It Works Both Ways

Columbia University

Yesterday, I made my way over to the Morningside Heights campus of Columbia University for ReadWriteWeb’s inaugural 2Way Summit. ReadWriteWeb, IMHO, ranks right up there with TechCrunch, GigaOm, Mashable, TheNextWeb, BusinessInsider/SAI and AllThingsD as among the most influential sites from which one can glean the freshest take on the evolving digital landscape.

The first day’s festivities opened up with RWW founder/co-editor Richard McManus welcoming the crowd of about 150 and introducing a guy named Alex Blagg as the event moderator. Mr. Blagg apparently made a name for himself in web circles with his Bajillion Hits website in which he bragadociously proclaims to be the king of the Internet.

His attempt at irreverence and laughs yesterday (“I’m the Bill Gates of Internet hits!”), however, fell short. The dressed-down Mr. Blagg instead dressed-down the audience with his buzzwordy in-your-face opening remarks and presentation. For those unfamiliar with his shtick (i.e., me), he came off as condescending and confrontational in a room full of a fair share of digital luminaries. Ultimately, his bracing style wore off, and the day moved on. (If this guy is the self-proclaimed king of all things Internet, why the .biz domain and a mere 3000 followers on Twitter? Just asking.)

NPR’s Andy Carvin with Columbia Journalism’s Emily Bell

The opening session featured a tete-a-tete with NPR’s Andy Carvin and Columbia’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism’s Emily Bell, an esteemed alumnus of UK’s Guardian Newspaper Group. I had just heard Andy speak alongside Brian Stelter at the Personal Democracy Forum in which he shared his unexpected new and all-consuming day-job “anchoring” the events as they unfolded in real-time from the Arab uprising.

Carvin’s appearance was most timely given the previous day’s revelations he helped break about the massive hoax perpetrated by a married man from Georgia masquerading (for five years!) as the influential blogger “Gay Girl in Damascus.”

Here are some notable quotables from Andy:

“No one had ever met her in person.”

“I see this more as a media failure as opposed to an Internet failure”

“What I’ve been doing on Twitter is akin to what a news anchor is doing during a live interview”

The Twitter feed of Arab uprising is “as close to real-time war reporting as we’ve ever come”

“Twitter is my assignment editor. My Twitter account is the [news] product. Storify helps with archiving”

“I feel like I’m doing a public service here. Imagine if they had smartphones in Rwanda or Bosnia?”

Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures

Next up was Union Square Ventures’ principal Fred Wilson to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for shuttering his Flatiron Partners and leaving an opening for me to form Flatiron Communications six years ago. Mr. Wilson used his 20 minutes on stage to revisit a post he made in January on content-shifting. He then proceeded to rattle off a range of tools and apps that permit multi-media content to be readily accessed on whatever device or screen available at the time.

Here are some of the companies he mentioned in his talk: Etsy (Circle), Netflix, Instapaper, Rdio, Adkeeper, PercentMobile, and some highlights:

“I want to be able to curate a social graph with a new service than importing Twitter/Facebook relationships”

“Great content will always be highly valued. Distribution systems however will be threatened,” eg, cable video (but not cable-delivered data)

“Maybe the most interesting media type right now for content shifting is online music.”

“I moved my entire software apps into cloud”

“One of the reasons Netflix is so successful is that they have made their service ubiquitous. Netflix stock went from $20 to $250/share when its ubiquitous streaming strategy began.”

Entrepreneurs: “It doesn’t make sense to build for just one platform.”

Future of media: “microchunk it, free it, syndicate it, monetize it.”

“The iconic content shifting service on the Internet is Instapaper.”

Danah Boyd & the Truth About Sexting

Dana Boyd took the stage to share some stats on the growing sexting trend among teens. No mention of Rep. Weiner, but then again, he doesn’t fit the demo.

Ms. Boyd was followed by the eminently quotable Jason Calacanis who used his time on stage to diss a few folks and extol the virtues and value of video-based expertise such as those featured on his Mahalo network. Here’s RWW’s summary of Mr. Calacanis’s provocative remarks:

Mahalo’s Jason Calacanis

“Web 3.0 is the age of expertise”

“Video is 100% of what we’re doing. Mahalo is largest non-UGC presence on YouTube.”

“I am disgusted by how much content creation has become about gaming the system.”

“I want to create a Klout to rate [the expertise of] web authors. Bought the domain name” I just need someone to build it.

“Blogs are not where the action is – it’s in email and video”

“The future is for experts to become publishers & have consumers talk directly with them!”

“Blogging Is Dead” & Why Stupid People Shouldn’t Write”

“It’s not that there aren’t any good bloggers left, They just get drowned out by the bad ones!”

“When I’m hiring, if someone doesn’t have a Twitter & Facebook accounts & their own domain name? They aren’t hired.”

“The concept of journalism is going away.”

Client obligations prevented me from sticking out the rest of the Summit, but RWW has done a fab job making the presented content readily accessible.

Photos: Peter Himler w/ Canon PowerShot SX20 IS. Fred Wilson photo courtesy of RWW.