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Le Web 08: The Social Stack

marc canter

Marc Canter (who didn't, in fact, perish yesterday) lead an entertainingly scrappy session on open standards around social information. He started by giving Facebook's senior platform manager Dave Morin a hard time about Facebook apps. Has the social network pushed apps back with the recent revamp of the site?

Morin responded that there were always multiple integration points for apps, and the most important was the profile box, but that didn't always give a good user experience. The news feed has become very popular, and that's become their focus. Users can display most recent actions. Devs can user it to get engagement.

Canter riposted quickly: "The feed is the epitome of your locked in strategy."

Dave Recordon, the open platforms tech lead from Six Apart joined in the criticism: "Open platforms have been more successful, historically," he argued. Even if Facebook is currently the shiney place, if developers can write and application once and put it loads of places, Facebook will be marginalised.

MySpace has taken the opposite route, argued Max Engel, head of data availability initiative at MySpace. They're building using open standards because the "internet routes around roadblocks and we want to be part of the flow". MySpace users already thing of themselves as Myspace.com/profile, so we're in a great place to bring thsi forward. "We've now implemented everything on the open stack." The stack is a group of technologies which enable open social platforms. Canter gave us this slide of it:

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Le Web 08: Leadership in the Network

daveweinberger.jpgQuick summary of Dave Weinberger’s speech:

Information age has been formative of who we are as individuals and people together. also formative of what our idea of leadership is.

As it comes to a close, it’s interesing to think about it.

The whole idea has been to reduce information to make it manageable.

The HR system strips away everything that makes people interesting, all their quirks. In comparison, a Facebook page is a much richer view of the person. Hyperlinks are the opposite of information; they connect things in a rich, unstructured way.

So, we now have an abundence of stuff, and an abundence of crap. We can deal with the crap. It’s the good stuff that’s throwing our culture for a loop.

Leadership has been based on scarcity. Jack Welch – paragon of leadership.

Leader leads by keeping info scarce.

We treat it like a kind of heroism – the lonely leader, carrying the whole weight of the business on his broad, strong shoulders.

Now: crowdsourced leadership. The job of leadership gets spread across a network. Decision making is a failure of leadership.

Strategy tries to turn something the future into something scare – but that’s the past. There are multiple numbers of futures. Flexibility may be better than having a strategy.

Leaders are realists – but relaists would never have built the web, wikipedia… Realism is over-rated.

Networks have the properties that we used to attribute to leaders.

Obama team put up a change.gove site. It wasn’t perfect, but it gets better everyday. It shows that the team understand the net.

People emerge into prominence through a reputational system. It becomes Reputational Democracy (Simon Willis’ term)

No way of predicting in what the outcome will be – it’s a political struggle from work to national politics. No way to get through apart from getting through it.

The heroic leader idea is going to fall. There are great leaders – but not enough. We need more, and that will only happen with networks. We need a leadership that deals with abundance, and that uses it. Fewer leaders and more love!

Le Web 08: Google, Recession and The Future

Google GuySecond up is Nikesh Arora, SVP, Google and President, EME Operations.

Loïc dived straight in with questions about the recession.

“It’s an interesting time – like having a hang-over after a big party,” said Arora. “I expect the US to come out of this before Europe does.”

Is Europe doomed to create second class start-ups compared to the US?

“There are some structural reasons why you see more startup activity in the US.”

But there is start-up activity in Europe.

“The guys I’m scared of are two guys in a garage…”

You need to think of terms in the worldwide audience, said Arora. But Loîc countered that companies in Europe naturally start by focusing on the the country they know best. “And that’s the fatal flaw,” said Arora. All the big companies thought global very quickly.

Loïc then raised the issue of funding, suggesting that Google should set up a fund to help startups through the downturn, to huge approval from the floor.

“You need a very good idea…” replied Arora.

“I have a good idea, but it’s hard to find €100,000…” responded Loïc.

But, in response to a question from the floor, Arora made it plain that he didn’t think that waiting to be bought by Google was a viable business model right now…

Le Web 08: Microsoft, Bizspark and Openness

Microsoft Guy

Ah, and the conference kicks off with Microsoft. Steve Gilmour is interviewing Dan'l Lewin, the Corporate VP for Strategic and Emerging Business Development. In particular, Dan'l is talking about Bizspark, we he describes as an aggresive expanion into startup community.

It's for startups that are less than three years old, and with less than 1m revenue (local currency variations apply). Basically, you get free stuff for three years.

Lewin worked with Apple and Next before coming to Microsoft, a company he suggests that is reinventing itself around distributed systems on the web, away from the desktop. He admits that Google did well in this space and have  "reasonable thoughts about how to turn organisng the world's information into a platform".

Azure services are available as part of it - were as soon as it was announced. An intergral part of how join the programme.

Gilmour suggested that Microsoft were coming into this space from behind? Lewin replied that they're ahead now - but were behind before.

Previous efforts (like Hailstorm) didn't consider OpenID, fedeation and open standards. This one does. And they're very clear that the enterprise owns the data. Demand since Y2k is to make things work together.

Gilmour suggested that Microsoft has boat loads of cash, so can afford to take advantage of a downturn.

"Those who are cash strong can get stronger during downturns," replied Lewin. "But it's also an ideal time for entrepreneurs."

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Liveblogging Le Web 08

Le Web 08 sign

Apologies for the silence over the last month. Ironically enough, it was largely because I was busy getting a Web 2.0 web application upgraded for use both within and without the business…
Anyway, I’m bringing a little life back into this blog starting tomorrow, with Liveblogging from Le Web 08 in Paris. 
See you then.