Twitter — I mean, Web 2.0 — Expo

Peachtree has lately busied itself making rounds at November conferences.  Following a successful ad:tech NY 2009, we attended the Web 2.0  Expo last week in New York.  Introducing myself to other attendees at these conferences is always fun; the term “investment bank” more often than not elicits a response of discombobulation invariably followed by a valiant attempt to decipher the code: “Oh, like real estate investments.”  Anyway, I digress.  Since Elena has already provided a comprehensive recap of the ad:tech proceedings, I’m skipping over ad:tech to offer some Web 2.0 musings.

In contrast to ad:tech, which consisted of advertising, advertising, and (gasp) more advertising, Web 2.0 explored a plethora of topics ranging from social media to mobile to government 2.0.  And in case you were wondering, yes, much of the attention centered upon Twitter and Facebook, resident darlings of Web 2.0 as we know it.  To make sure you didn’t miss Twitter, the folks at Web 2.0 were so kind as to provide a theater-sized live Twitter feed behind the podium during keynote sessions.

Baratunde Thurstone, comedian and web editor of The Onion, then fed the Twitter-hungry attendees (“the twitterati”) a serving of hashtag lunch during a Wednesday keynote, which they promptly ate up.  In case you aren’t familiar with Twitterspeak, hashtags are a way of grouping tweets (#dogs would be a way of identifying your tweet as dogs-related), and also what Thurston calls ”mini grassroots movements.”  Possibly offering more comedy than substance, Thurston used case studies of, amongst others, #SwineFlu, #WorldsThinnestBooks, and #RejectedPalinTitles to demonstrate the viral nature of hashtags.  If you can spare fifteen minutes of your life, the complete presentation is here.

Alas, the conference did not pass without hashtags rearing its ugly head as well.  The aforementioned live Twitter feed enabled audience members to broadcast tweets on-screen by applying the #w2e hashtag.  As tweets flooded the feed during keynotes, the experiment not only illuminated the power of Web 2.0 technology but also served as a fantastic medium for instant feedback — that is, until Microsoft researcher Danah Boyd started speaking too fast for the crowd’s liking during her keynote entitled, “Streams of Content, Limited Attention.”  What began as several tweets requesting a slower place quickly escalated into full-blown ridicule of her presentation skills complete with incessant laughter as members of the twitterati excitedly joined the spectacle. Funny maybe, for the twitterati, but certainly rude and humiliating to Danah, who could not see the tweets behind her and later blogged that her presentation “sucked.”

Of course, some other things happened at Web 2.0 as well. Anil Dash delighted that the government is finally warming to embrace new media and Gina Trapini kind of explained how Google Wave works, but make no mistake, Twitter and its band of twitterati brought out the best and worst of Web 2.0 Expo. Which, actually, serves as a microcosm for the world we live in today.