a behind-the-scenes techie to presenter through finding a bug in Windows, and his subsequent evolution into an entrepreneur. Digg came out of that - he was there six years, but has now left (but remains on the board). The early years of scaling and growing were crazy. He thinks he made a lot of mistakes - hiring, feature development. It was his "first ride on the rodeo".  They locked themselves into the LAMP stack, and once that stopped working for them, they were screwed. They had to bring in new groups of technicians familiar with new technologies.

Leo Laporte

They also had a continual battle to stop mobs dominating the voting. Now it's dropped from a peak of 38m uniques down to around 10m uniques. "You have a narrow window to get it right," says Rose. It's either 6 months or 10 years, if you're one of the really lucky ones. Facebook and Twitter emerged and started easting their traffic. So they had to try some bold things - Digg 4.0 was one of those. But they didn't pay enough attention to the hardcore users against what everyone was telling them they should do. The new CEO is heading back to those roots.

Oink, his new launch, is an app that allows you to like anything, any object or place at all. The more you rate in a particular area, the more you gain reputation in that area. The system looks for where you're rating things, and gives you more credit if the location and the object or activity match up. He's skeptical about gamification - he thinks it gets old very quickly - you have to build a reward system that gives genuine gains over time.

They have around 40,000 active users at the moment, and several times that in downloads.

This was an older, wiser Rose than I last saw at Le Web. Back then, he came across as arrogant, but the troubles of Digg over the last few years seem to have mellowed him, for the better. This such a new field that people who have had great successes - and then seen them go sour - is still quite small. As the industry grows, that experience must be valuable...

 

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Le Web: Dave Morin's Path from Facebook

Dave Morin of Path

Dave Morin had a hand in the launch of the Facebook platform - but now he's the founder and CEO of Path, a mobile journalling app, that's just relaunched. They'd been working on Path 2 for over six month and were "over-whelmed" by the response to the new version last week. Path is, essentially, a modern journal. We all carry mobile phones, and people want to capture moments with them - and often in a private way. Path is designed to allow you to pick and chose who you share with. It's "slightly social", as Morin puts it. You can use it on its own, or share with the people closest to you - even mundane stuff that might matter to them, but not the others in their network.

They're a completely design driven organisation - it's at the heart of how they work. And they're now on both iPhone and Android - Android has more sizes to design for, and less documentation and fewer frameworks, that made it a harder build. But their intention is to be ubiquitous, on all platforms. They're really committed to the idea of the post-pc era. HTML5 wasn't an option for performance reason - and they tried. They couldn't get the "intimate touch" experience. 20 people in the team. And then intent to move to tablets soon. It's a different experience, though, and they want to make sure their tablet design really takes advantage of that.

Will they become a platform? That's the plan over time. He think that the way Facebook has made it much easier to build product that require people's real names is a good model.

How did they move from version 1 to 2? Mainly talking to users, looking at what they said they thought of it, looking at what they were trying to put in Path  - there was a lot of screens hotting of other apps going on, so they made it easier to allow frictionless sharing of other information.

They have over $8m in funding, so they're in this for the long haul.

Isn't this treading on Facebook's toes? Not really, says Morin. Facebook is very focused on becoming the identity service for the web, and has public as its default. Path is focused on family and very close relationship, with default privacy. "Several hundred thousand" users right now.  They intend to monetize through premium services - a fermium play. They have some small filtering options already.

But the key message is iteration. They iterate the product every two to three weeks, which is as fast as they can. The product wasn't perfect when it launched - the changes between the versions proved that. But if you wait until you're happy with the product to launch, you've left it too late...

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Le Web: Karl Lagerfeld

Karl Lagerfeld

It's a surprise to have a tech conference kicking off with an icon of fashion. But Karl Lagerfeld has some surprises for us. He sees himself as very "different from the marionette he has become for the rest of the world".

Despite being a self-proclaimed "paper freak" when it comes to books, he's a fan of the iPad because it allows him to work, sketch, and send them back to the studio. He carries four different iPhones with him, with certain people only allowed to call certain phones.  "It's not one per person, I know more than four people". He has a bunch of iPod Nanos with the mixes of the day on them. He has hundreds of iPods with different compilations of music he creates, and he annotates them with the date so he can go back to a particular period.

iPads? He uses them as sketchbooks and diaries and photo books. He has several for different subjects and ideas.They've put his iPad up on the screen, and it's packed full of videos and photos, for inspiration or demonstration. He showed us a short video advertising a handbag.

Karl Lagerfeld at work

He finds sketching on iPads to be "very like engraving". He's working on an illustrated book only with iPad sketches. He shows us  a vivid sketch of Steve Jobs that he did this morning - he's a last minute person, he claims - "once you understand the system it is very easy" he says. And he demos on stage. He uses a stylus with a capacitive touch end to sketch with. Although, it's not working very well. It took a few attempts to ket it working.  Loïc is told off for "not really helping". And now it's all working and he's sketching himself on an iPad, live on stage...

He's not someone who believes in technology replacing things. He loves both his iPads and paper. They both have their place in his workflow.

Lagerfeld claims to be "very, very grounded". And oddly enough, I believe him, as far as someone can be with his wealth and fame can be...

And now Natalie Massenet from net-a-porter is on stage, and announcing the launch of a new collection called Karl, designed by Karl Lagerfeld, and available online exclusively from January 25th 2012. Prices are "for these times" - jackets from about £150. Some amazing evening dresses for more.

"Fashion today comes from a lot of pieces, it's not a complete look. New things spice up what you already have. The approach is more casual because things are less expensive,' says Lagerfeld.

 Lagerfeld doesn't teach - he dismisses the idea, and tells the story of a friend whose husband was having an affair. She water up for him, and then just said "teach me what she taught you". He doesn't do that... 

So, how does he learn, asks Loïc?

"I have my eyes wide open behind my black glasses," he says. "You have to be curious. And you have to adapt to the changing world. It does not adapt to us, I am sorry."

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