As we learned in Web 1.0 or, as I like to refer to it, the pre-Jurassic Web -- the reality of the situation on the ground (or, in this case, in the ether) usually lies somewhere between extreme hyperbole and disproportionate skepticism. Such is the case with Web 2.0.
As Om Malik told us in his keynote interview on Monday, we'll look back on all this Web 2.0 frenzy and none of it will matter. He may be right, but tell that to all the folks standing around inhaling the oxygen from this bubble.
However, as was noted by so many at the conference, this time around the playing field is more level than the first go round. It's less about the money and more about the ideas (well, okay, it's a little about the money). And, we have a whole new field of players, ones who don't necessarily have the baggage from Web 1.0 and who, more importantly, grew up living and breathing with interactive technology.
That fact alone cannot be understated...just ask all the big media dinosaurs running through the Web 2.0 jungle trying to gobble up the young upstarts and buy their way out of extinction.
When the barriers to entry are whether or not you have a credit card, access to a Web server and Ruby on Rails programmer, and a good Internet connection, stand back and watch the fireworks. Because innovation (a good idea well executed) -- not capital -- becomes the gating factor to success. That, and a basic understanding of how to spark a good conversation about your product or service via the Web.
The Mesh conference itself is a good example on a small scale of what I'm trying to describe. The conference began as an idea over a beer a mere three months ago by several Canadian technology journalists and entrepreneurs who wanted to bring together Canada's Web 2.0 best for some mixing and mashing. Within days, what started as a beer shop talk meme had a number of big corporate sponsors, a Web site, and a lot of substantive buzz. (Mark, Mathew, Mike, Rob, and Stuart, my hat's off to you all. You took a great idea, stayed lean and mean, and ran like mad to the finish line.)
Ultimately, what I learned at Mesh was that this generation doesn't want to be told what to do, when to do it, lied to, poked and prodded by marketers. They certainly don't want to be lied to by large institutions with big balance sheets and bloated bureaucracies.
Heaven help you if you blatantly lie to them and they find out about it.
They also seem to have permanently lost the TV remote (I'm sure it's around here somewhere). No, instead they have glued their hand to their mouse, programmed their own entertainment schedules on the TiVo or iPod, and are driven by the inate need for human sociability and honest communication. They share everything, and the network effect abounds.
If you want to reach them as a marketer, give them straight talk, not platitudes. If you want to involve them in your brand, don't lie about your product's excellence. Instead, be honest about its faults, and demonstrate to them that you're taking some of that money you used to spend on marketing and putting it back into making the product better.
What a concept!
Because if you don't, and your product isn't any good, they're going to make sure the rest of the world knows about it -- and I do mean the world -- in about three seconds. And there won't be much you can do about it except watch the Google queries exponentially multiply and the sales drop like a lead weight off the Empire State Building.
It sounds mean and ruthless and Darwinian and utopian all in the same breath, doesn't it? And in the end, it's probably all that and more.
But based on what I learned "meshing" in Toronto this week, I think we'll all be the ultimate beneficiaries.
Because moving forward into this strange new world, what we say as people, as large institutions, organizations, companies will no longer matter nearly as much as what we do and how we do it.
What we buy will be more influenced than ever by what we know about the product, certainly, but also about the people who make it, market it, sell it, support it...all the way down the line.
Yes, we will all benefit from this. But it will require some changes.
Changes in the way we communicate. Changes in the way we manage. Changes in the way we relate. Changes in the way we market and sell.
That change will be hard...change always is. And many won't like it.
But that change will be required to participate in a participatory economy.
And it's already happening.[Read More]