LIFT Asia program announced

Beyond the Web we know, online for a better society, towards a Networked City, from robots to networked objects, the near future of social worlds, ubiquitous Computing Progress, techno-nomadic life, virtual money and sustainable development/green technologies, all these big questions will form the program of LIFT Asia where we will be exploring the potential big changes ahead.

What will replace the world wide web as society’s biggest driver of change? Come and find for yourself, registrations are opening soon (delays are due to the fact we need to accommodate Koreans who use different payment system) and will happen as usual on the LIFT site. And if you have some names to suggest as speakers now is the time!

Ignore world peace

ignore.jpgAh the magic of social networks, where a click can make a difference between “sending world peace” and shameful blindness to the global issues of this planet.

Can Facebook really save the world? The Send World Peace application is at least trying, and makes me wonder what is the impact of such labeling on users behavior. Is the ignore button harder to press in that context?

Twitter and real life

Back in 2007, when Evan Williams (the brilliant and no bullshit founder of Twitter, Odeo, Blogger) took the stage at Leweb3, the host asked those with a Twitter account to raise their hand. Around 90% of the audience did, giving the impression that the whole planet was being twitterized despite recent reports that the service has only 1 million users.

This latest “demonstration” left me with a bitter sensation. I was getting increasingly worried by the growing distance between the web 2.0 community’s perception of the world and the reality I see on the “field”. Twitter is used by the community of influencers (who gather around this service because it allows them to update the world about their oh-so-important whereabouts) and they, as we all do, succumb to the temptation to generalize and say “if me and all my friends use it, everybody uses – or will use – it”.

Problem is that Twitter is really not making it to the masses (as the one million users proves) and anybody doing a quick and informal survey will find. Kara Swisher from All things D tried:

I conducted a little experiment among more than 100 folks […] all of whom were quite intelligent, armed with all kinds of the latest devices (many, many people had iPhones, for example) and not sluggish about technology. […] And so I asked a large group of people–about 30–and here is the grand total who knew what Twitter was: 0

FriendFeed: 0

Widget: 1 (but she thought it was one of the units used in a business class study).

Facebook: Everyone I asked knew about it and about half had an account, although different people used it differently.

In other words, confirming for me what I wrote last week about the intense obsession with the hottest new services like Twitter and FriendFeed, in the echo chamber of Silicon Valley, and how no one else cares yet.


Early adopters come across two kinds of products: those that are not yet known, have a universal twist, and will make it big. Then there are the products who will remain confidential because they address the needs of a community that functions differently from the masses, a community that communicates more, that is looking for more social feedback (how many followers do I have?), that has different priorities than the day to day internet user.

I feel like Twitter is an early adopters tool more than a mass tool. Time might prove me wrong, but after using it for a few months – forced by the frequent posting on blogs and remarks of friends – I still have a hard time finding a point of being on the receiving end of an unfiltered brain-dump.

Elements of Sustainable Companies

For reference, Sequoia Capital’s vision on what successful startups should have:

Clarity of Purpose
Summarize the company’s business on the back of a business card.

Large Markets
Address existing markets poised for rapid growth or change. A market on the path to a $1B potential allows for error and time for real margins to develop.

Rich Customers
Target customers who will move fast and pay a premium for a unique offering.

Customers will only buy a simple product with a singular value proposition.

Pain Killers
Pick the one thing that is of burning importance to the customer then delight them with a compelling solution.

Think Differently
Constantly challenge conventional wisdom. Take the contrarian route. Create novel solutions. Outwit the competition.

Team DNA
A company’s DNA is set in the first 90 days. All team members are the smartest or most clever in their domain. “A” level founders attract an “A” level team.

Stealth and speed will usually help beat-out large companies.

Focus spending on what’s critical. Spend only on the priorities and maximize profitability.

Start with only a little money. It forces discipline and focus. A huge market with customers yearning for a product developed by great engineers requires very little firepower.


Germany & China: the cultural differences

Tim Johnson found 19 “graphic depiction of cultural differences between Germans and Chinese”.

1) Complaints (or suggestions)

2) lifestyle


3) punctuality


4) human network


5) attitudes toward anger


6) standing in line


7) ego


8) streets on Sundays


9) parties


10) in restaurants (decibels)


11) standard of aesthetic beauty (tan level)


12) problem solving


13) three meals a day (hot or cold)


14) transportation preferences (1970 and present)


15) daily life


16) time of showers


17) mood and weather


18) view of superiors


19) children


Amazingly insightful and true. Link

Casual cinema

After casual gaming – brilliantly explained by Guy Vardi at LIFT08 – comes casual cinema made of “little, cute things to do while waiting for a bus”. Mobile screens are finally getting the attention of big names after being nailed by David Lynch (explanations here).

