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

leweb3fingers
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.

[Technorati: leweb3]

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Kris Tuttle

    I think it’s time we organized a real pan-european emerging technology conference. It’s a big effort but if enough qualified people would dedicate time and energy to it we could pull it off. My model would be the O’Reilly ETech event held in San Diego which I think is the best out there. We have all the resources here to do it. I would never trust the group that defiled Le Web 3 again!

  2. Hans on Experience

    Le Web3: Loic’s own blogstorm. …

    I like Loic. He is a real entrepreneur and a cool guy. He did a terrific job as VP at Six Apart. Great weblogtools they have: TypePad, Movabe Type, LiveJournal and VOX. I used TypePad and now I am using Movable Type.It did not disturb me that his ego i…

  3. Nicole Simon

    Kris, having been at this years Etech I would say we do not want to take this as a model ;o)

    Neville yes, you are right. But the anger needs to get out first before we have time to go back and track what we have seen and what has been good with this.

    There are more things to report and also more good things to report which do need a) time and should b) not presented now but in some days to really go through with what they should be.

    And actually a lot of the speakers should be asked to tell us what they would have liked to get across as messages and such – because there was not enough time for that. Not the same old pitches we heard before but their new ideas.

    I did not see sparkling stars but I know they have to be there.

    As for the Pan-European event – ack. Well, probably Barcamp Europe.

  4. Jeff Clavier

    Neville, the session you were supposed to join us for did take place. Not only was I there in person – unlike so many people adding their comments about LeWeb3 without actually being here , having “heard” or “read” things – I actually moderated it. Sorry you were not there, I would have loved to get the “in game business” aspect covered as well.

  5. Ewan Spence

    Jeff, Neville was indeed due onto the “When Will Virtual Life Be Better,” as was I. This was cancelled though, and the speakers were then rolled into “The Future of Gaming” session. Two thirty minute sessions were pushed together into a single 30 minute session to make way for Loic’s Political Seminars. And really once everything started up, and teh audience were warming to questions, we had to stop. Not a fulfilling experience for the audience or the panel in my opinion.

  6. Parisist

    LeWeb3: The Sarkozy and Le Meur Backlash Continues [en]…

    As Parisist reported yesterday, leWeb3 attendees are pissed, disgusted, disappointed, bloody angry… you name it. The blogosphere is still buzzing about Tuesday’s surprising and controversial change of program… the appearance of presidential candi…

  7. guido van nispen

    Neville

    You were not there, I was and that offers me both the feedback you see and hear and my own experiences. And therefore I would like to share them here.

    If you like a hot rollercoaster ride with many surprises, French culture and food, great company, fun, the openness to express whatever opinion and an open space for egocasting, then accept the mix of what’s on offer, even if not everything is exactly as what every individual would like to see…

    LeWeb3 will never be like LesBlogs again, and that is simple fact to me. The elements involved are moving too fast for that and there is no return path, nor should there be.

    After the two days (that really felt like a rollercoaster with men in suits, kilts, orange shirts and women with furry hats, great dinners with fellow Dutchmen and people from all over the world, parties, ….) I look back very satisfied at my stay in Paris, where I found many new and old friends, got new insights and saw the convergence and growth in front of me.

    I know that not everybody can be everywhere, but this is definitely an event that was best consumed in real life rather then in second life :)

  8. David Tebbutt

    After a lot of searching (goodness knows why) I found a positive report: http://ouriel.typepad.com/myblog/2006/12/dead_tired_but_.html

    Whatever Loic’s excuses (hijacked by the political machine is the most likely), he actually appears to have forgotten the objectives of his audience when parting with their cash. While the event provided a focal point for networking, it’s no reason to treat the conference as a side show.

    Year one was fantastic, year two was iffy and this year I had decided not to go, even before events prevented me anyway. Thank goodness. You know how grumpy I can be.

  9. paul miller

    I think comments along the lines of “I went expecting a tech conference” are cripplingly smallminded (as well as blind to the subtext of the as-advertised end-of-day-two agenda). Web 2.0, social media, the blogosphere, whatever – these things don’t exist in a vacuum. An injection of relevant socio-political content is IMO precisely what these events need.

    No, the problem as I see it was an agenda so packed as to afford those presenting just 20 minutes, tops – hardly enough time in which to convey their ideas, let alone engage in serious debate. And given the naïve utopianism that I felt afflicted a number of key speakers – Hans Rosling, Shimon Peres, David Weinberger – serious debate would have been very welcome indeed.

    As indeed would have been your contribution to the virtual life panel – the business aspects of SL barely received a mention.

  10. neville

    Well, I’ve now caught up with quite a few more posts. All I’ve seen (except the two you mention, David) is angry and highly critical commentary, mostly about the unexpected programme changes.

