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FOWA London ’08 – Day one thoughts

October 10, 2008

Today I spent most of the day sitting in the Business sessions. Overall the conference is great, very enjoyable speakers and the videos of all the sessions is being put up at: http://events.carsonified.com/fowa/2008/london/content

It all kicked off with an introduction from Ryan Carson, he has a cool hat, he was followed by Kevin Rose.

Kevin Rose (Founder of Digg, Revision 2, Pownce and legendary lothario) kicked off the first session with an overview of what is happening at Digg and the ‘future of news’. Quite a short session but enjoyable.

Kevin discussed how users get news, and its really from two main sources:

1. People that you know, friends, recommendations, email, IM etc
2. The unfiltered masses, social bookmarks, referrals, Digg, Vote etc

Digg.com are trying to bridge the gap between the two information sources, to create a personalized news service. The first part of this is the recommendation engine that looks at your browsing and digging history and closer aligns you with similar browsers and diggers. As a user you can then push your recommendations out to your social network.

Kevin estimates that traffic and referrals from the site has increased by 40% because of this service.

Edwin Aoki – AOL

A great session from Edwin, he didn’t really talk about the AOL developer community, which I was especially pleased about ;)

I wont really do his pitch justice but basically it was ‘what is the future of web apps’, and basically the conclusion is web apps are on the decline, SDK is the future. He bases this on the number of SDKs being created and opened up from traditional web app companies, Google, AOL, Yahoo, Apple etc, they all have SDKs

Edwin drew a great conclusion to the global financial crisis, where people wanted shiny mortgages and us web developers wanted shiny web 2.0 apps. Where we as web developers get really hung up about getting crazily involved in the technical details consumers dont care about validating HTML, CSS vs tables etc people just want to use stuff that works.

Edwin also spoke about using the tools we have available and not getting too heads down about creating everything ourselves, but he would say that, hes from AOL developer network. However, the basis was companies large and small start sharing ideas and collaborating together thats when great ideas happen.

I spent some time discussing the Open ID architecture with Edwin.

Suw Charman-Anderson – Technology and Physiology

How you can turn your users into super customers, via behavior changes.

The major problem is the technology ideas are made far to early before the people factor is included. If we understand how the people factor works you can create better web apps. Great talk, and very interesting again I will not do this justice. Suw, dealt with lots of issues including why are people addicted to certain sites and what is it that makes a compulsive experience.

There were lots of comparisons between sites that are totally compelling and mealy satisfying. Taking out the conscious choice of surfing a site makes things more interactive, the random button is one of the best inventions.

Suw also discussed a few other non web points including some of the hidden interrupt costs and the psychology of email, not so relevant but very interesting, some food for thought.

Because I am a smart arse and I exchanged a few emails with Suw way back in the day (we both got involved in pledgebank.org) I had to ask a question:

“What element of psychology can ecommerce merchants leverage to turn users into clicking consumers” or something like that ;)

The answer is to create an emotional reward for repeat customers, getting people involved making that personal connection. I liked that and we can learn a lot from that.

Kevin Marks – Cloud Computing

Seriously tough act to follow, but Kevin did a pretty good job nice to see its not only me that has problems with presenter app on the mac.

Kevin did a good job talking about “cloud computing” basically its someone else’s problem!

Kevins pitch then turned into discussing the Open Social initiative and how to reach the next generation of customers. He had an interesting slide about how kids view email and that is just know as something thats formal, its something they use to talk to there teachers or the bank, not there friends of brands they care about. Another interesting comment, kids have only known email as something full of spam.

“Here lies email, not really dead but used by kids to only talk to the man”

For sites to be really successful they need to draw on trust networks. Forms are generally seen as a barrier, however as soon as you see the logo for your favorite social network people are happy to log into the networks from third party sites. Social network sites are also becoming personal dashboards, if you can do something from a single place it makes life easier therefore more likely to happen.

Stefan Fountain – Future of mobile web

Dutch Rock star and founder of Soocial. Great presentation about the future of mobile web. His theory was the future of mobile is about being mobile, the concept of mobility, not a phone, future is not a device.

Stefan discussed how location based services will be a major part of the future of mobile, how to find a shop / retail outlet.

Ron Richards – Revision 3

I think Ron is the head of marketing for Revision 3, internet tv. Interesting pitch about how people view tv differently, and how its becoming a two way channel enabling the viewers to feedback etc. I enjoyed this one from a purely selfish perspective as I watch quite a few of the Rev3 shows, including his iFanboy.

Ben Huh – LOLCATZ

I have to say, in all the conferences and all the pitches I have ever seen, this one has to be in the absolute top three. Quite simply it was brilliant. Ben Huh is the owner of the website icanhascheezburger.com which is basically a website that has pictures of cats with silly captions, and one of the most visited sites worldwide. Bens presentation however wasn’t about cats, it was about building, maintaining and owning an online community, very relevant and topical. It was also proof that you can still make money on the interenet doing anything!

One of the lessons I will take from this is how a userbase if broken down:

Not interested – People that may be involved in you somehow, but not really interested in being part of a community.
Casual Fans – People that may come to your community, find something useful but dont really stick around.
Hard Core Fans – The 1% that are obsessed!

