Davos08: Notes

The odd from Davos:

* People were constantly asking each other what the mood of Davos was this year, as if it were the pulse of the world. I liked the Piano Bar index: It was said to be less crowded this year than in the past. Uh-oh, downturn. I’d characterize the mood as wishfully optimistic — they all wished to be optimistic.

* Good Tony Blair line: “In today’s world, left and right can be less important than open and closed.”

* The YouTube Davos Conversation Page alcove turned into the Web 2.0 newsroom. Big media were outside in a tent — a “semipermanent structure,” they call it — sitting at crowded tables. The bloggers and vloggers hung out by YouTube. This also meant that they were on the floor, in the thick of the action, and picked up more stories.

* People-watching is half the fun. One night, I managed to weasel my way into a reception thrown by Kleiner, Perkins for Al Gore and Bono. George Soros was hanging out in the corner. I met Elllie Wiesel on the line for the metal detector. Ran into David Cameron and shot the video below. I was at two dinners with Emma Thompson and sat across the table from Howard Stringer and Jeff Zucker. That’s how nutty this place is.

* Best purchase I made was crampons for the heels of my shoes so I wouldn’t fall and break my ass on the steep climb to my hotel. I’m clumsy and it’s icy everywher, which is a perfect combination for personal disaster. Except I managed to spike my own pants. That’s just how clumsy I am.

* Every man at Davos was breathless at the beauty of Jordan’s Queen Rania. During one session, I looked up at her gigantic image on the screen behind her and was also dazzled by the countless diamonds on her big and beautiful earrings. I turned to a master of the one-liner behind me and said I wondered what they were worth. His response: “She’s worth it.”

* Davos versus other conferences: Better food, worse schwag. All I came away with was a U23D hat from Bono’s movie (which was promoted masterfully by Hollywood guy Sandy Climan and frequently by Al Gore), a Turkish tie (I didn’t know they liked ties), a YouTube kit hat (purposefully dorky), and a Google scarf (which you’d know only because it’s so damned red — there’s Google’s subtlety for you).

* I was enthralled watching Israeli investor Yossi Vardi at DLD and Davos. He’s a power behind technology, business, and politics (which means international politics) at Davos. He brings his companies along like ducks behind him and generously introduces him to everyone he can; I enjoyed meeting them all. He pulls together an annual breakfast for Shimon Peres, where we heard leaders from Jordan and Palestine and America talk about their common ground and common projects. Everyone knows Yossi. I talked with him about his investment philosophy and hope to talk with him again and write about it.

* Speaking of Yossi, there’s one leftover note from DLD in Munich that I didn’t have time to write about before I left: Yossi brought his friend, Israeli orchestral conductor Itay Talgam, to talk with the DLD crowd about management. It was magnificent. He showed us video of conductors Richard Mutti and Erich Kleiber, contrasting their styles and showing us how they inspired or limited creativity. Mutti is strict. Kleiber inspired and enjoys and gives his performers the room to create. I can’t do it justice in a blog post but if you have a convention or big business meeting, get this man there. Clay Shirky said afterwards that Talgam made him rethink some of the ways he teaches; me, too.

* Marcel Reichert of Burda and I talked about magazines’ position in the new media world before he went on a panel and we agreed that they have a strength because there is already a community around them that is waiting to be connected. Marcel came up with a word to describe this that I love: They are “precommunities.” Communities waiting to be enabled.