Mixed feelings about Blogworld’s first conference day

Today the Blogworld and New Media Expo 2009 took off in Las Vegas. Our first time at Blogworld but our third time at the New Media Expo and first for all of us at the combination of the two. What striked me immediately after entering the event is the size of it. More participants, more speakers, more tracks and more lectures than ever. And some very interesting and promising keynote speakers, such as Chris Brogan, Guy Kawasaki and Anthony Edwards (you know, Goose from Top Gun)

The opening keynote came from Laura Fitton (@Pistachio). Laura shared with us how she came completely hooked on Twitter and how it can change people’s lives. Absolutely convinced by its power she recently started her own consultancy on Twitter for Business, PistacioConsulting.com. In addition she wrote Twitter for Dummies. After her energetic talk I don’t think that anyone disagrees with her when it comes to the unique value of Twitter. That said, she spoke to the already converted.

It was packed, people were sitting on the floor as there were not enough chairs available. After the keynote the audience spread out to the several parallel track sessions only to come back together to the next keynote half way the morning and during the lunch break. The latter was maybe not the best chosen way of offering a keynote. When having lunch, I prefer to network and meet people, share ideas and experiences. But no, we had to silently consume our lunch, while listening to a discussion on stage which was hard to follow due to bad quality sound. Not surprizing people started chatting again.

Overall, the track sessions were disappointing. That is the sessions I attended. I had great expectations of the Medblogging track. But I did not really get any new information. Yes, individual bloggers like doctors, patients and nurses can generate their own community and yes some of these communities (especially of patients) can be of great help to the individual patient in managing his/her disease. But what’s new? Interesting question to me is: how can we truly make a difference in healthcare with Social Media? How do we get all stakeholders involved? Where is Big Pharma? Insurance companies? Governmental institutions? Hospitals? Do they blog? Or any other kind of Social Media activity? Do they care? Those parties need to get involved or at least approached and brought into the discussion in order to get a true sense of the impact of Social Media in Healthcare.

We still write. We still make notes. Electronically that is. Most participants carry their laptop around. Either to make their private notes, summarize what’s being said in their blog or share the quotes of the day through tweets. But not later than after lunch. Because all batteries ran out. And there were hardly any power plugs. How can you organize a conference for Bloggers and Social Media geeks without providing the life essence of their existence: electricity! Please give us more power tomorrow….

Blogworld audience2

Was it all misery? No, I’ve titled this post ‘Mixed feelings…’. Cause the best thing of the day still had to come. Or two things to be exact (three that is…we had a great dinner with friends we met at previous editions of the New Media Expo). The last track session I attended was a panel about Social Media and crisis management. With Dallas Lawrence (Levick Strategic Communications), Maggie Fox (Social Media Group) and Shel Holtz (Holtz Communication + Technology). With the latter we had an interview last year. Social Media can truly help organizations to manage a crisis situation. transparency and authenticity are keywords here. And be prepared because a crisis always knocks on your door unannounced. Prepared meaning: have a strategy ready how to deal with a crisis and be present in the online space (and that does not mean only with a website!). Shel referred to the damage done to United Airlines by an erroneaous publication by Bloomberg that UA was close to bankrupcy. By the time UA had corrected this error, it had lost 70% of its stock value. Their response was through the traditional media channels. Had they had a blog, their response would have been much faster and less damage would have been done on UA.

Chris Brogan closed the day with a remarkable keynote. Why we are in Social Media, what do we want with it and where do we go from here. It’s nice, being at a conference like this, with all like minded friends. While we should get out there and convince others. And all this in sentences of not more than 140 characters. The tweet fountain in the back could not keep up with all the tweets that were produced. A few of his oneliners (of less than 140 characters):

– If you’re a bad person, get good or get offline – quickly

– Your community will fall on a sword for you, your audience will watch you fall on it.

– Listen to Master Yoda: do or do not, there is no try

– Social Media is the new nervous system of your organization.

And that closed the day. With inspiration. Now I’m curious what tomorrow will bring. Because overall it has to do better than today. Otherwise Blogworld and New Media Expo 2010 has to do without me.

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Cruisin’ in SanFran

SANY0338

Stuck in San Francisco Airport due to long delays of departures it’s time to reflect on what has been an amazing 4 days in the ‘Bay Area’. Without turning this blog intro a Traveller’s Guide to the West Coast I can honestly say that this part of the US struck me because of it’s laid-back culture, European-style architecture and nice climate. Although the latter can not be confirmed by myself because during our stay the biggest tropical storm of the last 50 years hit SanFran. Yes, it was raining, yes there was storm. But nothing like we sometimes experience in the Netherlands. Finally we found something bigger and better in our country.

