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The Next Web 2008 - recap!

posted in Events on April 3rd, 2008

In a couple of hours, the third edition of the The Next Web conference will be held at the picturesque Westergasfabriek and once again, I am excited to be able to attend.

Last year’s edition definitely rocked and there is a good chance that this year is going to be equally as good, if not better.

The past two edition both were day-long events with a number of interesting speakers, good talks and an equally awesome after-party, this year however, the conference, including side-events is set to last three days.

Considering that I have had little luck with WiFi during the past two editions and even though, Boris promised better WiFi support this year, I will be giving previously mentioned mobile 2.0 service Treasuremytext a try.

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Video Vortex Conference (Saturday) - recap

posted in Events on January 19th, 2008

The second (and last) day of Video Vortex kicked off with a promising presentation, given by Thomas Elsaesser on the narrativity in cinema and video in general.

Mr. Elsaesser used the Honda Cog ad, which worked very well with the crowd, especially since he also showed the “spin offs” of the actual ad.

Elsaesser concluded his speech by saying that:

YouTube can be addictive as it drags you along, but after two or three hours, a sense of entropy sets in and the joy of discovering the unexpected wears of

Powerful words, no doubt about it. All in all, his presentation is difficult to summarize in a few words, but definitely the kind of talk I was hoping to hear during the conference.

Next up was Jan Simons who talked about the effects of tagging (especially in the sense of Flickr) on a system as a whole.

According to Simons, tagging creates messy categories, which is of course true, especially considering that many things have more than one meaning (homonymy), such as “rock” in a musical sense and “rock” in a geological sense and then there are things that have more than one name (synonymy), such as the season known as fall and autumn.

It basically comes down to the fact that tags cannot be trusted when trying to categorize content, because, and I will use another example from Simons here, a tag such as “in England” might mean that one, a picture was made in England, or two, a picture could reflect the life in England.

The speech was concluded with an example of massive tag overuse, which can be found here.

The third speaker of the morning panel, Dan Oki talked about space and the importance of space in video as well as how, for example, the Blair Witch Project was important for the evolution of cinematography.

After a quick lunch, the afternoon sessions were set to start, but a Jane Doe (Gabriele something) took the stage to talk about a project of hers called “GaMa”, which tries to be a gateway to archives of media art.

A quick search reveals that they already received 1.8 million US Dollars in funding from the European Union nearly two years ago, yet the Jane Doe, initiator of the project, just explained that they are still trying to figure out their business model. It does make one wonder how the European Union decides who to fund and who not to fund …

After a quick intermission, the actual panel, with a focus on curating online video was kicked off by Sarah Cook

Patrick Lichty, professor of Interactive Art and Media Theory at the Columbia College in Chicago shared his thoughts about online video in relation to context, tradition and audience.

Nothing really ground-breaking there other than a couple of, to me, obvious reasons why artists have not yet embraced YouTube and probably never will, unless YouTube changes the way they treat their contributing members.

Lichty’s conclusion quickly referenced LOLCats and that, somehow, made the whole thing go full circle.

After another quick break, Tilman Baumgärtel started the final panel of the conference, Participatory Culture.

Pirated media in Asias was the main topic of Baumgärtel’s talk, he explained how piracy in Asia is different to Europe, because of the lack of availability of high-speed Internet access in rural areas and also because of the lack of trust.

Whereas in Europe and the Americas, downloads are the primary form of piracy, Asians prefer physical stuff such as CDs and DVDs.

The speaker also talked about a movie called Ciplak, an ultra-low-budget production that was filmed over the span of a month, with a Canon XM2 Mini DV cam and equipment such as Ikea lamps.

The movie, however, looks great and I would recommend anyone interested in indi-media (or Asian movies) to check it out - we were treated to a few minutes of it and all had a good laugh.

At one point, Baumgärtel talked about how some film makers use pirates as a(nother) selling channel: pirates are seeded with a semi-good quality version of the film and after enough momentum has been established, the director releases a DVD with a high-resolution version of the movie and to make it even more interesting, also includes games, screensavers and a making off. While it does sound a tad crazy to most Europeans, I can see how this kind of marketing would work in a market that primarily relies on piracy.

It would appear that the whole piracy thing is a very strict business. For every one master copy of a new movie that enters the country, three copies are made and distributed, within 24 hours or less, to the different islands. Only then does local reproduction of a pirated movie actually start and even then, the production only happens during the day. The reason for that is simply that the pressing plants generate more noise than most neighbors would accept during the night and with the police breathing down the necks of pirates, giving “the man” another reason to lock you up might not seem the smartest move.

More information on Baumgärtel’s talk and works can be found on asian-edition.org, a name that spans from the time where the government of an Asian nation issued a decree that allowed the local populace to copy and distribute European and American books and other publications.

Ana Percaica’s topic was “Avi and Divx Art” and brushes topics such as the copyright laws in Croatia and the destruction and confiscation of videotheque copies in the early Nineties.

She talked about how, for example, a home-made porn video of a local celebrity gained so much exposure that we number of downloads came very close to the number of total inhabitants of Croatia and did a good job at explaining why the whole concept of “copyright” does not work all that well in Croatia.

Severina, the porn-lady, was also the underlying topic of the whole talk; it would appear that, in order to protect her innocence (uhuh), Severina apparently asked for all downloaded copies back (yes, the audience chuckled on that note), a clear indicator that the concept of downloads is not as obvious as it would appear to be.

