The Future of Webapps, the best presentations

So I did a sum up of the Future of Webapps on the Backstage Blog at the end of last week.

But some of the best presentations deserve more discussion. So here's the presentations which really stuck out and grabbed me.

The Future of Webapps day 2
Leisa Reichelt (Flow Interactive) on Ambient Intimacy
Leisa's talk was one of the best of the conference, the room was packed and its very hard to put into words. Luckly Lesia has put the whole presentation on Slideshare and her blog. My notes were not great, but Suw's notes were bloody excellent. The talk centred around Continual partial friendship as coined by David “Jono” Weinberger. Leisa led the crowd through different examples of how we know people through 3rd party systems like twitter, blogs, social networks. She wrangled with the concepts of false connectiveness and information overload and even had time to explain dunbar. Then left some excellent hints how to design for this social new world, Lesia also used Twitterific as a example of how to do this right. But generally… (nicked from Suw)

1. Keep it lightweight – it' not supposed to be the centre of attention, small footbrint, keep in mind that copious functionality isn't necessarily a good things, keep it simple.
2. stay out of the way – invisibility, your app is about facilitating a social network, it's not aobut you or your company or your app, so more you reduce resistance this message being delivered and recieved, the better your app is. So if you send an email to say there's a message on your social network, so you have to log in to see it, then that's not a good way of staying out of the way. Desktop app that shows me your stuff, that's better.
3. open your API – not about controlling the way your communication happens. Twitter and Flickr do this, once they opened their API, the innovation that developed blossomed.
APIs support openness between platforms, your app is not an islenad, you are not going to hold people in your space. Need to recognise that people use different apps in a suite, so how can you integrate with that group rather than siilo ourselves off.
4. portable social networks – Think that people use different apps all the time, and i fyou usre more than two or three you know there is no joy in maintaining lots of lists of friends. This isn't about locking peole in, you are part of a greater environment, so look for ways to make use of other lists, or make your list more portable.
5. use the periphery – small movements, just be there hovering in the background, grab attention only when you need to.
6. allow for time-shifting – whilst its about being in the moment, we do need to be able to go back and catch up on stuff.

Amazing presentation and lots to think about.

The second presentation which hooked me was Matt Biddulph on Dopplr.
The Future of Webapps Day 2
Matt Biddulph, /images/emoticons/laugh.gifopplr) Smart Web App Integration With Third Party Sites & Services
Matt gave away a load of free invites to Dopplr the new social trip site. He talked about his motivations including Small pieces loosly joined and the web as a platform done so well you don't need to visit the website at all. He claimed dopplr was so open you can interact with it via rss, openid, etc, etc. That there is no need to login. I did question how he was going to make enough money to stay up, but he said they are using advertising for most people and expecting to find other ways to make money off people who don't login. This is great because finally someone is creating a social network which is open enough that your not having to login everyday to see whats different – ala Facebook. Someone suggested I check out Matt's thoughts on social network portablity but I can't find it right now, so I found a Foaf based one and the Microformats guys version too.

The future of webapps day2
Paul Graham (Y Combinator) The Future of Web Startups
Paul Graham is always a great writer/reader but never without some controversy. This time in a list of reasons why there will be more startups and how they could be more sucessful. He made the comment that you need to be in Silicon Valley.

It might seem that if startups get cheap to start, it will mean the end of startup hubs like Silicon Valley. If all you need to start a startup is rent money, you should be able to do it anywhere.

This is kind of true and kind of false. It's true that you can now start a startup anywhere. But you have to do more with a startup than just start it. You have to make it succeed. And that is more likely to happen in a startup hub.

I've thought a lot about this question, and it seems to me the increasing cheapness of web startups will if anything increase the importance of startup hubs. The value of startup hubs, like centers for any kind of business, lies in something very old-fashioned: face to face meetings. No technology in the immediate future will replace walking down University Ave and running into a friend who tells you how to fix a bug that's been bothering you all weekend, or visiting a friend's startup down the street and ending up in a conversation with one of their investors.

This caused quite a chill in the room, as Paul added Silicon Valley is where you want to be. Paul Graham's talk prompted Ryan Carson to stand on stage and disagreed with him about Silicon Valley afterwards. Paul Graham had gone by then, or I guess cared not respond.
The future of webapps day2
The second was his point about college. College will change, if the degree system is all about impressing your next employer and your aim is to setup your own business. He claimed the meaning of college will change if you don't need to worry so much about the final result. Maybe students will bond together a lot more and setup more little businesses during their college time? Here's the actual texts.

8. College Will Change

If the best hackers start their own companies after college instead of getting jobs, that will change what happens in college. Most of these changes will be for the better. I think the experience of college is warped in a bad way by the expectation that afterward you'll be judged by potential employers.

One change will be in the meaning of “after college,” which will switch from when one graduates from college to when one leaves it. If you're starting your own company, why do you need a degree? We don't encourage people to start startups during college, but the best founders are certainly capable of it. Some of the most successful companies we've funded were started by undergrads.

I grew up in a time where college degrees seemed really important, so I'm alarmed to be saying things like this, but there's nothing magical about a degree. There's nothing that magically changes after you take that last exam. The importance of degrees is due solely to the administrative needs of large organizations. These can certainly affect your life—it's hard to get into grad school, or to get a work visa in the US, without an undergraduate degree—but tests like this will matter less and less.

As well as mattering less whether students get degrees, it will also start to matter less where they go to college. In a startup you're judged by users, and they don't care where you went to college. So in a world of startups, elite universities will play less of a role as gatekeepers. In the US it's a national scandal how easily children of rich parents game college admissions. But the way this problem ultimately gets solved may not be by reforming the universities but by going around them. We in the technology world are used to that sort of solution: you don't beat the incumbents; you redefine the problem to make them irrelevant.

The greatest value of universities is not the brand name or perhaps even the classes so much as the people you meet. If it becomes common to start a startup after college, students may start trying to maximize this. Instead of focusing on getting internships at companies they want to work for, they may start to focus on working with other students they want as cofounders.

What students do in their classes will change too. Instead of trying to get good grades to impress future employers, students will try to learn things. We're talking about some pretty dramatic changes here.

There was a bunch of thoughts from Paul on this topic and what was interesting was how it echoed back from university to college to schools. I asked the question what could a public service broadcaster be doing in this area to stimulate growth? He replied, saying that the BBC should create good polished documentaries about what its like to be in a startup and grow a idea into something special. Although a reasonable answer, I was hoping for something a little deeper like his thoughts in how schools would change.

Anyway there were other good presentations but these were the 3 which hooked me and caused me to take the most notes. I want to say thanks to the Carsons again for putting on a great international conference. Future of Webapps is huge and I wish them lots of success with there other future of's…
The Future of Webapps Expo
I know me and Ryan haven't always seen eye to eye on somethings but you got to respect a couple (Gillian is as much of this as Ryan) who could enjoy playing Wii while there running a major conference.

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Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser. Can be found at, and