I rather suspect that some of the locals regard LeWeb as a kind of blowsy aunt who arrives in whirl, talks too loudly, drinks a bit too much, pinches their cheeks, and flies away again.
That said, I think Le Web is now a great conference. It’s got some faults. But there are few conferences in Europe where such variety and quality of speakers is available together with such diversity of attendees from around the world.
In many ways it is still very much Loic and friends having a chat on stage. And that is part of its charm. Why not get friends like Michael Arrington to chit-chat with various web folks on stage in Paris if you can make it happen?
This year Le Web was at Les Docks venue again. This enabled three separate halls to be running simultaneously, with the networking hall getting a good workout.
Unfortunately the snow made walking between the various halls somewhat of a challenge. As did the unwillingness of Parisian cab drivers to deliver or collect delegates out in the boondocks of St Denis in aforesaid snow. This meant that for those unfortunate enough to miss the coach shuttles to the nearest metro station it was a trudge through the snow.
The food, drink and heating were good this year. Some American friends found some of the food tastes alien to their palate (which was amusing to watch) but I found the food tasty and plentiful.
Again the parties were fun and a great chance for networking and vodka and there were a number of late arrivals on day two after the partying.
This year my favourite thing was the Ignite style talks which included gems such as:
- a passionate plea from a Ricardo Sousa (on Twitter @ricardojrsousa), a teen entrepreneur, seeking for mentors for himself and his peers so that they can change the world;
- and a superb talk on twitter diplomacy from Matthias Lüfkens (on Twitter @luefkens) about the democratization of political access .
The Ignite model is a great way to bring diversity of voices to LeWeb and I hope that they continue it next year.
On the first day many of the keynotes and fireside chats were brand and product discussions with company representatives from Microsoft, Facebook, Google, Twitter, France Telecom-Orange, etc. There was nothing earth shattering in any of these if you already follow the industy. Marissa Mayer proved herself, yet again, as one of the most polished players in this game.
There was also a startup competition – which seemed a tad disorganised compared to others I’ve seen – yet which provided a valuable opportunity to showcase some local talents.
On day two the stand out sessions for me were Jeremiah Owyang‘s overview of Social Media And Big Business: Trends for 2011 and Gary Vaynerchuck‘s session where he refused to answer Twitter questions so as to be present with the audience in the room.
One of the problems with having two plenary rooms that were physically separated by a snowy road is that I (and probably many others) did not get over to the Eiffel Plenary room on day 2. This is where Thomas Crampton (who’s apparently now gone over to the ‘dark side’ from journalism – aka PR) was hosting a series of sessions that looked quite interesting.
Thus I have no personal insight into those sessions (which did sound interesting):
- “Lean Analytics for Startups: what every founder (and VC) needs to watch”
- “Asia: Digital Life, Real Billions”
- How Social is Changing the Gaming Industry
- How to Grow Your Business through Platforms and APIs
- How to leverage social networking in your business
- How to build your own platform
- Hackathon Award Ceremony by Alcatel Lucent
- The Social OS and the Human API
- Photography: From Analog Artists to Digital Mainstream
I do think it would have been better to be able to merely walk from hall to hall within the one building given that LeWeb is held in a Parisian winter.
All in all for me the visit to Paris from Australia was worth it. LeWeb is a good conference that enables me to see what is happening in another part of the world by bringing together a diversity of practitioners from across the world. Some interesting new ideas came up in conversation, the networking was amazing, the parties and dinners were fun, and it was in Paris (after all).