The Digerati Gathering at DLD Map The Future
The digerati, many who will be heading to the World Economic Forum in Davos later this week, began gathering in Munich Sunday Jan. 24 to talk about what's next in technology and design at Burda Media's annual three day DLD conference. This year's theme is "mapping the future."
That said, the conference kicked-off with a nod to the past. Donavan, the sixties folk rock singer perhaps best known for his hit "Mellow Yellow", made a live appearance, singing a song about Digital Man (and woman). He was wearing a sweatshirt that said "Social Media is the new sixties."
If the measurement is upheaval, the comparison is apt. The conference focus is on how social media and technology in general are powerful agents of change. Israeli Internet guru Yossi Vardi, the DLD co-chair, moderated a panel about disruption which emphasized the transformations brought about by his panelists: Niklas Zennstrom, the co-founder of Skype, Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales and Mitchell Baker, chair of the Mozilla Foundation, which coordinates development of the open source Mozilla Internet applications, including the Mozilla Firefox web browser.
Conference participant JP Ransawami, British Telecom's group scientist, leapt up onto the stage to agree with Vardi's assertion that Skype has dramatically impacted the telecom industry,. "Anybody in the telecom sector who does not follow Zennstrom will end up either being unemployed or going to work for him," he said.
As a testament to the powerful grassroots movement she helped launch, Mozilla's Baker was awarded the Aenne Burda prize, an honor bestowed each year to a woman who has had a huge impact on the Internet. Previous winners include Flickr co-founder Caterina Fake, Marissa Mayer, Google's well-known vice-president, search products & user experience, and Internet doyenne Esther Dyson.
But the conference focus is not just on what you can do on the Internet but what you can do with the Internet. Claudia Gonzalez, the new head of marketing at the Global Fund To Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, talked about how social media is transforming efforts to help humanitarian causes. Gonzalez highlighted social media campaigns she launched while working at the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR to bring refugees' stories to the forefront. In an interview, Gonzalez says she says she hopes to leverage technology to engage taxpayers on health issues and get them to endorse governmental spending in this area.
The ways technology is transforming business were outlined in a session on the Real Time Web. Panelist Jeff Pulver, a VoIP pioneer who has a huge following on Twitter, predicted that every corporation will need to create a position of "chief listener" to respond to customer feedback or suffer the consequences.
The transformation of the media sector was also a hot topic at the conference.Nokia hosted a lunch to attract media organizations to use its Ovi platform to create context aware applications to drive new revenue streams. Some participants, like Britain's Guardian, publically expressed skepticism about embracing yet another platform, having already started to build applications around Apple's iPhone and Google's Android smartphone platforms, raising the question of whether Nokia is simply too late to the table.
But the company that got the most pushback from media companies at the conference was unquestionably Google. An assertion from David Drummond, Google's senior vice president, corporate development and chief legal officer, that Google is helping media publishers make significant amounts of money, was greeted by catcalls from the audience. Media representatives, including Paul-Bernhard Kallen, the new CEO of Hubert Burda Media, spoke for many in the room when he said "We hope Google will discuss things more with us and be more transparent so that we can be sure that our business does not disappear overnight."
As usual, the most interesting discussions took place in the corridors and the gala dinner, hosted by German media baron Hubert Burda and Vardi. This year's dinner included Google's Marissa Mayer and David Drummond, well-known Silicon Valley venture capitalist Accel Partner's Joe Schoendorf, Facebook's Randi Zuckerberg, Marko Ahtisaari, the new head of design at Nokia, and his father the Nobel Peace prize winner Martti Ahtisaari. (The father and son appeared on stage together to discuss values during the conference Sunday.)
A highlight of the evening was Israeli PHD Guy Hoffman's performing a classical musical duet with a robot named Shimon, yet another sign that the digital age is truly transforming everything.