DLD07 Notes – Day I, Part I

Thanks to my friends at burda wireless i got an invitation to this years DLD conference. DLD – just renamed from “Digital Lifestyle Day” to “Digital. Life. Design.” – is an event sponsored by german media powerhouse Hubert Burda Media. It’s an invitation only conference, which brings quite a bit of interesting people togehter in order to stipulate discussions and networking. Nearly all german media bloggers are also on the participants list, as well as the main stream media (tv, magazine and newspaper). Hence i think that their has already bin lots of reports from the event. So as usual i concentrate on my personal/anecdotal experiences of the first day.

Ten years after

Waiting in line for registration i was forced to overhear a conversation between a newly appointed editor-in-chief of the online operations of a german media giant with somebody. The conversation was along the following lines:

  • Somebody: “RubyOnRails? Whats that?”
  • Editor-In-Chief: “RubyOnRails is a programming language. And everything is totally easy with it.”
  • Somebody: “Ah , something like HTML”
  • Editor-In-Chief: “No something different. But it is totally easy. Everybody uses it and it works. Hence i don’t understand why my developers take so long.”

In some sense this discussion reminded me of my first day at my first job outside he university back in 97 (or was it 96, memory begins to fade). I was going to be the head of technology at a big german sports portal, and in the introductory round i learned that i was also responsible for the HTML “programmers”. It took me quite some time to make the management understand the differences between HTML “programming” and software development.

Hence I was “totally” compelled to explain the editor that Ruby is a programming language and that RoR is a webapplication development framework build on top of Rails (and that HTML is definitiley not a programming language). And, while RoR certainly makes things easier in comparison to other, more traditional, application frameworks, complex problems remain complex independently of the tools you are using. And even when things are easy they just can be a lot of work.

So on one hand i thought that definitely some clarifications would be not to bad , especially for the developers. On the other hand the notion that there is something called RoR and that editors should know about it, is most likely a step forward. I just had hoped that we had made some more progress wrt. the technical literacy of the editorial staff of online publicatons in the last ten years.

The future’s future

The first session was called the future’s future and included Catarina Fake (Founder of flickr, now Yahoo!), Niklas Zennström (Disruptive Entrepreneur of Kazaa, Skype and now Joost! fame), and Thierry Antinori (Member of the board of Lufthansa) moderated by David Kirkpatrick from Fortune
It was more a less a general looking into the glassball panel. It became obvious that the main reason for Mr. Antinori being at this panel was Lufthansa being a sponsor of DLD. Nevertheless there were some interesting remarks.

So Mr. Antinori announced that the internet will return to the aircrafts (maybe eve the short haul), and that they are investing into remote diagnosis of passengers health problems on board. It also became clear that the reasons for this were not altruistic, but being able to sell tickets to people with health problems and becoming the airline recommend by the doctors as well as saving money from reducing the amount of unplanned stopovers. As long as this will save some lives i’m ok with that. Being asked how Lufthansa will respond to issues like censorship (what about a flight over china or aperson carrying a chinese passport in the seat besides you), age regulations etc. (nice question) he was only able to respond with a blank face and I’m there to sell theses products.

Mr. Zennström took the opportunity to briefly talk about Joost! (formerly known as the venice project) his most recent endeavour aiming at being as disruptive to the television industry as Kazaa has been to the music industry and skype has been tothe telco industry. Personally i did not have the chance to test it, due to the lack of time but ‘ll do real soon. Asked about other industries that could also be struck by disruptive technology (which in Zennström’s case means peer-to-peer technology) he said that he had quite a long list but cited only the financial industry. Asked if magazines are going to be in trouble, he said that he thinks that magazines will do ok, but daily newspapers are more affected. Not very new to me.

IMHO the most interesting things were said by Catarina Fake. Among other things she said that Flickr wouldn’t been possible without the help of bloggers and their word of mouth marketing. One study revealed that 80% of the early users came from blogger recommendations. She also revealed that from time to time from Flickr is blocked by governments (e.g. in order to prohibit the upload pictures from protests to the site). Interestingly currently this is the case for saudi-Arabia and the UAE whereas there are active Flickr user groups in Iran.

She also noted that in general R & D does not play a relevant role in the “classical” media industry and that this is just slowly changing. IMHO maybe too slowly. Asked the obvious question about the future “megatrend” she talked about the modularization of the web page and the services coming to the mobile devices, So that wasn’t too inventive.

But she then changed it into the metaphor of the data/content being delaminated from the web page. And i have to say i really like this metaphor. It neatly describes all the things going on wrt. RSS/ATOM , APIs and the ATOM Publishing Protocol, Mashups etc. in a language that executives can understand.

But it also describes the problems especially media executives are going to face. In general they are right now more coming to the point at getting easy on the fact that their content can live an ad supported live on a web page. And now they are told that the web page, the glue between the content and the ad, is going to be not that adhesive any longer