Web Meets World

My talk last week at Web 2.0 Expo in New York was entitled “Web Meets World.” I covered this theme from two directions:

  1. The idea that in the future, Web 2.0 “collective intelligence” applications will be driven by sensors rather than people typing on keyboards. What’s more, this idea is also key to “enterprise 2.0.” Dell’s integrated supply chain, which takes real time demand feedback from purchasers, and sends that information all the way back to suppliers in a kind of autonomic process, is more Web 2.0, in many ways, than their heralded Dell Ideastorm initiative. The opportunity for big companies is to turn their IT departments from a back office operation into the brains of their enterprise, enabling autonomic response to constant stimuli from their users. Understanding what WalMart has in common with Google is more important than understanding how to apply Facebook to customer interaction.
  2. The idea that the big problems facing us as a world renders the outsized focus of developers on lightweight consumer applications a bit silly. “Stop throwing sheep and focus on stuff that matters” was how CNet described this part of the talk, and that’s probably a fair summary. In retrospect, though, I realize I need to make the connection between the two parts of the talk clearer: there’s a huge contribution that Web 2.0 techniques can make specifically to the world’s biggest problems. <a href=http://www.instedd.orgInstedd‘s approach to early detection of infectious diseases, Ushahidi‘s approach to crowdsourcing crisis information, Witness‘s harnessing of consumer video to report on human rights abuses, and AMEE‘s APIs for exchanging carbon data between applications, are all part of the “instrumenting the world” trend that I was talking about in part one of the talk. And in classic “watching the alpha geeks” fashion, they are a key part of the early warning signs that have led me to conclude that this is the next big trend. As I delivered the talk in New York, I think I failed to make the connection as explicit as I should have.

Here’s the video of the talk. Let me know what you think.

One more question: at the end of the talk, I urged everyone to register to vote, and to take the election seriously. In the course of making that request, I let my personal politics show (I am a strong Obama supporter.) Most people in the audience seemed enthusiastic, but some have complained about politics intruding at a tech conference. What do you think? (I think that the current election is going to have a huge effect on our future, and is very much grist for Radar. But I’d love to hear arguments, pro and con.)

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