Web 2.0 is Many Things, But I Doubt it’s a $2,800 Conference

Web2.0 = Internet37.0

Next month in San Francisco O’Reilly is throwing it’s second Web 2.0 Conference™. If you, your VC funds, or your corporation has $2,800, you too can attend. Fortunately for those well-pocketed few, in a complete snub to Web2.0 philosophies, they are “limiting attendance to maintain an intimate setting.” So sign up as spots are running out and there assuredly won’t be any formal distribution of new knowledge uncovered at the event.

I don’t want this post to be a rant. Augmenting anger levels is not why I write, the world has enough complaints to consider. Also I should note I have no argument with O’Reilly and MediaLive’s right to charge whatever the market will bear, though I can question their heart in the matter. I also wonder how sincere their event can be if the vast majority of Web2.0 producers and participants spend less on two to three months rent then the conference attendence fee. Yet I understand the current state of our economy and it was irresponsible of me to not have sought more lucrative income if I expected to participate in the business of my business.

But really, this isn’t a rant, as I have a secret I’m happy to share, a secret that comes from peeking over the shoulders of giants and social geeking with the webdorks. Jonathon Schwartz, Sun Microsystems president, described Web2.0 as “Internet 37.0.” His very correct point is that this is yet another slight improvement in the obligatory client-server nature of distributed computing. Wikipedia does an excellent job of defining this amorphic concept, and today I heard Ross Mayfield succintly say Web 2.0 is made of people while Scott Rafer explains the phenom as the Participation Generation. I love those two because they acknowledges that participation of the tool users is just as significant as the tool makers who sincerely made the tools for just those users.

So says I, passion, mojo, participation, inclusiveness, people and fun … serious fun are behind each of the inspired, heartfelt Web2.0 projects built and being built by minds more focused on creativity than money, more focused on features than accolades, more focused on making lemonade than selling lemons. Turn back the clock far enough on almost every single <air quotes>Web 2.0</air quotes> effort, such as Del.icio.us, Flickr, Meetup, Bl/MT/LJ/WP, Upcoming, Last.fm and you will find neither business plans nor powerpoint slides. What you will find are ideas based out of intimate desire not marketing research. You will find middle space development that hopes users will participate not only in the public features but designing the next version. You will find modest minds that know they are just gluing the last interesting pieces together – people that want to make something clever just to see what the world can do with it. Web 2.0 corporations like google and to a lesser degree ebay, yahoo are made up of teams and leaders of such minded people that still have a passion that drives their performace, as well as their paycheck, and they’ve been able to make Web2.0 happen too.

So I hate to break it to you, but if you think spending $2,800 plus travel/expenses will teach you Web 2.0; if you think simply opening APIs and adopting AJAX (aka javascript and css) is going to make your ho-hum service hum; or if you think listening to Mark Cuban or Mena Trott is actually going to make you finally care about your end user (né customer) you’re wasting your money. No matter how astutely you try and understand, no matter how refined your spec process is, no matter how closely you watch those gantt charts, someone with an actual internal desire to solve the same problem will probably do it faster, cheaper and for a receptive audience of which they are already a member of.

Web 2.0 is passion, Web 2.0 is people, Web 2.0 is participation, Web 2.0 is mojo, Web 2.0 is fun, serious fun. In fact it’s best you don’t confuse <air quotes>Web 2.0</air quotes> with making money, because it simply doesn’t translate to the language of power-point slides and spreadshits. You should also take note that convincing a VC you have the next Web2.0 hit is not nearly as hard to do as convincing everyone else.

Now what would be more productive is if we would start talking about Web3.0 (aka Internet 38.0), because that is actually where the next successes are or even better, the chance to improve society as whole. Perhaps it’ll be the end of stateless protocols and page-like browsing paradigms or perhaps it’ll bring the dawn of colloborative functionality creation abilities or trustful systems and identities. Who wants to roll up their sleeves and explore?

7 thoughts on “Web 2.0 is Many Things, But I Doubt it’s a $2,800 Conference

  1. Pingback: Laughing Squid » Web 2.1: A BrainJam for the rest of us

  2. James Harris

    I’m not sure why there is so much “hating” around the Web 2.0 conference! I run a company out of Atlanta, I attended Web 2.0 last year (connected with some people from Apple which lead to a deal with iTunes) and attended this year (connecting with potential partners at Google, Yahoo, Brightcove and spending quality time with people like Marc Canter, Michael Powell, Lawrence Lee of Zondry and Stowe Boyd at Corante. The conference was worth the $1,680 that I paid to attend many times over. I would suggest that you get you facts together (on pricing and the type of people that attended) , save your nickels and join in next year.

    Our industry needs leadership. I don’t know Mr. O’Reilly, but I can say that what he has created in Web 2.0 has been based on an interest to move things forward in a positive way. Creating an effort, event or movement based on a personal dislike of another event seems like a genuine waste of time. Successful movements are always based on a passionate interest in something. I hope and prayer that you and your new group find something unique bring to the table and find a reference that is not “anti” anyone or anything.

    If you want to know where effort is most needed in this Web 2.0 revolution it can be found on the funding side. Often during the Web 2.0 conference VC, Start up and consultants all called for a new form of funding partner. Not an Angel – they tend to only do a couple of deals at a time; and not a traditional VC – they only want to give you no less than $10,000,000 bucks and they also want to control the business. What came out of Web 2.0 is a need for a “Middle Bank”, someone that would be willing to fund the 3 guys in a room that only need a $100,000 and only want to part with a small piece of equity. Of the 15 companies that were launched at Web 2.0 only 3 (I believe) had formal VC funding. I met a dozen more in the halls that refused the notion of traditional VCs but hated the fact that they had to go it alone. One company CEO actually “ATTACKED” the VC panel and asked them what their purpose was in this new Web 2.0 world.

    If you want to focus your energy on something I would suggest letting Mr. O’Reilly do his thing and you and your crew help move these brilliant start up from the bottom of the food chain to viable.

    All the best,

    James Harris
    CEO, Founder and Chief Storyteller
    Elemental Interactive
    1545 Peachtree Street NE
    Suite 400
    Atlanta, GA 30309

  3. ted Post author

    James thanks for the thoughtful reply. I’ll stand firm that $2,800 is a lot to ask to attend a conference that is about tools being made mostly by a younger set, not focused primarily on maximizing revenue.

    But you lost me when you suggest I and my crew should devise a mid-level funding system for in-need start-ups. I am running a web2.0 start-up, yet I’m trying to do this w/o VC funding. The known perils of that path are not unknown. I prefer using open-source tools and following a sustainable organic growth model. If you have a good product you will make enough to cover your minimal expenses and then you can grow from there. If not, maybe you shouldn’t be taking $4M and losing your company to VC’s who never a make a secret of their practicies.

  4. Scott Brison

    In Web 2.0 has been based on an interest to move things forward in a positive way. Creating an effort, event or movement based on a personal dislike of another event seems like a genuine waste of time. Successful movements are always based on a passionate interest in something.

  5. Patrick

    Hi Ted,

    I must agree with you. 2800 is absurd, but the point is that a lot of (American) people are willing to pay for it. As we have our own startup in Europe, we can only attend if we have funding (from an American VC :) ) and still it is a *&%^load of money. But I am totally convinced that this conference is very very good for networking purposes and would have loved to attend it.
    In Europe we charge a lot less for great conferences (around 500 EUR), so also new up and coming startups can attend. In the end a conference is a great way to connect with people do business and be inspired, but you need the up and coming talents as well.

    Looking forward to your findings after the Expo.

Comments are closed.