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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 December 2006, 20:26 GMT
Reporter's Log: Le Web conference
A blogging conference means laptops are at the ready
Le Web 3, a conference for bloggers and supporters of internet media developments, is taking place in Paris, France.

Robin Hamman, a journalist for BBC English Regions and co-ordinator of the BBC Blogs Network, will be filing regular updates from the conference.

DAY TWO: 1930 PARIS (1830 GMT)

Le Web 3 is drawing to a close with Loic Le Meur apologising to those who were upset by the way today's conference turned out, but went on to say that he'd do it the same way again. He says that now, but he might not when he sees what the blogs have been saying all day.

But rather than seizing on the negativity much in abundance amongst the audience on the floor today, instead I'll end with a quote.

Earlier today, Shimon Peres kicked off the day by mentioning that he'd heard that some teenagers use the internet for "romantic activities". That wasn't, however, what the UK's Hugh McLeod was referring to when he said, in the final presentation of the day, that "the internet is all about love".

McLeod wasn't referring to Peres's presentation, but to the idea that really is at the core of web 2.0 - that it's a place where people can create and share content and ideas. I get the feeling that McLeod, and a lot of us here at Le Web, really do believe that.

DAY TWO: 1800 PARIS (1700 GMT)

David Weinberger from Harvard's Berkman Center started his presentation, "Blogging Our Way to Democracy", by observing that: "Today seems to be a day where politicians say the internet isn't going to come to them, so they better come to the internet."

He wasn't going to insult anyone by saying that, since none of the politicians who visited Le Web earlier today stuck around long enough to gain from Weinberger's insights. Weinberger would probably say that politicians ignore the internet and bloggers at their own peril.

According to Weinberger, the American presidential candidacy of Howard Dean was the first to really understand and embrace the internet and its culture by hiring a blogger to run their website.

He said: "Bloggers are not on message, Matthew was not on message. He wrote as an enthusiastic supporter." That, says Weinberger, built trust within the electorate and for a time Dean, "an obscure governor from Vermont", was able to lead the field of Democratic candidates.

Weinberger would probably say that politicians ignore the internet and bloggers at their own peril

This, in Weinberger's view, was an extremely positive development.

"The broadcast model has nothing to do with democracy. It's killing democracy." And, says Weinberger, the Dean campaign did everything they could think of to break up that top-down pyramid model. The result was that people ended up being more enthusiastic about the campaign than they were about the candidate.

One of the main things, in Weinberger's view, that sets the internet apart from broadcast media, is that most internet pages are not self-contained. Bloggers link out to other content because it's their way of keeping their audiences happy by pointing them to other stuff they might be interested in. "This is how we, WE, built OUR internet - out of links!!!"

David Weinberger compared and contrasted a blog he reads regularly, which is full of links to other blogs, and the front page of the New York Times website, which has many links but all of them inward looking.

Looking up at the large presentation screen behind him, Weinberger exclaimed: "Look at all those links, all that blue - they must be really generous too. They don't want us to go away because they think that, if we do, we won't come back - and they are probably right."

Weinberger says that linking is just one example of the way that internet users are taking greater control of the way that information on the internet is organised.

The organisation of information not only just helps us find that content, but it also helps us to understand it and give it meaning. To illustrate, Weinberger uses the example of a hammer which, he says, can't be understood unless one knows what a nail is.

"We are now, right now, in the process of externalising meaning. In doing so, we are creating meaning and that's a way of sharing the world. We need to find meaning and engage with it - conversation gives us a good model for that."

It's probably worth pointing out that none of the politicians who visited us today stuck around to listen to Weinberger's insights.

David Weinberger's Blog: http://www.hyperorg.com/

DAY TWO: 1600 PARIS (1500 GMT)

Nicolas Sarkozy, the second most powerful French politician and a presidential hopeful, just addressed our conference about the internet.

Most of the people I've spoken to just want the previously advertised conference back. In fact, it's all people are talking about, at least those sitting around me.

Mr Sarkozy railed against racist hate speech on the internet and said that freedom of speech can be taken too far and said, "I'm not afraid of the word 'internet regulation'."

