The ‘future of the web’ a grand vision that is being considered and debated at this week’s FOWA. You could be forgiven for assuming the ‘future of the web’ is both white and male – the demography of Internet engineers/web developers/IT professionals remains resilient to change. Wider, unchallenged social gender biases were especially prominent in Osama Bedler’s (PayPal) presentation. While Bedler’s talk on embracing change and moving forward with positivity into a cashless future was well delivered, inspired and fun, the promotional clip from PayPal depicted an intransigent world where women retained greatest responsibility for getting the shopping in and ‘mom still made all the meals’. Yeah, way to challenge ‘the now’ and envision a liberated future. Yet, the conference has included some exciting technology announcements in a convivial atmosphere in West London.
Day 1 included some fantastic talks. Highlights for me? I took a lot from Mike McDermot’s (FreshBooks) perspective on priority marketing systems required for even the most scope-trimmed start-ups; this is not my area of expertise and conferences, especially Think Visibility, have been a great source of Internet-focused marketing information. Bruce Lawson’s (Opera) discussion and demonstration of HTML5 was thrilling and has me itching to implement new rules in my app’s mark-up. Chris Thorpe’s (The Guardian) talk on how The Guardian is seeking to adapt to a changing world through ‘mutualisation’ included a lot of lessons for industries/organisations clinging to outmoded business models and pointed to the prudence of embracing change and innovation in telecommunications. Aza Raskin (Mozilla) finished the evening with pizazz, with a thrilling discussion and demonstration of the future of browsers as Mozilla understands. Mozilla, again, is pushing a sound agenda of personal ownership and individual liberty by innovating a ‘you-centric’ browser. Inspiring, cogent stuff; not to mention the semi-gratuitous bondage pic included in the presentation appealed to my sense of fun.
With highlights come lowlights. FOWA has many corporate sponsers – a pro and a con – and the panel talk on experiments with building in ASP dot net MVC left me cold; while the tech sounded decent, though the panel’s developer (Matt Lee, Redgate) noted it represented more of a ‘catching up’, it all seemed a bit staged and infomercial. Similarly, the breathless, chirpy presentation for Facebook (Cat Lee) regarding FB Connect was not up to par. The rep delivered what seemed in many ways to be a ‘canned talk’; the announcement of a Connect API was exciting and the tech looks interesting, but the delivery did not seem at all appropriate to the audience. While I absolutely agree with Addison Berry’s (Lullabot) message that employers benefit from facilitating passion through transparent communication, I was a bit disappointed by her talk which vaguely alluded to all the ‘cool shit’ and ‘crazy shit’ she was able to do working in Open Source. What is this ‘amazing shit’ – no idea – specific anecdotes/examples would have left me with less of an impression that she was ‘talkin’ shit’.
My morning break is coming to a close. All I can say is am looking forward to Vaynerchuck this evening – fuck yeah!