Ben spent time telling us about how they used to just focus on the core fanbase, and its unsustainable, its time consuming and it dosn’t help grow your business / community. The key is to spend the time with the Casual Fans, and work to convert them into the Hard Core category.

Other people I saw today:

Tony Fish – How to take your web app mobile

Very boring, sure it was all very relevant but I nearly fell asleep.

Crick Walters – Ribbit / BT

Very composed presenter, he spoke about voiceapps and how voice and web apps are mashing up through RIAs.

SalesForce.com

Spent a lot of time with SalesForce today, we discussed the Platform as a Service modules of Force.com, it was great.

Dragons Den pitches

This section was great it was the closer for the day. Based on Dragon Dens style session where five start ups had to pitch to:

Mike Butcher from TechCrunch
Brent Hogerman from Lastminute.com
Jason Calacanis – Mahalo.com / super VC
Ryan Carson – Event orginiser

Each “Dragon” had to score the idea out of 10.

First one: Phonesfromhere.com

A website to add voice to your website, allowing people to talk to your advertisers directly from your site. There is an API and its aimed at listing sites, it has a gateway into Skype (wonder why the hell Skype wouldn’t just eat this start up up TBH). He got slated by Jason Calacanis, but hes pretty controversial chap anyway, I like him ;)

Scores were: 4 / 6 / 4 / 3

my score: 2 – crap idea, hope he hasn’t spent too much money on this, too close to existing tech

Second one: Pascal – Raffle.it

Market place for raffles online, each raffle has a fixed number of tickets, everything has a physical product so everyone comes away with something, eg: a ticket for a house may not win a house but it will be used for something else, I missed how this would be guaranteed.

EG: your selling a Nintendo Wii, you choose a number of tickets so you get a guaranteed level of sale

Terrible pitch, but I really liked this idea, its a great alternative to selling something on eBay. Jason C also thought this would be a good thing for lead gen for lots of companies.

Scores: 9 / 8.5 / 6 / 7

My score: 8

Third one: Josh March – i platform

Josh pitched his business as the future of online communities, allows any site to instantly be dumped into the social networks. Allows cross communication between the social networks. so for example you can take a site and you can deliver it into the social networks.

I really liked this, when I thought it was an easy way to involve a site in social networks, but I struggle to understand how this is a revolutionary product. I think facebook connect will kill this in the water.

My score: 7 because I liked Josh, product could be good but its not polished but to be fair 60 seconds isn’t enough to understand it.

Scores: 6 / 5 / 6 / 6.5

Fourth one: Diary.com

not a blog or a social network but a diary aimed at 16 – 25 women

dull dull dull

Stupid idea, there is already a diary app for all social networks, you can even use something like a wordpress blog and just leave it in unpublished mode. JC killed them, I am liking him even more, every time he speaks. Again, I hope they haven’t spent too much money on this. The best thing about this is the domain name, which they would have spent a fortune for.

Scores: 5 / 3 / 5 / 6

myscore: 1, crap

Fifth: erepublic

Online version of Risk MMORP game, text based rollplaying game online based on 15 minutes per day. make money by selling republic gold. Really funny to find that Brent from lastminute.com has already invested in these guys.

I liked this, good fun, and simple, I bet these guys will fly.

scores: 9 / 10 / 9 Brent couldn’t score ;)

“show the curve to a VC and you will get the money” JC

Winner: erepublic

All in all its been a great first day. I haven’t written about any of the university sessions I have attended but I have lots of notes. For day two I am jumping over to the developer track.

From → Conferences, Web Tech

6 Comments
  1. Hey Benjamin,

    Cheers for the mention – and the comment on my write up!

    I would say that I think it is possible to explain the iPlatform fully in 60 seconds; just that I didn’t do it well enough on Thursday:)

    Re: Facebook Connect, although I think this is great, I don’t think it will change the fundamental behaviour of users (e.g. with Chelsea FC, it wasn’t barrier to entry which caused them to stay in their social networks, it was just that they were already in Facebook, so why go somewhere else?).

    Josh

  2. Josh,

    No problem, it was great to see you guys up on that stage. After doing some research on you guys I take back my comments regarding Connect its a different solution of a different problem!

    If you ever want to talk E-Commerce just get in touch.

    Ben

  3. Hi Benjamin,

    Thanks for the mention but I’m from Holland not Sweden! Glad you enjoyed my talk and didn’t fall asleep. ;-)

    Stefan

  4. Hi Ben, many thanks for taking the trouble to write up about us – and appreciate such a generous score from you! You’re absolutely right, my 60 seconds was nervous and a little confused – I got completely flustered and it fell apart from there. Still an incredible opportunity and the panel were surprisingly good to me (I think that was due to Raffle.it and not how it was presented though).

    I’ll give you a call this week to carry on from our very brief chat in Fox.

    Cheers and thanks again.

    -Pascal

  5. Stefan, sorry dude, corrected!

    I spend far too much time with a guy that (thinks he) looks like a Rock star who really is Swedish.

  6. Pascal, great, glad you found my blog!

    Looking forward to speaking again.

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