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.

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What is Identity?

posted in College, personal stuff on September 25th, 2006

The following text is part of a presentation I’m scheduled to give in a few hours. The assignment was to discuss a topic of our choosing, for example a book, political issue, a charity and get the listeners to take action.

I decided to go with “What is Identity?” as the topic, mainly because I think that identity plays a very important role in our lives, yet most people never stop to think about “identity” or the effect it has on a society.

FYI: the first reference I make is in regards of a presentation I gave a few days ago. The topic was the Dutch PM J. P. Balkenende and as part of my assignment I discussed his personal life and his identity. Hope that clears things up a little.

The presenation is available as a PDF file here, an updated version is available here.

[SLIDE #0]
Good afternoon ladies and gentleman, today I’m _NOT_ gonna discuss anything relating to politics, but rather something entirely different. Last week, as most of you will remember, we discussed [SLIDE #1] the identity of the Dutch PM, today [PAUSE 1] today I’m [SLIDE #2] gonna talk about identity and I’ll try to explain [SLIDE #3] what it really is.

Before we start out with the presentation, I’d like to explain that there is not [SLIDE #4] just one form of identity, but rather half a dozen, well [PAUSE 1], that count anyway.

So first of all there’s [SLIDE #5] personal identity, it basically defines who you are. Then there’s [SLIDE #6] the psychological identity, which truly defines who you are and what makes you unique. Those two are an essential part of your social [SLIDE #7] identity. [PAUSE 1] next we have the [SLIDE #8] cultural identity, which defines your identity within a group of people. It may also influence your [SLIDE #9] online identity, which of course is part of your [SLIDE #10] digital identity.


As you can see, there are many forms of [SLIDE #11] identity and to keep things from getting too complicated, I’ll just discuss one of the above mentioned - [SLIDE #12] the personal identity. [PAUSE 1] As the name suggests, the personal identity defines who you are, it tells others who you are and it stands for what [SLIDE #13] makes you you.

When I asked a colleague of mine what identity meant to her, she responded that personal identity was synonymous with characteristics to her. I beg to differ. While the person I spoke to is right as that characteristics form a part of our identity, she confused the “social identity” with “personal identity”.

Here’s an example: Think of two guys, both have [SLIDE #14] brown hair, it’s even [SLIDE #15] short. They both have grey [SLIDE #16] eyes and they’re medium [SLIDE #17] tall. [PAUSE 1] Would you say the guys are [SLIDE #18] identical, based on these characteristics? She did and I hope you wouldn’t.

A personal [SLIDE #19] identity is a lot more than just looks, it defines who [SLIDE #20] you are, what you [SLIDE #21] are and what you could [SLIDE #22] have been.

[PAUSE 1] To be perfectly honest, you could think about this for hours on end and not come to a conclusive answer, trust me, I tried. So why am I bothering you with this?

[PAUSE 1] Basically, what I want you to do is to take a break sometime today, tomorrow, whenever you feel like it, sit back, try to focus on your being. Not your soul, but rather your … character, your … “you”. Think about what you are, more importantly who you are, how you came to be the person that you are and what you think you could be [PAUSE 1]. Then, think some more … try to find out how you can be the person you could be, think about what you have to do to get there. Then forget about it.[SLIDE #23]

[PAUSE 1] Sure, it’s important to think about the future, about possible ways it all could have been; [SLIDE #24] You could have been born 50 years ago, maybe even a hundred, you could be born in ten years, you could have been a a girl or a boy. It all really doesn’t matter. What matters is that you accept who you are. _Be_ content with what you are, who you are. Don’t frown about things you have no control over, but rather accept that you already are a great person.

If you can manage that, you have reached a level of selfrespect, maybe even bliss, that most people never reach. Congratulations, you’re now a lot more unique than before.

The red, green and blue tags you’re seeing are something I came up with about a year ago. I call it PPML - the PowerPoint Markup Language. Basically it’s a way of writing a text and working the important events of your presentation into it. I’ve bee using it for about five presentations so far and to be honest, it rocks. It makes presenting a whole lot easier, not only for me, but also for any assistant who is helping out with switching slides and stuff.

During the last presentations, I came up with a few tags, stuff that is easy to remember and easy to spot (especially if you color code it).

[SLIDE #X] - basically tells you (your assistant) that the next slide should be displayed now. “X” here stands for any number. My first slide is always empty (so as to not give away the topic too early) and as such it’s #0.

[PAUSE X] - tells you to take a pause, I find that 1, 2 and 5 seconds are the most efficient uses. “1 second” if I’m switching from subtopic to subtopic, “2 seconds” if I’m switching to an entirely new topic and “5 seconds” if I’m giving the word to another speaker.

[LOOK X] - tells you that you should make some eye contact. It’s quite basic to do it, but sometimes I just forget, so when I see it in my notes, I know what to do. “X” can either be left, right or center. You’ll hardly ever have to look anywhere else.

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