    I wasn’t there so I won’t be judgemental, something I was careful about when I wrote this post. But it does seem to me, from reading such a vast amount of angry people’s opinions, that something is seriously amiss if one very visible result from a conference is a lot of very pissed off attendees.

    I’ve noticed more fallout – Sam Sethi being fired by TechCrunch over posts on TechCrunch UK.

    I agree with you, Kris, re having “a real pan-european emerging technology conference.” I’m sure talk on that will develop in the coming weeks.

    And David, I’m with you completely re the original Les Blogs events last year. The first one in April – that was a tremendous event. Informal and a bit chaotic. Great, in other words. The second in December, wholly different, better organized, but still a great event. And now this.

    More a tragedy than a farce, I think. What’s next?

  11. Nicole Simon

    I do use the term tech conference in the sense that ze internet is a concept still misterious to many people and considered highly technical, computers are even that way.

    If you say you will have a new great and very french conference – that actually would have helped. And yes, I would have stayed home then, because I am not interested in simply french. I am interested in Europe and how to work things out in there.

    And as you said this is also business. If you promise X you deliver X. There are variation where you can surprise with and enhance it. All for it. I may be more experimental than you might think.

    But you do not take the money and make your own thing of it and expect the audience to applaude at the end. This is what artists are for.

  12. Ivan Pope

    I think two entirely different events have just happened in France. It’s just a pity they weren’t integrated. On the one hand, a traditional conference was organised, sold and then hacked to bits on the fly. Personally, I would have no problem at all with the conference being hacked to bits, so long as it was to allow funky exciting memes to emerge. But it wasn’t , or if that was the intention, it failed.
    The other event was a mass love-in on the networking front. And this was great and great fun and very rewarding. I’m clear on this, it was great.
    So we had a great event and a failed event merged into one. The problem as I see it is that the conference could have been a lot more ambitious (and a little less crowded). A lot of people seem to be accepting that, well, it’s a conference, what more can you expect. But we’re now used to being engaged in a conversation, not talked at. We expect a conference in this space to try harder to leverage the attention that it has gathered. This conference didn’t do that – so for all the excellent networking around it, the two events remained separate. What I mean by this is that the conversations around the conference weren’t inspired and driven by the conference. Which is a pity. I’m sure we can do better than this.

  13. Open The Dialogue

    LOTD: December 14th…

    Users of social networking sites can now connect via the phone thanks to a new click-to-call app called Jaxtr. You can’t actually see the phone number that you’re calling but clicking a link will connect you to the cell phone……

  14. neville

    Those are good points, Ivan. Some more days have now passed, and more opinions have been expressed, especially Loic’s lengthy explanations/robust defence yesterday.

    Loic says some very interesting things in his thoughtful post (as do many of the commenters) about the way in which such conferences in Europe should evolve in the future. This is beyond just being about blogs, Loic says. I agree.

    Yet what Le Web 3 was about in the sense of pissed off attendees was unexpected changes and unmet expectations. If you don’t let people know what’s happening, don’t be surprised if quite a few get upset, and vocally so.

    Still, with Loic’s post, this melodrama ought to have run its course now. Time to focus on the bigger picture Loic is holding up for attention. That may well indicate the ultimate value out of this kerfuffle.

  15. 360 Digital Influence » Blog Archive » LeWeb3 storm in Paris

    […] It could have been but it is not so. Leweb3 buzz is built on a  key booster : a non specific powerful web’s item that traditional media have been fond of for ages : CONTROVERSY. The breaking news is that the web has become one of the first players in the controversy mechanism. At the end of the first day, most attendees agreed that the most interesting part of the conference was the networking possibilities and the access to an impressive list of international speakers. Despite the absence of  significant news in the speeches, this was a perfect environment to update knowledge and share different point of views. The second day turned into a completely different mood when unexpectedly some of the spokespeople were asked to leave some space to Shimon Perez and two candidates for the French presidential election, including Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative runner who is openly supported by the organiser Loïc Le Meur. I was actually in the room, I can then recall the very discreet way in which the audience chose to react : a standing ovation for Perez,  a polite applause for the first candidate François Bayrou,  and a few whistles here and there when Sarkozy refused any interaction with the audience. Regardless of a rather calm in site attendees’ behaviour,  the real storm occured on the worldwide web : Old Fashioned Propaganda, a French Farce (or is it a tragedy ?), Le Web conference and Le Backlash, betraying 1000 attendees for political ambitions… More than 5.000 messages have been so far tracked by Technorati. And a blogger of Techcrunch UK was fired by his boss further to his note, and  recently rewrote from Loic le Meur’s point of view. A storm indeed. I would have appreciated such a storm in the real life, during the event, a live debate instead of a virtual execution. As an attendee and beyond all controversy, here are my key learnings : […]

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