Isabella Rossellini: “It’s proven that people don’t have a very long attention span on a small screen, so we decided to make them not longer than two minutes and with a very defined look – paper cut-outs and high-contrast colour. They had to be flashy because it’s a new form that’s trying to call attention to itself. […]

The project was masterminded by Robert Redford, who said recently at the annual Mobile World Congress in Barcelona that the mobile phone is the ideal new medium for short movies. “The only thing I know will keep going is change. […] There are new forms of storytelling coming”

Telegraph: Isabella Rossellini, sexual creature

Looking at commuters in the Seoul subway – most of them watching live TV or downloaded movies – it looks obvious there is a future in mobile cinema.

Is Silicon Valley turning into Detroit?

As I try to come up with a theme for the first Asian edition of LIFT, I am somehow getting a strong intuition that we are leaving the revolutionary phase of the Web industry, and about to enter a more boring and less innovative period (Bruce Sterling won’t disagree with me). A number of weak signals seem to be announcing the end the cycle of hyper innovation that marked what will one day be remembered as the early days of the web, or the 1994 – 2006 period.

At Kinnernet, I jokingly told Thomas Mygdal that the Silicon Valley is facing Detroit-a-zation. What were once innovative and agile startups are increasingly becoming pachyderms hampered by overgrowth, internal politics and shareholders pressure. The big CEOs – once mavericks celebrated and envied by the whole business community – are becoming bus drivers. Eric Schmid’s days probably look more and more like the ones of Marcel Ospel or Carlos Ghosn, and with each hour passing Google’s organization inches closer to the IBM model rather than the edonistic company proned by the Zentral Intelligenz Agentur. Web companies employees have too much work, need to stay later than their bosses, have to raise their profiles to get good reviews, etc.

While in Korea, I systematically asked my interlocutors what they thought were today’s “hot” topics. Their answers: ubiquitous computing, urban technologies, robotic toys, green technologies, open source objects, etc. The web? “It was interesting seven years ago!”  It is now a commodity, and this has a deep impact on the industry and on its culture. What happened?

  • The rise of incremental innovation
    Incremental innovation has replaced fundamental innovation. We are not discovering new territories – like when Friendster, Google, or Hotmail were invented – but are developing the ones that have already been explored by others, bringing smaller improvements like a new interface, a new way to receive an information, a new mix of existing services. A striking example of this is social networks, where entrepreneurs are almost done exploring the different possibilities. It started with networks about the past (classmates, copains d’avant), then about the present (Facebook, MySpace), and now it is about the future (dopplr, mixin). Nothing revolutionary, just a lot of talented people busy not leaving any stone unturned in the same field, exploring a finite space.
  • Maturity = less hunger
    The industry is more mature, which means many of us have something to lose. We all have a status, more conflicts of interest then ever (the web 2.0 world is skunk drunk on its own kool-aid), bigger egos. Time goes by, and most industry leaders are fifteen years older and nature made them more risk averse. Sneakers have been replaced by leather shoes, and the Johnny Cash rule (which says you are never as good as when hungry) is now playing against us.
  • Early adopters became gatekeepers?
    Where is the new generation? Aren’t they interested, or is it that we don’t listen to them? Have we – the early adopters – become gate keepers? Every time I go to a web conference I am struck by the fact the average age of speakers is always around 40. What happened here? Do we really only have Kevin Rose, Matt Mullenweg and Mark Frauenfeld innovating under 25? Could it be that there is a whole layer of innovation we simply don’t look at?
  • Excitement is building in other fields
    If you haven’t watched Bruno Bonnel and Rafi Haladjan‘s talks you probably haven’t noticed, but robotic toys have a huge future. Mobile continues to rock Africa and Asia, green technologies are the hot topic in Sand Hill Road, new interfaces are opening up huge possibilities. It seems other fields are offering more exciting opportunities than the web!

I am sure I could come up with more reasons but let’s hear your opinion first. Do you feel like it is the end of a cycle? Why? Is the web just another industry where success depends more on having an MBA than a revolutionary idea and a taste for risk?

Update: ChangeWaves says the Infotech sector is not yet geriatric. We can resume normal breathing.

