One thing that made Web 2.0 truly wonderful was that it wasn't all company pitches or rock star panels, it brought in issues of the day that matter. Like the Induce Act, DRM, Archiving, China, political activism, open source browsers, going slow and steady, and electing a President. When I think about how this show managed to cover these issues, new tools and major market players, it puts my comments on getting ahead of ourselves in a better perspective -- that while there will be the occasional Web 1.0 excess, largely there have been lessons learned and a greater context to our hard work.
By far, the best of show was Larry Lessig, the only one to receive a standing ovation and backchanneling that he should run for President. His argument was media concentration combined with copyright regulation has led us to a permission culture instead of a free culture. Besides hindering our consumer desires to remix, it has severely crippled our democracy to the point where the President is above a free press or freedom of speech.
Audio for all sessions are available for remixing via Weblogs Inc.
Kim Polese's SpikeSource and its direct competitor SourceLabs provide a new category within the open source ecosystem that will help realize DIYIT. When industries commoditize, managing risk and reducing transaction costs is at a premium. Today open source is a volatile and liquid market. IT departments gain reduced upfront costs, but face market, portfolio (combinations) and operational risk that can be managed through certification, assembly and commodity management. If these businesses can get past the fact that you can't scale people and develop some technology-driven scalable processes, I think they have fantastic growth prospects.
After Web 2.0, I headed off to a very different event in Sonoma, the Online Community Summit. Most of the event was traditional community managers sharing practices to manage high volume sites like Motley Fool, Apple Support, Amazon and others. Two years ago this community was wrestling to sustain its existence. Last year they were trying to comprehend the rise of social networking. This year it was down to business with a focus on ROI, metrics and refining social software.
My panel was on Technology Trends and Community with Reid Hoffman from LinkedIn. Before our talk there was no mention of any new technology or business model. We projected the IRC channel on the big screen and danced through social software demos of blogs, wikis, news aggregators, LinkedIn, Tribe, Wikipedia, Flickr, del.icio.us and Podcasting. It was a blast.
I was speaking with community manager from a popular Internet radio portal about Podcasting, which she had heard a snippet about that week. We agreed that the most fascinating part of the discovery is that it didn't exist a month ago. The problem with Podcasting is that it isn't micro-content yet. Audio posts are still like documents, but I am sure they will soon have granular addressability combined with discovery -- so the long-tail will start to wag quality posts into view.
It is an interesting time for social software and social networking. Social networking has largely been funded and now needs to demonstrate services on top of their more mature and still growing networks, and deliver revenue. Social software has matured to the level where people don't talk of the category, but the products, newly funded companies and success stories.
That's why the buzz at Web 2.0 wasn't either of these abused terms, but their specifics. RSS was a touchstone for both small innovative companies in workshops, a major thrust for portal players and the underpinning of most audience questions (boisterous bloggers in the house like Marc Canter, Steve Gillmor, Jason Calcanis and Jeff Jarvis). Jason Kottke pointed out on the side that Blogs were accepted as a commonplace component of the ecosystem, but news of Six Apart's funding was a constant murmur. Pretty good praise for Rojo as a web-based aggregator with social sharing. Flickr was truly all the rage, while del.icio.us, Basecamp, Newsgator and Feedburner got great mentions. Nobody knew that Pluck landed $8.5MM. A lots of entrepreneurs wandering the halls with yet to be released products in this SoSo called space.
Wiki was word at Web 2.0, at least the new word. Not just because the combination of Socialtext providing an Eventspace for all attendees and a workshop with a customer and Jot's launch. On the first night you had John Doerr saying wikis were the venture opportunity in the social software space, although he was being diplomatic. Tim held them as an example of an architecture of participation. Google's Adam Bosworth said, "everyone is trying to figure out if Socialtext or Jotspot is the next big thing." I say it was the word mostly because it was a new word for most and now that there are two companies in the space its a category.
Markets evolve today through a combination of competition between vendors, cooperation in standards and open source, customer education through shared practices and in the end, customer requirements. How language evolves matters less for hype cycles. Words do matter for explaining trends and describing customer problems and solutions.