Posts about davos07

Davos07: Media notes

I spent much of the first day at Davos in a session of the International Media Council, a gathering of leading lights. A few moments and quotes:

* Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, told what he called a random story — it’s a perfect tale for the medium and the age — about empowering collaboration. His sophomore year at Harvard, while starting his company, he failed to study at all for one of his courses; he didn’t even go to class. So days before the final, he pulled all the pictures he needed to analyze off the web and put them up on a page online with boxes underneath. He emailed the class and said he’d put up a study guide. Sure enough, in moments, the students filled in their essential knowledge on the art. Zuckerberg got an A. And the prof told him that the grades in the class improved 10 percent over previous years.

It’s a magnificent lesson in everybody winning with cooperation: exactly the lesson big media must learn.

Zuckerberg is the country’s best panelist (and I’ll apologize to him if this lands him on more panels) because he is unfailingly direct and honest: politely blunt. He was asked about newspaper and magazine efforts to establish social communities around the the nation into reporters, armed with camera phones; they get thousands of photos from news events and beat all competitors — thanks to this cooperation — and pay for these photos. Nick Kristof from The New York Times is doing some of the most amazing work in journalism to both present his stories across all appropriate media and also to involve his public in the story (see his recent effort to have people remix his raw reporting). (Arianna Huffington called Kristof’s “obsessiveness” on Drafur “unbelievably bloggy”). I heard from a TV anchor who breaks news in his blog and sees the line between his time in front of a camera or a keyboard to be merging into one. I talked with editors around the world who are inviting bloggers into the newsroom to meet and doing things with them.

[Note that this session, like others at Davos, was off-the-record under the Chatham House rule: one may not quote someone by name without permission. They say they do this to encourage more open discussion. In a prior Davos meeting, of course, then-CNN-President Eason Jordan created a storm when he talked about journalists hurt by military fire, which was blogged and w hich lead to his departure from CNN. The rules about what was on- or off-the-record apparently weren’t so clear but now they are clearer. We can write about any session held in the main hall; all others operate under the Chatham House rule.]

Davos07: Iraq

I am at a Davos session on the future of Iraq. Live-blogging….

Richard Haass, ex of the State Department, asks whether there is something in the Iraqi culture that made the violence inevitable or whether it was the result of mistakes.

Ali Abd Al-Mahdi, vice-president of Iraq says that the Iraqi government and American government made mistakes. “Some people say that we are in a civil war. I don’t agree with that. We are in a war against civilians, a war that really targets the whole society and it started as such. Terrorism took place in Iraq and then the insurgency took place…. And then later on… sectarian violence took place….”

Well, what’s worse: civil war or three wars?

Haass asks Adnan Pachachi, former president of Iraq, whether Iraqis see themselves as Iraqi. He replies: “We have inherited from the previous regime a really terrible legacy: the culture of violence, the culture of corruption, and also the culture of dependence on the government…. When I went back to Baghdad in 2003 everyone is telling me we want a government that will tell us what to do.” He says the years of sanctions destroyed the middle class and the social fabric of the country. He says that most Iraqis have an allegiance to Iraq.

“If because of domestic pressures in the United States and they cannot continue taking on this burden,” Pachaci says, then they should consider internationalizing the effort with the U.N.

Haass asked Abd Al-Mahdi whether the U.S. troop surge is welcomed by the Iraqi government. He says they believe they need more Iraqi forces in Baghdad. “So it’s up to the international forces to decide whether we need more troops or not. This is, to me, a technical question.” Well, not to those troops.

He says they are “reasonably optimistic” about their latest security plan for Baghdad because “it has some new features.” Later, asked why the latest addition to troops should have any different results from prior additions, he talks about how access to Baghdad will be restricted, how there is a commander for this effort, how neighborhoods will be cleared of insurgents and then patrolled. “I don’t think we will end violence but I think we can change some of the course of events, we can have a more peaceful capital, which is our goal.”

Haass says to the vice-president that people have lost confidence in the Iraqi government and that it is more sectarian than truly national. Words saying nothing follow: “Anyone can say what’s right or what’s wrong and what we need in Iraq…. About the government being sectarian, he says, that the prior regime was imbalanced and so “deprived people” now come to the fore to get involved and to others this may look imbalanced.

It’s striking what a politician he is, saying nothing at all.

Haass asks Pachachi about the execution of Saddam. He replies that he is against the death penalty: “This is a barbarous relic of dark ages.” He adds that the trial was flawed. But he says the event will be forgotten.

