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The Next Web 2007 - Afternoon Recap

posted in Events on June 7th, 2007

After a short break and some, very healthy, lunch, Boris kicked off the afternoon sessions with a Video chat with Kevin Rose of digg fame. Like last year, Rose promised to be attending in person and as a speaker, but once again, other issues seemed to be of higher importance. His absence notwithstanding, Rose probably gave the talk that garnered the most (international) attention in the web world.

Rose announced that digg would have product reviews and other new interesting features in the next six to twelve months. More on that can be found here, here and of course here.

Next up was the one reason that made me not want to miss “The Next Web 2007”: Dick Hardt, CEO of Sxip, a company that focuses on creating a working platform around (online) identities.

Hardt is well known in the web community for his numerous contributions, such as porting Perl to Windows (which led to the forming of ActiveState) but he is also known for his very refreshing presentation style.

First shown at OSCON 2005, Hardt manages to cram I-don’t-know-how-many-slides into a 30 minute presentation and still make the information stick. Just about everyone I talked to liked Hardt’s presentation the most. Not only because of the style, but rather because the topic he choose to discuss really hits home with most of us and proves to be a major annoyance for most internet users.

As far as the content goes, the presentation was basically an extended version of the OSCON 2005 talk, spiced up with new information, two funny product placements (with total disclosure) and some additional thoughts as to what Hardt hopes to achieve with his product and how he wants to achieve it.

The speaker sessions were concluded with Rod Beckstrom author of “The Starfish and the Spider” who offered his own point of view on how old, web 1.0 businesses work and how, according to him, web 2.0 businesses should work.

For his talk, he makes use of an interesting analogy which includes starfish and spiders. In essence, Beckstrom told the audience that centralized command structures are bad. They were the downfall of such “great” businesses as Napster, because all that needed to be killed off was one main point and all the satellite locations would die too.

This is not unlike a spider, if you remove one leg (satellite location), you’d still have a working system, but if you’d remove the head (headquarters), your system would collapse.

With new businesses and organizations (Beckstrom referenced the Taliban which was refreshing, to say the least) the command structure more and more starts to resemble starfish. If you remove one leg (satellite location), you’d still have a working system, if you were to remove all five legs, something incredible would happen.

Due to the nature of the body of the starfish, all five legs would start to grow on their own and form into five starfish. The central part of the body would die off, but the satellite locations would continue to function. Naturally, this process can not be repeated indefinitely, because eventually resources (human, financial in the case of a business) would wear thin and new satellites would have too little material to start with, but at least the whole system wouldn’t collapse right from the start.

It’s interesting to see how an analogy to one of the most talked about organizations in the world can be considered the basis of the new way a business should be set up. Distburbing? No. Inspiring? Heck yes.