First off, Paris rox! I was not expecting to love it as much as i did. I mean, i *hate* cold weather and it’s always a bit disconcerting to be in a city where it’s impossible to understand 99% of what’s going on. What surprised me is that my 2 years of high school French meant that i could follow basic things. Knowing simple words like “gauche” and “droit” were unbelievably useful (given how frequently i get lost). Plus, i could make enough sense of the menu to find duck (mmm… duck). Of course, my pronunciation of said words is ATROCIOUS. Anyhow, i could totally live in Paris (with some French lessons)… that was surprising to me.
Now, onto the controversial Le Web 3 conference… For those who don’t follow tech gossip, it seems as though many people were outraged at how the conference was handled (and it seems to have provoked amazing amounts of juicy web drama of the teenage boy type). The dominant complaint concerned the fact that three politicians showed up, took the stage, and gave stump speeches. Others were upset because the tech talks were pretty generic.
Personally, i found the whole political thing utterly entertaining. I came to France expecting generic talks. We’re talking a tech conference of 1000 people. Since most of these people haven’t heard any of the presenters before, most of the presenters went with one of their solid talks instead of something more risque; plus, a lot of the program was panels and Loic reached out to us based on what we’re known for. So, while i was stoked to see some of my favorite people speak, i didn’t really expect to learn a lot from the talks themselves. (That said, i LOVED the talks by Marko Ahtisaari and David Weinberger; both gave me lots of ideas to chew on.)
I realize that folks didn’t like the politicians because they felt as though they didn’t pay to hear propaganda. I had a totally different take. For me, they were the best part. Why? Precisely because they didn’t say anything. Everyone’s always telling me that politicians now understand the web, want to be a part of it, want to listen to their constituents. I found the French politician’s attitude proof that they were just as clueless as American politicians. They know that this tech thing is important but they don’t actually understand it, and still they want to find a way to manipulate it to make them look good. I was particularly humored by the old media person who got up to be a complete contrarian, arguing that new media has no value. To solidify this point, he wouldn’t let Loic actually translate what he was saying – he wanted to dominate the airwaves his way. Of course, this was all complicated by the fact that there were press – old and new – EVERYWHERE. I couldn’t walk ten feet without getting interviewed by someone for a podcast, a newspaper, a live TV show, a blog, etc. It was obscene to see how many people wanted to “cover” the event… in fact, it seemed like there were more there to cover it than to listen to it. In that way, it felt like a political convention… Only the primary actor (“technology”) was a concept instead of a person. Since we were talking about tech, talking about the agency tech had, i thought that the fact that the politicians were there making a mess of things was FANTASTIC.
All of that chaos meant that i got more out of Le Web 3 than i’ve gotten out of a conference program in years. Of course, there were downsides to this… I had to figure out how to cut my 30 minute talk to 15 on the fly on stage and i feel like i wasn’t as clear as i wanted to be. That’s unfortunate because i wanted to give a solid talk. Le sigh. Another thing that was uber depressing was that i knew 2/3 of the women in the room. People may bitch about there being no women speakers but at Le Web 3, there were no female attendees (other than femalepress). It was a sea of middle-aged white men dressed in business casual. After 4 days in Paris (a surprisingly diverse city), this was a complete shock. And i thought that American conferences were homogeneous!
The ever-present press also meant that it was really hard to just hang out and catch up with people that i knew. I find hallway conversations to be the highlight of a conference… and they were key to Le Web 3 too, but it was hard to get some privacy to talk to people. At the same time, it was super nice that there was only one stage, one main chitter chat room, and one place where everyone ate lunch. I really really liked the total immersion.
At the same time, i was sick as a dog so i only got to attend part of each day. I spent most of the first day trying not to faint and putting on the best ::blink::smile:: face that i could possibly muster. I couldn’t attend the party, couldn’t eat any food (or drink any wine), or even be a werewolf in Paris. Much to my chagrin, i spent a lot of time in the bathroom trying to stop the dizzy feeling. I had to spend the majority of the first day in bed; the second day was spent trying to ward off the terrible nausea. All of this made it really hard to really engage with folks and i probably came across as a total bitch when i’d fade out and then go run off to the bathroom. (Cuz “excuse me, i have to go to the bathroom” is a pretty known excuse to get out of a conversation… And i was forced to say that to probably 20 people rather than puke on their shoes.) Majorly unfortunate.
Yet, even sick as a dog, i really enjoyed the conference; i would totally go back. And hundreds of people bitching means that people got really worked up. While this is seen as a “bad” thing, i actually think it’s pretty awesome. Then again, i believe in living life by doing things that will be memorable. Le Web 3 will DEFINITELY be memorable. As for Paris, i’d be happy to go back anytime.