Le Web 3: A French farce (or is it a tragedy?)

An extraordinary event took place in Paris this week, one that I was due to be part of as a presenter but could not make it.

Le Web 3, the third in a series of Web 2.0-ish events organized by Loic Le Meur, attracted nearly 1,000 people from over 35 countries, all of whom showed up expecting to be part of two days and nights of stimulating discussion, learning and socializing.

While it looks as though the socializing was a success, it seems that you can’t say the same for the conference itself.

Some quite astonishing accounts of how the event was hijacked by French politicians. A lot of anger is being expressed in blog posts by bloggers across Europe, directed at Loic for allowing this to happen.

The photo here by Ben Metcalfe probably sums up those angry feelings.

German blogger and podcaster Nicole Simon (who I know well) has a damning indictment:

[…] This event has been hijacked to be a pit stop of the french presidential election campaign. I do not go to a EUROPEAN conference to listen to a guy in french talking about french politics. I do not care as they do not care. I would have had less problem with having this scheduled on the program, it being in french and having the rest in order.

I did not go to a conference to have to show my id to get in. I did not intent to go to a tech conference and find myself having barred out of the big room because some security wants to search it.

I do not tolerate that a lot of my friends who are supposed to be speaking for 20 min got told the day of the speaking that oh they have to make it in like 10 minutes to make space for some “last minute changes” while as the same time it was possible to organize translation headsets and translaters for those french politicians. I will not tolerate that for another politician questions are cut off of people coming to this conference for a totally different thing.

I will not get taken hostage being part of an audience where the headline actually can be “politician … in front of 1000 of europe’s top technology attendees.”

While I did get a free pass for the conference I still have expenses of several hundred dollars in travel expenses plus my time. This event was set up to be a great conference. But nearly everybody I was talking to was disgusted, disappointed and especially personally disappointed with Loic in this. French too btw.

Plenty of others, too – Dieter Rappold in Austria, for instance, whose post includes a long list of links to other bloggers’ commentaries. Shane Richmond, news editor of The Daily Telegraph, says:

[…] I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. Like many here I can’t help feeling robbed of what I came to see. Today’s topics were far more interesting than yesterday’s but I don’t think the rearranged schedule has done them justice.

I’ve heard that the session about Second Life I was due to present on was cancelled at the last minute, I guess to make way for a politician as Nicole mentions.

And I’ve not seen any positive commentary about the conference from anyone, all overshadowed by anger.

That’s not to say that nothing positive happened. On the contrary, a couple of interesting products and services were launched at Le Web 3:

  • Luxembourg based Wikio, a user-contributed news company, launched Wikio.com, Wikio.de and Wikio.es, aimed respectively at the US, Germany, and Spain.
  • US wiki company Socialtext launched Socialtext Unplugged, a tool that lets you download pages from your wiki and work on it when you’re not connected to the internet.

Guillaume du Gardier has some good video interviews.

Still, wow.

Clearly Loic’s reputation and credibility are firmly on the line. Looking forward to seeing what he has to say about things.

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