Severina even instructed her lawyer to force the portal that distributed the clip to remove it, but could only support her claim by stating that the video invaded her privacy - which it did not, since she was the one that leaked it initially and her follow-up attempt, claiming that it was “video art”, was also dismissed, based on the grounds of the fact that home-made porn is not art, because it simply is not innovative. Maybe you should have gone for the whipped cream and honey after all, Severina?

The last speech of the day was given by Dominic Chen, who works with Creative Commons Japan.
Of all the speeches that were given during the whole conference, I would have to say that his was the best.

His topic, the critical point of the commons and digital prochronism (yes, it is a mouthful) was both interesting and innovative.

Chen presented on the explosive grow of content and the need for a meta-platform that would be able to handle the growth, he touched on subjects such as the war for openess between Google on Facebook and spiced up his talk with interesting images and video clips as well as clean presentation slides.

All in all, Chen shared some great notes and thoughts with us and really knew how to handle the, seemingly difficult audience.

As always, once Chen’s speech got interesting, the producers told the speaker to wrap it up and call it a day. A quick recap was given and the bar opened.

The first Video Vortex in Amsterdam, to me, was a moderate success. The second day was much better than the first one, mostly because the speakers were more interesting to me and talked about stuff I actually could relate to. Nonetheless, it was a welcome change of the

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Seedcamp - Saul Klein’s answer to Fast Cities 2007?

posted in Media on July 12th, 2007

Hot on the heels of Fast Company’s announcement about Fast Cities and the lack thereof as far as Europe goes, Saul Klein and Reshma Sohoni announced their newest initiative called Seedcamp.

Klein’s vision is simple:

We’re looking for the brightest and the best young entrepreneurs across Europe, Middle East and Africa to blow us away with their ideas for game-changing businesses.

What’s even better is that Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten, of The Next Web fame, decided to provide some additional exposure to two of the selected Seedcamp teams.

Watch out Fast Company, next year, Europe will most certainly have a lot more to show than we did this year.

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Fast Cities 2007

posted in Media on July 11th, 2007

In today’s highly linked world, one might say that the geographical location of a business does not matter anymore, after all, the Internet lets you work with anyone, anytime anywhere, right?. Wrong, businesses still depend on good locations and there are people out their that want you to help with finding the right one.

Fast Company, just published their 2007 listing of Fast Cities. The list is essentially a guide on great (perfect?) places to start your new business:

You’re smart, young, newly graduated from a university with the whole world before you. You could settle in a small town with well-tended lawns, pancake suppers, and life on a human scale. Or you could truck it to the big city, with all its din and dog-eat-dog lunacy. Your choice?

While the list in itself is pretty interesting and contains good advice on the various hot spots, I wonder why so few European cities and especially not one Dutch city made the cut.

Yes, there is a kind fright amongst European companies as far as innovation and great business ideas go, but still, we aren’t doing that bad, are we?

Microsoft choose to beta test their Live service in the Netherlands first. Why? Because we have the highest broadband penetration in the whole western world.

Whenever you check out new technology, there is some kind of Dutch influence. Be i that we helped produce the product, helped support it or just am the nation with the most users of said product.

We might not always come in first, but we surely are not the last ones to finish, so why are we not on the Fast City listing?

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The Next Web 2007 – Dinner, Awards Show and After-Party party Recap

posted in Events on June 8th, 2007

The first edition of The Next Web conference featured an after-party that was held at Boris’ private residence in the heart of Amsterdam, five minutes from the venue where the conference was held. While I’m certain that Boris could have rented a huge party area, I loved the fact that he managed to keep the whole thing on a very social level. Basically, it was like meeting some old friends for a quick beer after work. Only difference to a normal “Friday” was that those “friends” were specialists and gurus such as Kevin Kelly, AMS-IX and mabber.com representatives, among many others. The personal aspect, combined with a location that provided users with four (geographical) areas to hold conversations, proved most useful for networking purposes.

This year, Boris decided to rent the famous club / restaurant / all-round great place Odeon, one of Amsterdam’s hottest bars and the main location of the 2006 after party. Great move on Boris part, ‘cause it prevented the group from breaking up too soon. Out of the approximately 500 people that attended the conference, some 150 showed up for the Dinner at the Odeon and, after some small talk, enjoyed a great dinner, with each other.

Prior to the actual dinner, I came across Marjolijn van den Assem, Boris mother and engaged her in a conversation about the conference and the day’s events. Even though van den Assem isn’t your typical Web 2.0 conference attendee, it was obvious that she really paid close attention to what the speakers at the conference talked about.

As luck would have it, I managed to get a seat at the Veldhuijzen van Zanten table that was a bit more secluded that the rest and provided a great environment for interesting talk. I happened to know van den Assem from Boris blog and I have to say that I haven’t had such an interesting conversation in a long time. As a person who is deeply interested in Nietzsche, van den Assem devoted the last 30 years of her life to studying the teachings of the scientist. Her work was recently published in a book called “Seelenbriefe”.

Talking to van den Assem is a cleansing experience; she, unlike others, really listens to what you have to say and isn’t afraid to share her own experiences with you, basically, this is all you need to keep a conversation going for a long time.

Then, at 8 pm, Veldhuijzen van Zanten kicked off the The Next Web 2007 Awards show. The whole experience was great, especially because I got to accept an award that was actually destined for Wikipedia.

Jimbo, apparently, could not make it to the show, so they picked the next best guy, me (make sure to click on that link, it really is worth it!).

After a great Awards show, the real after-party started, but I will let the photographs speak for themselves.

All in all, The Next Web 2007 was as great as the 2006 edition, if not even greater. I learned a lot, met a lot of interesting people and had an awesome time.

Once again, congratulations Boris (and crew) for managing to set up something as kick-ass as this.

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