On democracy, he says it is about more than governing the nation but is about protecting the rights of minorities. He says that there are some ministries that are restricted to one ethnic group. “There is no democracy without adequate protection of the political minorities.”

A Davos minute

Just some quick scenes from my arrival at Davos.

Davos07: Bloggers’ nightcap

Last night, Davos played host to a nightcap (that’s what they call drinking here) for bloggers. Here are some clips of Claudia Gonzales of the World Economic Forum and Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post talking. Note that the video is awful; the only way I got light was by having them hold up a candle (insert ironic note here). I’m sparing you my comments; I thanked particularly Daylife for producing the Davos Conversation and they got a big hand.

Davos07: Beyond Web 2.0

So what’s beyond Web 2.0? It’s not Web 3.0 John Markoff of the NY Times, who wrote a kerfuffled piece about Web 3.0, said he just checked on Wikipedia and found the term banned in perpetuity. He also says that “one of the good things about about being a reporter not a visionary is that you don’t have to guess… the visionaries get it wrong.” So he says Web 3.0 is what he sees happening in companies he covers.

This comes at a Davos session on what’s next, with John Battelle of Federated Media questioning Markoff, John Gage of Sun and Jim Goodnight of SAS.

They are looking at this from the perspective of the machine, real and virtual: the building blocks people can put together; the view that the web is a vast data base that can have sense brought to it; the ability to bring a conversational interface to this; the fears and opportunities around the fact that everything is saved now.

I say we should look at this from the human perspective: what happens when you enable people to do what they want to do?

And we should look at this from a distributed perspective: The lesson of Yahoo and Google is that owning something is less desirable than enabling a network you don’t own.

Looking at specifics of what’s next, Markoff points to IBM’s web fountain with complex queries on that large data base. Battelle talks about TellMe’s advancing voice technology. Markoff says one of the few interesting things he saw at CES was a refrigerator magnet that will hear and print out your shopping list: “Why you would want this thing?” he shrugs, “but if it costs nothing — $150…” Gage talks about the coming together of voice recognition (when we don’t care about screen interface) and the ability of machines to talk to each other. Markoff talks about upod (and another company I can’t recall) that are better YouTubes.

Markoff, fresh from Burda’s DLD conference in Munich, says he’s also interesting in where the next innovations are coming from. Being in Munich showed him “that I don’t get out of the Silicon Valley often enough.” He also said that “Silicon Valley’s advantage is going away very, very rapidly… and that’s because of Web 2.0.” Amen.

Decentralization, that’s where it’s at.

Uh-oh: Second life comes up. SAS brags about putting videos on YouTube (“why not, it’s free”) and Sun about opening a store on Second Life. Ah, Second Life. The Davos Conversation page, on which this appears, links to Davos on Second Life. On the bus yesterday with Loic LeMeur, we talked about the French candidates on Second Life. Last night, I got into a good-natured head-shaking session with David Kirkpatrick of Fortune; he was pushing Second Life in a story he put up today and I was poo-poing. I think it’s overhyped, myself. At this morning’s session, John Markoff admits that he hasn’t gotten past the opening and I admit I have not either. It’s small. They have 334,000 “regular visitors,” Kirkpatrick says – though that’s only people who come back after a month while 2.6 million have come and most, like Markoff and me, give up. But Gage makes an eloquent case for the virtual-world interface making a big difference in the future architecture, medicine, education, entertainment. “The moment that the haptic interface works in Second Life, it is going to double and double again…” Mitch Kapor, chairman of the Second Life parent, says that a haptic interface — that is, the ability to feel something virtual in the real world — is months away.

The floor opens and Vint Cerf stands to talk about what he sees coming up, including geographic indexing, mobility, permanence of data; the virtualization of data. He also asks that next year, 13-year-old sit up front. He also talks about the fundamental architectural change that comes in a world where all create; the asymmetrical web doesn’t work as well. He lusts after Kyoto, where one gets a billion bits a second for $89 a month: “almost made me want to move there.” Battelle says there are rumors Google will supply that. Cerf says that Google is not trying to build physical structures but it encourages symmetrical business models.

Battelle brings together talk about identity and the cultural change there: young people spending hours on their MySpace pages, the need to have a presence in the world, the need to connect (and, I’ll argue, that changes our views of privacy, for you cannot connect with people until you give up something of yourself).

From the floor, there is talk about spam — broadly defined as ill-intentioned use of good things — and Markoff says that when he covered botnets he realized that bad guys have supercomputers too. He says he came to this as an internet optimist but he realizes that the world we’ve build mirrors the real world. But Battelle says that, indeed, there is spam but he feels as if he has read that cautionary tale every two years for the last 20.