Picnic 08 panel video

The videos of Picnic panel I moderated back in September is now online. An interesting discussion with several entrepreneurs who are reinventing the way their respective media (movies, music, writing, etc) works.

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The pre-discussion presentations, and other Picnic talks, are all available here.

“Publicy”, the rebirth of privacy

Update: welcome to the Techcrunch and Cnet readers, please be sure to check the 2010 follow-up post on the matter.

Privacy is not dead. It just went global and public, which doesn’t mean you can’t control what people know about you. Actually, it is now the other way around. Let me explain.

Every time I hear someone alarmed about “the death of privacy”, I remember my grandmother telling me her childhood stories, memories dating back to the beginning of the 20th century. Only a few decades ago, life was very different. You were part of a small community, spent all your life basically surrounded by the same people who ended up knowing almost everything about you.

Peoples’ horizon was family. Families, those constructions who often end up trapping human beings into roles. There was the one who’s successful, the one who’s rich, the one who’s cheating, the one who’s funny. Every person was tagged by the group, and everybody knew everything about everybody else. Any information would end up circulating, then become an eventual chip on one’s shoulder for all his or her life. There was much less privacy than today.

Is that what we are missing? Is what we have today really worse than that?

What happens with social networks is they publish information about you to the world. Two kinds of information: the ones you control, and the ones you don’t control.

The solution to fight the ones you don’t control has been known for years. If you can’t control the conversation improve it! Become the one stop source of info about yourself. Have a profile, more active than any other profile for all matters related to you. This way your content will always beat others’ content, and you get your control back. Then it’s up to you to not being photographed while drunk at that Spring break party. But that was a good ideas (not being photographed) well before Facebook right?

Now that you are back in the driver seat, you have your privacy back. Just of a different kind. You have built a space that could be called “publicy”, or “the plausible me”. It is a credible space where people expect to see information about you. Whatever credible information you say in there will be taken as true by the world.

That is your new privacy. A space that is public but that you control, where you can say anything you want and have it taken as true.

I love doing one thing on Facebook: using my status to say what I am NOT doing. I sometimes write “Laurent is in the train to Zurich” while I am sitting at my desk in Geneva. It’s just a way to prevent last minute calls for lunch on a busy day. I do it sometimes and mostly for fun, but I could also be lying on my relationship status, telling the world I am working on a project I want my competitors to think I am working on, saying I am at one place to cover the fact I am going to another. Your privacy is the fact that, through computers and distance, nobody can really cross check information anymore.

Privacy is here and doing well. It is just different, and not something that is granted at birth anymore. You have to create it, using the tools that were supposedly taking it away from you. You used to have to build your public image, now you have to build the private one. It’s a small change if you know how to do it.

Last call for Lift09 early bird

If you want to meet the father of the Internet, listen to the researcher who studied the impact of dating website on African society, sit on the cloud, play with installations from Nabi Art Center, Kitchen Budapest, or Camille Sherrer (who won the “best european design diploma” award), meet the likes of Jaewoong Lee or Bruno Bonnell who will be attending after speaking at previous editions, if you want to be inspired and meet those who are reinventing society then hurry up, register for Lift09 before the end of the early bird period, set on Thursday, January 15 at midnight this year!

Among the Lift experience installations this year:

The cloud, a Richard Hutten piece to be shown on the stage

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“Le monde des montagnes” by Camille Sherrer

The early adopters crisis

There is a disturbingly increasing number of early adopters who tell me they are fed up with their jobs. Those same people who were creating homepages with 28k modems back in the 90s are now closing their blogs, snubbing Facebook, moving around with no computer or iPhone, wishing aloud they had less commitments and more money to open a restaurant, a store, or engage in a life involving more down to earth activities. It could be anodyne – and probably is in some ways as we all tend to always want the opposite of what we have – but I feel there is something interesting here. Let’s review some of the arguments involved:

The web industry got boring, at least if you like adventure. I already wrote on this last year and it is truer than ever. Changing the world got complex after a rare period where you could wake up in the morning, fire your computer, and write a piece of code that would change everybody’s life. Now launching a website requires 12 months of work, a team of 10, and whatever you want to do has already been done. Boring.

