The New New Internet ‘07 Wrap-up

A bunch of Viget folks, as well as around 800 other attendees descended on the Reston Hyatt yesterday for the 2007 version of The New New Internet. The event holds a special place in my heart because it was about one year ago that I met Brian and eventually became part of the Viget team. This year's event had a power-packed line-up, including the local Renaissance business man Ted Leonsis, James Surowiecki (author of the The Wisdom of the Crowds), Tim Ferriss (author of The 4-Hour Workweek), Sir Gary Vaynerchuck (Wine Library TV), and Om Malik (GigaOM), amongst many others (including our friend Geoff Livingston, whose blog -- The Buzz Bin -- we recently re-designed). Leonsis opened the day by describing the landscape of today's marketplace. He described how consumers now have more purchasing power but no time, dual incomes but less savings, and more self-satisfaction but not happiness. Consumers have more choice than ever and the web is a key part of that. I was particularly looking forward to -- and was not disappointed by -- Surowiecki's discussion of the ideas presented in his The Wisdom of the Crowds. It has been on my reading list but not tackled to this point. I must admit that I was skeptical toward the title, biased by what I now know is a misuse of this often-quoted concept within web circles. The idea of the wisdom of the crowds is that, under the right circumstances, groups of people can be remarkably smarter than the smartest individual in the group. The key phrase is "under the right circumstances." It's arguable whether the web, as a whole, meets all the criteria Surowiecki identifies. The conclusion of the power of collective intelligence, however, makes it compelling to foster an environment to make a crowd smart. One of the more lively and conversational panels, entitled, "Engaging Your Client Community via Blogs and Social Media," was moderated by Rohit Bhargava (Ogilvy PR and blogger at Influential Marketing) and included "Buzz" Livingston, Vaynerchuck (Wine Library TV), and camera-on-his-head-wearing Frank Gruber (AOL and blogger at Somewhat Frank). Each of these gentlemen has his own social media success stories, which they shared with the crowd to emphasize the point that social media really works if you are real with people. As Sir Gary put it, regarding your clients and customers, "That's my whole thing ... you have to punch them in the face." (Note: Viget Labs only supports this notion metaphorically.) Of course, there was plenty of networking throughout the day, a very cool tech showcase (where Brian served as a judge) , and a cocktail hour at the end of the day. Yes, you should have been there. There's always next year.
Ken Yarmosh

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