He spoke a lot about his hatred and concern about racist hate speech being posted and disseminated online.

After Mr Sarkozy left, so did about a quarter of the people here.

He said there is a need for internet users to "obey rules" saying that there need to be laws to "make sure that racists can't use the internet to disseminate their views... the internet represents and opportunity to help all the people of the world, of shared values".

"Let's make the internet continent something that brings people together, not divides them."

After Mr Sarkozy left, so did about a quarter of the people here. I hadn't noticed just how many mainstream press, security and other Sarkozy hang-arounds had briefly been in attendance.

But a lot of those will be people who came for the previously advertised conference which, after the panel moderator had to ask people who wanted to talk to each other to go out into the other room, seems to have started again.

At least, I think I heard them say something about open source software but I'm not entirely sure as it's difficult to concentrate on the words coming from the stage when the grumbles of disappointed conference delegates grows ever louder and spills out onto the blogs.

DAY TWO:1530 PARIS (1430 GMT)

This conference just keeps getting stranger. As we left the previous session for lunch, I spotted some people busy building a wooden booth with windows at the back of the hall.

Now that we've come back, and got past the half dozen men in suits with radio earbuds not so discreetly in their ears, we could see that the booth now contains a large audio mixing board and microphones for live translation and there are hundreds of headsets stacked in front of the booth.

And thus the transformation from Les Blogs to Le Web takes on another, some hope temporary, transformation of this conference into Le Politique.

Day two of Le Web is already proving to be more interesting

Members of the security detail aren't the only new comers to the conference - there are lots of mainstream media folk lingering at the back, quite a few new TV camera's and lots of attractive women - this is France - carrying around clipboards and chatting busily into their mobiles.

There's also a few people walking up and down the aisles asking, in French, if anyone needs the English translation.

This is all in preparation of a visit from Nicolas Sarkozy in a few minutes time.

He'll be the second French presidential hopeful to address us today, the first being Franšois Bayrou who seemed to grasp the whole blog thing.

But all this previously unplanned political speechmaking is riling some of the conference goers, particular the people from the UK I spoke with at lunch, who, as they point out, parted with good money to be "subjected" to this all day.

It's not just the British who are moaning.

I'm sitting next to Erlend Debast and Bart De Waele from Belgium. Erlend has started an unofficial Le Web blog, written in Dutch, to cover the conference.

He's so disappointed that he didn't feel up to putting it into words and, instead, do what bloggers do and linked to someone else who'd said it, the blog of another Belgian sitting a few seats down our row where it says, in English, "for some reason, this "web" conference has been transformed into a "political rally".

Not only have speakers been pushed back or forgotten, but the whole place is giddy with an awkward feeling of apprehension as we await the may who could, if Le Meur has his way, be the next leader of France.

One can't help but notice that Sarkozy's blog is based on the blogging software provided by the company that Le Meur works for, Six Apart. As previously mentioned in this column, Le Meur has also publicly endorsed Sarkozy on his website.

Why am I writing so much about politicians? Because that, rather than the internet, blogging, web 2.0 and all the themes we came here for, is what this conference now seems to be all about.

DAY TWO: 1200 PARIS (1100 GMT)

Shimon Peres seems to have started something by asking to come address Le Web.

We've been told that later today we'll also be seeing Nicolas Sarkozy, leader of French President Jacques Chirac's centre-right UMP party, his arch-rival Socialist presidential candidate Segolene Royal, and Franšois Bayrou, president of the centrist Union for French Democracy.

What, one could ask, are all these politicians doing at a blog conference turned marketplace for web 2.0 startups?

Well, they probably think the conference is still primarily about blogging or they realise that a conference like this can, in some ways, help circulate their words and ideas much more widely than mere "mainstream media".

I overheard someone in the hotel bar say, optimistically, "someone's gonna walk out of that conference a millionaire"

Several of the panels today will focus on the changing face of the media industry in the face of competition from websites that give their users tools and opportunities to create and share their own content such as Flickr, YouTube and the various blogging platforms.