Men’s brains link sex and money

Sometimes an article reminds us how our usage of the world is still conditioned by primal processes. A recent study showed that men were more likely to make gambles after having seen erotic pictures.

When young men were shown erotic pictures, they were more likely to make a larger financial gamble than if they were shown a picture of something scary, such as a snake, or something neutral, such as a stapler, university researchers reported. […]

“You have a need in an evolutionary sense for both money and women. They trigger the same brain area,”  […]


I am sure the porn industry didn’t need a scientific study to find out about this 😉

Event: the new video game industry

In partnership with our friends of Nouvo, we organize debates about the evolution of society and technologies. Events are free, in French, and followed by informal drinks. We simply ask you to register by emailing

Bien que le jeu vidéo en tant qu’industrie de loisir de masse ait une histoire relativement récente, il apparait aujourd’hui que ce média atteigne une nouvelle maturité tant par de nouvells formes ludiques que des nouvelles pratiques de création. De nouvelles formes ludiques telles que le “serious games” sont là pour en attester. Les “serious games” désignant l’emploi de mécaniques ludiques issues du jeu vidéo pour favoriser l’apprentissage de divers contenus. D’autre part, la création des jeux en elle même implique la maitrise de ce moyen pour porter du sens, des émotions, des messages afin de toucher tous les publics. Plus d’infos sur


Le débat sera animé par Bernard Rappaz, rédacteur en chef de TSR Multimédia. Ses invités:

Jean-Noël Portugal: Consultant Associé du cabinet Intuneo spécialisé dans les industries de la création numérique : jeu vidéo, animation, cinéma numérique, Internet, télévision, téléphonie et médias interactifs. Il est également président d’HD3D SAS, filiale de studios d’effets spéciaux et laboratoires cinématographiques d’Ile de France

Emmanuel Guardiola: Game Designer depuis 10 ans, Emmanuel Guardiola est directeur de la conception pour la gamme Game4Everyone à Ubisoft. Auteur de Ecrire pour le jeu (Dixit, 2000), il enseigne le Game Design à l’Ecole Nationale des Jeux et Media Interactifs Numériques (l’ENJMIN).

Infos pratiques:

L’événement se déroulera le 14 avril de 18 à 20h à la Télévision Suisse Romande, 20, quai Ernest-Ansermet, Genève.
Entrée libre mais inscription obligatoire par e-mail à

Korean update

After four trips to the land of the morning calm, I finally started to get a feeling for how we should adapt the LIFT concept to this continent. I must admit I was getting a bit nervous and felt like the LIFT Asia project was not moving much. The main reason is that it is extremely hard to get feedback from the locals on the different questions I had. Can we do a three days conference here? Can people convince their boss to pay for the ticket? Can we hold open sessions managed by the communities? Will Asians travel to attend a conference?

My pictures of Seoul and Korea are on Flickr.

I had – and still have – tons of questions I needed to find out about, but the local culture – which basically consists in never contradicting anyone – did not make my life easy and forced me to reformulate every question. The only way to get a true answer is to allow from the start the possibility of a diplomatic no.

For example, three days ago I visited the Raemian gallery to see a housing of the future exhibition created by Samsung and Microsoft. My friend Jean Morin was driving, and when we approached the gallery we quickly called our host to inquire about parking possibilities. We asked if we could leave the car in front of the building (because both of us are lazy and French). The answer was “yes of course no problem, but maybe the Police will take the car. The other solution is to use the parking lot further down the road”. Very elegant way of avoiding a negative answer.

So it takes time to get a strong intuition about anything in this country because relations are very subtle and different from the loud and clear feedback we get in Europe. Four 20’000km trips later, I finally have a strong feeling for what LIFT should be here. We will not replicate the Swiss event, but use the lessons learned over the past three editions to grow the Asian project.

We will start slow, with a two days conference featuring simple social events (i.e. fondue might be for next year), reduced community activities (I am thinking about keeping only open stage and discussions) and boasting a clear, interesting and easy-to-sell-to-your-boss theme. We will rely on strong local partners for all logistical, editorial and financial aspects. This should allow us to work around the various constraints we have (LIFT brand not yet known, lower salaries, less participatory culture, etc) and achieve our main goal: give lifters access to all the innovation and trends that are flourishing all around Asia. I got a demo of Naver (Korea’s leading portal) a few days ago, and it looked like Yahoo in 5 years, both from a service design and business model perspective. There are tons of ideas to be exchanged between Asia and the rest of the world, and this is what we’ll do.