People attend conferences for generally one of a few purposes: networking, education, and research. The unifying factor amongst these reasons, however, is generally always technology. How are peers using the technology, what's the learning curve, what skills are necessary, what's the best toolkit/platform, etc... Those are the questions you generally hear at a technology-focused conference.

At the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco this week, conference organizers attempted to apply the concepts of Web 2.0 to the conference itself. In addition to the expected sessions and BoF sessions, organizers introduced a concept they called "Web2Open". Web2Open was to be a participatory, attendee directed and led set of sessions similar to BoF but organized completely by attendees. Like a real life forum, attendees would post ideas in open slots on the Web2Open board with descriptions of the topics they wanted to discuss in the session and other attendees could join in or not as was their wont.

Now I thought this would be a good way to find out what was on the mind of conference attendees. What questions did they really have regarding Web 2.0? What burning technology issues drove them to suggest a session?

In what is certainly already typical "Web 2.0 defies definition" tradition, the sessions were as varied as the Internet itself. Some of the suggested topics included:

  • Rich Media Mashups
  • Client Side Dynamic Mashups
  • Georoute Sharing
  • Microformats for Media
  • Data Mashup Integration
  • AJAX Security
  • The State of OpenID
  • Online Democratization of the Legislative Process
  • Virtual Social Networking and Immigrant Women
  • Putting Development Skills to Use for Non-Profits
  • Addressing Global Poverty through Open Source

There were far more social networking focused sessions than those on technology, believe me.

What this list shows is that Web 2.0 remains an exercise is existentialism. There were a lot of interesting tracks and sessions at the show, but the user-generated content was, as is true on the Internet, hit and miss.

It's a great concept in general, user-generated content, but as recent debates have postulated, perhaps unmoderated user-generated content isn't the best thing for the Internet. It was certainly a bit too much for a conference on an emerging technology.

Imbibing: Coffee

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