Political strategists in the UK are already encouraging their candidates to experiment with these tools to reach and - this is the key - engage with members of the electorate.

France, we've been told more times during this conference than I care to remember, has more bloggers than any other nation in Europe and, with elections set to take place in the Spring, the politicians are taking note of this powerful new force for getting noticed.

Loic Le Meur, the organiser of Le Web, serial entrepreneur and the most popular blogger in France, used his blog to endorse Nicolas Sarkozy

There might be another reason. I'm told by Graham Holliday, who is blogging the event for The Guardian and lives in France and so understands the local blogging scene, that Loic Le Meur, the organiser of Le Web, serial entrepreneur and the most popular blogger in France, used his blog to endorse Nicolas Sarkozy because he promises to make France a nation of entrepreneurs.

The other night I overheard someone in the hotel bar say, optimistically, "someone's gonna walk out of that conference a millionaire", referring to the possibility of finding funding for their start-up venture.

Someone could, it seems possible, walk out of this building today in a better position to capture power in the French elections next Spring.

As for Le Meur, he's demonstrated throughout this conference that he is very much at the centre of the various world's that are colliding at Le Web.

DAY TWO: 1100 PARIS (1000 GMT)

There are some words that you just shouldn't be subjected to early in the morning. Amongst those are "first mover advantage", "click stream revenue sharing" and "open your bag please".

Shimon Peres
Shimon Peres joined the global blogging debate

Thankfully, I've also already heard the words "blog" and "blogger" more times this morning than I did all of yesterday.

The blog is back in Le Web, formerly Les Blogs, and former Israeli Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Shimon Peres is here too.

Peres, as you'd expect, spoke about conflict and his hopes for peace in the Middle East.

He said "I am dissatisfied about the present, and hopeful of the future."

The people developing the internet have a role to play in Peres' hope for the future and he told the conference that we're like midwifes: "In my judgement, the world is not in a mess, it is pregnant with a new age... it's a transition... the stone age is over, not because there are no more stones, but because there is no more age.

Why should we try to waste our intellect to remember? Now we can just go to Google...
Shimon Peres, former Israeli Prime Minister

"You people of the internet are really trying to give birth to this sort of thing, this new age. You are the midwife of this process.... you liberated us from having to invest a great effort to remember things.

"Why should we remember things? The past is full of troubles and wars. Why should we try to waste our intellect to remember? Now we can just go to Google..."

Peres says that that the internet is the greatest teacher for generations of the future and, when told there are 60 million blogs, he said that he wished there were six billion.

Following his presentation, Peres answered questions, including one from a conference delegate from the World Economic Forum, who asked what "the army of bloggers can bloggers do to relieve the Israeli/Arab conflict".

Peres paused for moment, and turned to the man beside him for, I think, a quick explanation of what a blog is, before responding.

"Look, it's an interesting question. In my judgement, I told my American friends, instead of going to other countries with ideologies, governments, armies, come with your private sector.

"Build branches, schools... we welcome you to come and do it. You can take the risk... [and] it can change every country in the Middle East. You don't have to do it in the name of governments, do it in the name of the future, another world. "

Peres then asked those in the audience looking for guidance to think of the future as "10 commandments with one internet".

He left to lengthy applause and the stage was reclaimed by a panel talking about blogging, "user generated content" and participatory media.

I am, like Peres, hopeful about the future and think day two of Le Web is already proving to be more interesting, and more about real world topics instead of the "venture capital funding opportunities" that were very much in fashion yesterday.

1630 PARIS (1530 GMT)

Lo´c Le Meur, the organiser of Le Web, explained earlier today that one of the interesting things about the conference is the way it was marketed.

Instead of sending out e-mails, posting brochures, contacting trade magazines and advertising, the organisers of Le Web used the tools used by their audience and simply blogged it. Word spread fast and, as soon as registration was closed, Le Meur started fielding calls from people who hadn't acted fast enough to register.

Yesterday he got the most unexpected of those calls, from the office of Shimon Peres, former Prime Minister of Israel and joint winner (with Yithak Rabin and Yasser Arafat) of the Nobel Peace prize.

