ETech was a great event forseveral reasons, but the panels and speakersunfortunately weren’t on that list. Most speakers were focused on very specific issues, so there was little big picture perspective. I guess I’m used to doing events where CEOs speak, as opposed to the tech people, but I think that the problems at ETech were mainly that there were no moderators to keep things on track and ask the right questions.
Regardless of the fact that most of my time in panels was focused on working on other things with my laptop and the anemic wifi connection. (Note to self part I: if you ever do events again have two T1s from two different vendors running on multiple wifi routers. Note to self part II: give people a table so they don’t have carpal tunnel by the end of the event from hunching over their laptops.)
By far the best part of the event was getting to catch up with old friends, meeting new friends that I only knew online and finally meeting some new folks.
Here is a random sample of some of the people I got to meet and/or catch up with at the event.
Finally got to meet and hang with Jason Shellon of Google.com. Jason landed at Google by way of the Blogger.com acquisition. He’s a very cool guy who wasbeing givena hard time at the event over the whole “Blogger.com only supports ATOM And not RSS” thing.Frankly, I don’t care which syndication scheme people adopt, as long as they pick at least one (i.e., we have RSS but not ATOM, but I don’t think anyone’s Feed Reader cares).
Dave Winer’s name came up a couple of times because of the whole RSS thing and although I’ve never met the man I got an earful. Apparently Dave is considered a jerk by many of the folks at ETech although a very talented jerk. Two attendees went off on a Winer bitch fest of epic proportions over dinner one night,ending with a detailed psychoanalysis of the man that went something like this: every time he gets something successful going and gets to a position of power (i.e., with RSS) he self destructs. Anyway, I’m looking forward to meeting the real Dave Winer at some point soon.
Also got to meet two of the Weblogs, Inc. bloggers Judith Meskill and Sean Bonner. This was the best part of the event for me, since I’ve been working with Judith for months and Sean for a couple of weeks without ever meeting them in person! It really is an interesting change for me to be working with editors without having ever met face-to-face. I have to say it is a different model than doing interviews with editors where so much is based on appearance and how people carry themselves in a business setting.
In the WLI model we decide to partner with people based on reading their blogs. If the blog is good, we do it. If their blog is not so good, we don’t. Regardless, Judith is very cool and sociable and everyone seems to like her a lot (a good thing for the blogger who does our social software weblog!), and Sean is a fun guy who is very clever. Sean was letting out all kinds of one-liners in Joi Ito’s IRC. Even if WLI never makes a dime it will be worth it for all the intelligent new friends I’m making because of it.
I grabbed dinner with my old friend Scott Heiferman who is the founder of MeetUp.com, the post-dotcom bubble sweetheart. MeetUp is total genius, but I wasn’t surprised when Scott came up with it. Scott and I both worked at Sony in the mid 90’s before we became entrepreneurs. He started iTraffic and later sold it to Agency.com, I started Silicon Alley Reporter and later sold the rebrand SAR (known as VentureReporter.net) to Wicks back in April. So, we’ve got a lot in common and we’ve been friends forever. I’ve already respected Scott because even when we were having dinner back in the mid 90’s he always thought big. One of his failures, RocketBoard was total genius: a free keyboard that had advertising-buttons on it (i.e. an eBay button, and Amazon button, etc.) Now I have a keyboard with Microsoft with all these quick keys on them! Ahead of his time again!
Caught up with another old Silicon Alley peep Greg Elin who is doing an interesting project called Fotonotes.net. He is trying to create a standard that attaches notes to photos and stores the info inside the photo.
Loic Le Meur is a serial entrepreneur from Paris who has created www.ublog.com, the Blogger of France. Loic is a smart guy and he filled me in on a bunch of the ups and downs (not to mention tax laws) of being an entrepreneur in France.
Seemed like I spent half my time with Dan Gillmor of The Mercury News and Jeff Jarvis of Advance.net/Buzzmachine.com at the lobby bar. Dan and Jeff are two of the quickest guys I’ve ever met in terms of analyzing media, politics and technology and it seemed at times when we were talking that we were moving through topics and insights so fast that we would collapse. Reminded me of the old dotcom days when there were so many things going on at once that processing it all was all we did.
The good old days are back, albeit without the money. The driving force is still technology, but instead of emails and web pages we’re talking about wifi, blogs, social software, rfid and convergent devices. This technology is being superimposed on a world that has, seemingly, gone out of control since 9/11. Unlike the discussions in 1996-2000 that were about how much money all this technology was going to make, we’re now talking about how blogging technology will impact democracy in the middle east, or how social software and blogs will impact the presidential election.
I can’t tell you how recharged my batteries are. The dotcom revolution and Silicon Alley Reporter meant so much to me, not because I almost became a millionaire, got an insane amount of press and became a mini-mogul. That time period meant so much to me because I was involved in a dialogue that was changing the world. The dialogue is back, and inmany ways so am I.
PS Look for Part II of everyone I met at ETech in the next couple of days. I’ve got a stack of business cards I’ve still got to get through.