The Next Web conference review
In these 26 and 27 April Amsterdam received The Next Web conference in the Westegasfabriek. The conference is focused in business and populated by many startup and investors. The projects presented in the conference were new technological products.
The first talk in the conference was from Alexis Ohanian one of the founders of Reddit. His talk focused on the role of online community in the decisions about PIPA and SOPA in the US congress. He pointed the mobilization that took place inside the Reddit community and the real world impact of the discussion and also the manifestations that it leaded to. He stated that he used the Reddit platform and community to decide what would be his main arguments in meetings with North American politicians in Washington.
Andrew Keen talked about his new book, Digital Vertigo, that is coming out this May. In his talk in the conference he spoke a lot about privacy issues and his concerns about how the lost of privacy may affect our identity. The title of the book is a reference to Hitchcock’s movie Vertigo. According to him there is no social online because of narcissism and everyone is just showing off in online communities there is no interest in others. He said that the level of exposure that we have today generates a new kind of puritanism.
Another interesting talk was the one from Hilary Mason. She works at Bit.ly in New York and spoke about how the data scientists in the company analyze their databases. Bit.ly is one of the main URL shortening services in the web. They are active since 2009 and collecting information from the links that pass through the site. All their information is stored in databases and they are able to analyze users activity by tracing the number of times that links were shared and clicked. They publish some of their studies in their blog and more technical explanations about their systems in their engineering blog.
Christian Hernandez works at Facebook as the director of platform partnership. He was there to talk about the Facebook API and stimulate the startup’s developers to use the new features in their applications. According to him the new features bring many advantages to the application as the API enable them to create posts about the users’ activities in their Facebook timelines and make it visible their friends in the social network. Hernandez defended that this feedback from the applications to Facebook created a loop that increased exponentially the visibility of the application bringing new users to it.
Robert Scoble in opposition to Andrew Keen presented a very optimistic vision of the future of social networks and mobile applications. According to him applications are going to be able to gather more information about our life as they are developed and privacy is something that we will overcome. He treats privacy not as an issue and defended that the real problem will be that people will be addicted to those systems. He presented some examples of mobile applications such as Waze and Placeme that use geolocation to help people move in urban spaces, Homesnap that provide detailed information about any house in the US using as an input a picture of the facade. He pointed to the surprise and astonishment that people react when confronted to the amount of information that are available to anyone about their life, but pointed that the benefits that one can get from those services overcome the worries and it is much more likely that addiction to these same services become a much bigger problem than privacy issues.
Many interesting and innovative projects were presented in the conference. They addressed different issues and publics but social integration and creation of contact networks was a common feature between many of them. The discussions were around the uses of social networks for business models. In The Next Web blog there are some of the talks already available and others will be posted soon.