The Bay Area obviously is known for the cradle of technological advancement in modern human history. It was here where the first computers were ‘born’, where small garage-startup companies became the heggemoths of nowadays modern computer technology. The first wave in the 80s. Think Apple, think HP. The second wave in the 90s. Think eBay, think Google. And now the third wave with the thousands of Web 2.0 companies, making the internet really revolutionize the way we work and live. And we were here, in the breeding ground of collective binairy intelligence, making this digital era happen: Silicon Valley (now, if that doesn’t sound apocalyptic, I don’t know what does…)

So off we went to our Final Destination, the Mother of all Motherships: Cupertino, headquarters of Apple Inc. In our newly rented convertable Mitshubishi Eclipse (BMW Z4’s were all rented out…) we drove 35 miles south passing by places of which the names have earned a permanent place in the modern fairy tale about the Rise of the Machines. Palo Alto (HP, Facebook), Berkeley University, San Jose (‘Capital of Silicon Valley’)

SANY0295Cupertino, for that matter, is a place you don’t want to end up living. Sure, working in Cupertino is from yet another dimension (only in case your employer’s HQ is on Infinite Loop One) but the town itself is next to nothing. Apple has found a nice and quite place to settle down, and with an inmense complex of various buildings it determines the landscape of this little town. No other computer companies I know of have a Company Store where you can buy Apple goodies, mocks, T-shirts, pens, all with the world famous Apple logo embossed. Just to keep the brand experience alive. And they succeeded in that because from far, far away Apple fanboys (and girls!) travel to this sacred place to buy an exclusive and tangible artifact of the brand. Their brand. I even heard some guys from Holland visited the Company Store.

In reality of course, driving around Silicon Valley sounds more romantic than it really is. Sure, large buildings with huge signs of well known computer-related brands remember us where we are: Symantec, Yahoo, McAfee, Intel… It’s exiting if you realize the background of this area, but apart from that, these are just buildings. No rainbows of forever promising wealth, no cool dudes inSANY0320 convertables shouting out that they just invented the Next Big Thing in Cloud Computing, or frenzy VC’s (Venture Capitalists) scouting for the Next Big Thing in Cloud Computing. But that was all going to change the next day.

Jack Porter is a serial entrepreneur, as they call that in the Valley. Seven times CEO, Angel investor in tens of startups, multimillionaire and a well-known person in the Valley with a network our friend Shwen looks like an amateur. Jack has a friend, Randy, who has created the world largest community of Angels (Angel = person who invests in startups using their own money). And these Angels have collectively invested more than $200 million in about 200 companies. Many Web 2.0 companies would not exist without the financial injections these people provide. We had a meeting with Jack, and with Randy, to discuss one of our projects. Not to get funding, but to get advice how this business is run.

Jack and Randy know the game well, and enthusiastically they explain how the valley works. How you should set up your legal entity of your company, what you should do with your options, how many options you should submit and much, much more. It slowly became clear that we were very, very inexperienced in this Valley-talk, and we had to put our minds in the highest gear just to keep up with all the jargon throwed at us. “Do you know how Angels and VC’s determine the value of your company?”, Jack asked retorically. “They take the number of software developers inside your company, multiply that by $500,000. Then they take the number of sales people, multiply that by $250,000 and substract that.” OK, we got the message: nerds are important. The more nerds, the higher value your company has. “Make sure you have your CTO inside your company, that’s important. Without a CTO Angels would not even take you seriously…”. Thanks Jack, for the advice. Now let’s first figure out who will be the CEO, before getting into details.

Honestly said, Jack knew what he was talking about. And I don’t say that because he finds our idea “very valuable”, and that “this is the way the industry is moving towards”. Of course that will help in our confidence to go ahead, in whatever construction we’ll come up with. Jack has been in the investing-bizniz for more than 20 years and has a tremendous attention to detail. It was inspiring and exciting at the same time to be able to discuss you plans with Silicon Valley incrowd. Now being Dutch as we are, we need to stay realistic as well. Conceptually our idea has got a green light from the experts, now we still need to implement it.

But first we’re heading to Vegas. Tomorrow the BlogWorld and New Media Expo will kick-off and we’re excited to attend for the third time. Let’s see if the landscape of New Media is changing. We’ll keep you posted.

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