Humans need to have something to show for their work. Websites are not the most tangible achievements there is, and for example half of what I have ever done in my life is now gone (like frequence-laser.ch, the Financial Tracking System whose has been updated a long time ago, Bernard Nicod’s 1996 website). The other half is made of services, events, advices, discussions, reports, many things that do not really materialize. I think that, over a long period of time, this has an impact on people. Human beings need to touch, feel, show, share, and new technologies tend to cut them from such fundamental needs. It finally made an impact, and this is probably one of the main reasons behind the tiredness and rejection of technology you start to get from early adopters.

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The Beatles: early among the early adopters

• Another factor is the partiality of online interactions. Many early adopters ended up with rich and intense careers involving heavy usage of computers. When you have done that for many years you get hundreds of emails per day – most of them from people you care about, but that you have only seen once or twice. Once again it feels a bit like trying to trick a fundamental truth, forcing our sensitive (in the sense: that needs to feel and touch) nature to rely only on incomplete interactions to survive and maintain a high level of socialization.

Tools are limiting. Why is it so hard to maintain a network (i.e.: have accounts on 20 websites), read emails without feeling overwhelmed, work on a laptop more than three hours while on the move, connect to the internet anywhere? Why don’t we (I’ll put myself in it for this one) have a really good solution to handle tasks that have become so recurrent and crucial? Even the most basic and simple need of all has no good technological solution. How to manage your todo list on anything else than paper? Tools are taking their toll on productivity and creating frustration, and are one of the most cited factor of tiredness. Computers are making shovels and hammers appealing again, don’t tell me you saw this one coming 😀

It will be interesting to see if what happens these days is a fundamental shift, or just a temporary crisis worsened by hard economical conditions. Can the people who built new technologies really reject it?

Screen to screen vs face to face

Video conference didn’t kill travel (so far, travel bans and high prices are challenging this assumption), but social media will have an impact on the meetings industry. See Apple that decided to cut their presence at Macworld as the company reaches “more people in more ways than ever before“. The Apple stores are of course one of the main reasons, but the fact that Steve jobs gets millions of views on Youtube, with his keynotes watched (and blogged) live by thousands of fans also played a role.

It will be interesting to see how far this goes. Will consumer shows survive the more direct and complex interactions between sellers and consumers that social media allow? Past observations taught us that thing never go from black to white (trade shows will never disappear) but it’s a sign that a reshuffling is in progress between face to face and screen to screen.What did not happen in the telecom business (video calls don’t work) could happen in the retail process?

Some events to start the year

“The ideas people are optimists” as the Economist taught us.

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In 2009 we should continue developing our ideas and pushing for change and innovation. Events are a big part of that, connecting people and people, people and ideas, and here are four I will be attending in the coming weeks:

Rencontre audiovisuelle (Geneva, 17 Jan)

Courts métrages en ligne – l’Internet comme outil de collaboration, distribution et promotion.
L’Internet a changé le paysage du cinéma. Des sites comme YouTube et Atom Films permettent une distribution facile et globale d’un court métrage. Découvrons comment profiter un maximum des nouveaux canaux de collaboration, distribution et promotion en ligne. La Rencontre audiovisuelle 2009 offre une opportunité unique de rencontrer des professionnels de la vidéo sur l’Internet.

Digital Life Design Conference (Munich,  25-27 Jan)

The lineup of speakers looks extremely impressive once again, and thanks to Lift’s new dates there is now a bit of air between both events which should allow me to enjoy a bit more.

TechnoArk et ses Transformeurs: Les Objets, l’Internet du futur! (Sierre, 29 Jan)

An event we helped organized, and where one of my favorite speaker (Daniel Kaplan) will speak. Jean-Louis Fréchin and David Orban of the Open Spime Project complete a great lineup of speakers for a day of discussion around the internet of things.

Forum NetExplorateur 2009 (Paris, 5-6 Feb)

I’ll might finally get a chance to meet Jacques Attali (who had to cancel his trip to Lift the day before the conference in 2007, and couldn’t come to the 2008 edition, so it will be next year!) when I go to Paris to moderate a panel on Korea with my friend Jaewoong Lee of Daum.

Then it will be time for Lift09… Finally another Lift, and the excitement of meeting hundreds of energized people in a few days, leaving the (lovely) impression of cheating on time, getting 3 months worth of life in a few hours. I’m getting addicted to this feeling, not sure it’s a bad thing.

Happy new year 🙂