Web 2.0 Expo 2008: It’s All About You

Sep 23, 2008

From September 16th-19th, the Web 2.0 Expo took to the floors of the Javits Convention Center in New York City. With over 100 exhibitor booths and sessions ranging in topic from media and marketing to a multitude of workplace applications, the opportunities attendees had to learn and socialize were abundant. Still, with the amount of diversity the Web 2.0 Expo offered, there was one theme that dominated the others: People come first in Web 2.0.

The idea of user-centrism was echoed not only by session speakers, but booth exhibitors and keynote speakers as well. In the session titled, "Knowledge Sharing by Design," led by IDEO's Doug Solomon and Gentry Underwood, the focus on people and idea sharing was prominent from the beginning. Underwood posed the question, "How can we empower project teams to communicate and build relations with people?" The answer for IDEO was to give users the ability to collaborate and express themselves all in one program. This program, which IDEO calls "The Tube," is an internet system that combines social networks, asset management, blog, and wiki systems. As Underwood says, "The idea was to have a portfolio system that supports users at the same time." 

This human-centered idea was central to the session "Realizing Business Value of Web 2.0," lead by Aaron Kim, an IBM consultant. Kim made his thoughts clear from the outset: "We see Web 2.0 and focus on technology, but the important part of Web 2.0 is the people." This stance was reiterated later in his presentation when Kim explained that one of the biggest values of Web 2.0 was leveraging "people as your competitive advantage." He urged, if "people are talking about you, participate in the discussion."

Without a doubt, the user is key to the emergence of Web 2.0. Yet at the event, it was interesting to get a look at how vendors are applying this idea to products—many of which were on display in the expo hall. Companies such as Twing.com and Conduit are capitalizing on this human centered idea and giving users their undivided attention. Twing.com, a forum search and discovery engine, enables users to find forums that focus on their particular interests. Twing.com's director of product management, Scott Germaise, explained that the heart of Twing.com is their "focus on actual discussions by real people who are passionate about their interests."

Conduit, a provider of website syndication solutions for web publishers, also focuses its approach on people-power. With Conduit, companies can build a community toolbar to distribute content and applications. This allows users to do whatever they typically do on a company's website using a toolbar. One highlight of the Conduit toolbar program is the start page, aptly named U-page. When a publisher builds a toolbar, the Conduit platform automatically generates a U-page, which a user can customize however they see fit. Similar to iGoogle, content such as feeds, applications, and videos are automatically "gadgetized" and displayed on the U-page. As Conduit’s director of strategic marketing Hai Habot explained, the Conduit U-page is "all about you as a user."

While the Web 2.0 Expo did not deny the importance of technology or innovation, it certainly emphasized the significance of a user-based, people-centered perspective. Even keynote speakers got in on the user-centered act. In a session titled, "Building Personal Brand within the Social Media Landscape," keynote speaker Gary Vaynerchuk summed it up beautifully: "Listening to users is good. Caring about your user base is better."

(www.twing.com, www.conduit.com, www.ideo.com)