He's in Paris and wanted to know if he could come along and give a presentation. Le Meur, who still sounded a bit shocked when recanting the story, says he initially thought it might be fun to say the conference was full up but decided against it and told Peres's assistant that he was more than welcome to come.

The number of blogs has continued to grow phenomenally over the third quarter of the year

As another conference goer said to me a few minutes ago, Peres isn't exactly a name most people would associate with the internet. So what is Peres going to talk about?

About 5% of the presenters listed on the conference blog come from Israel, long a hotbed of technology and software development.

Perhaps it doesn't really matter if Peres talks about the internet or not.

There is widespread consensus that the most interesting part of the day thus far was the one given by Hans Rosling, a Swedish Professor of International Health who didn't even mention the web during his presentation about the stereotypes people have when discussing income, health, and child-birth rates in different countries to their own.

Maybe Peres, who turned 83 in August, will break down some of our age stereotypes by demonstrating that really does understand the whole internet thing.

1530 PARIS (1430 GMT)

Dave Sifry from Technorati, a blog tracking service, just completed his "state of the blogosphere" address.

Dave Siffry
Dave Siffry is an influential figure in the blogosphere

No surprises here. As usual, the number of blogs has continued to grow phenomenally over the third quarter of the year and Technorati is now tracking around 60 million blogs worldwide.

Sifry doesn't know when the growth in blogging will slow down and says, "I'd love to able to tell you. It obviously has to slow down at some point.

"I mean, there are only so many human beings on the planet. We've been seeing about 100,000 new blogs being created world wide every day.

"To give you an idea, that's one new blog being created somewhere in the world every single day."

Sifry always gives a spirited presentation and did his best to woo French bloggers by explaining that although he knows there are lots of great French blogs, at the moment his service has a difficult time finding and tracking them.

With Technorati being the blog content search tool of choice for many bloggers, this essentially means that French blog content is not just under-represented in his figures, but also largely invisible outside the French speaking world.

This may very well explain why, for the conference this size, Le Web 3 has thus far appeared to have a fairly small footprint in the English language blogosphere.

1200 PARIS (1100 GMT)

A lot of people are grumbling about here on the floor that there is no web at Le Web which is why, if you were planning on following the conference via its blog buzz, you might find yourself left in the dark.

Like many technology and media conferences, free wi-fi is being provided for attendees. In the past this has never worked very well for me - when too many people try to connect and download content, or because of the nature of this particular conference to upload it, wi-fi routers and networks tend to groan or fall over from the strain.

The same is happening here today, with internet access intermittent, showering us with good bandwidth one moment and the next moment, nothing. It might not sound like a big deal to many readers, but for this audience, not having the ability to post stuff to your blogs is akin to being locked in a room without being told when you're to be let out.

The choice is difficult - sit and watch the conference or head to the back in search of internet access.


With 1,000 people attending from 37 countries, Le Web 3 is almost certainly the biggest conference of its type anywhere in Europe.

Like many of the technologies that are being discussed here, and the markets for them, the two-day conference itself is in transition.

In his opening address, the organiser, Lo´c Le Meur from Six Apart, a company which provides a number of consumer blogging platforms including Typepad, admitted that the conference had drifted from its roots as a conference for and about blogging.

Now it's all a bit flash for mere bloggers with corporate sponsors in abundance, a slickly prepared venue with theatre-size screens projecting multi-camera video and presentations, croissants and latte served on metal trays and an exhibition area set aside for more than 50 start-ups, mostly European, to demonstrate - and perhaps sell - their wares.

The big names are here this year too. Not just from the worlds of blogging and technology like Technorati, TechCrunch, Mozilla, and Skype, but also representatives from companies that have already become household names such as Yahoo, Nokia, Google, Orange, Lastminute.com.

Over the next two days, I'll be speaking with bloggers, geeks, the start-ups, venture capitalists and internet heavy-hitters to find out what motivated them to join 1,000 other people in Paris for Le Web 3.

Robin Hamman is also writing about Le Web on his personal blog at http://www.cybersoc.com

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