October 07, 2005

Favorite and not so Favorite Things about Web 2.0

Meeting Ward Cunningham. Creator of the wiki. He's really awesome.

And meeting Chris Locke, whose blog is caustic, but I still enjoy it. And yet in person, lovely man.

And sitting next to Bob Metcalfe last night at dinner for a couple of hours. Telling me stories about his place in Maine and the social structure from a local's point of view, his food-historian triathlon running wife, comparing notes on places we've traveled (Barcelona is really high on both lists), and on how much we both enjoy making things, how time can stop when you are making something that engages you. And how he can't communicate with his kids without IM. Charming. And very sweet.

My least favorite part? Well, there are only 6 women speakers out of 106, and there are very few women here at all. In fact, I have to say, there are very few women entrepreneurs, and we must do something about this. Women are naturally very good at the things this kind of work requires, and yet, we don't do take it up very much. Why? Obviously, much more than a speakr wiki is required and yet the wiki points to many of the problems here: women are afraid to sign up because they see other more accomplished people and find that intimidating, instead of realizing everyone starts without much and builds up (whatever: talks, experience, education.. it's a process and there is nothing wrong with having less.. in fact, I think there is a huge opportunity there to show something new!) But we really have to do better and conferences like Web 2.0 really point to the problems in this area. Because we build things for the whole human race, as software developers, and yet if we don't engage women, we are losing experience, perspective and opportunity to balance our products and make better experience.

Yes, I get the irony that I've mentioned only men above. But there really are very few women at this conference. And I've met them all before. Those above are the new people I've met that were fun for me. As I said, we must do better. And I'm no exception. I did a workshop on video, and invited three men. But I don't know any women in video who are entrepreneurs. So I checked the wiki, and couldn't find any others. So we had three guys. Hitting my own wall in the speaker wiki isn't fun, but it's helping me see some of the issues from a conference organizer's point of view. There is a lot of work to do there: getting people to sign up, working on categories, working on search, working on getting more women into areas they want to be in, to be successful and visible if they want to be.

Posted by Mary Hodder at October 7, 2005 09:44 AM | TrackBack

Is that the sum and total of Web 2.0? Money? Can one do something for the love and joy of it?

This was an invite only speaker list, so I think you might want to address some comments to the folks who did the inviting. Also, at 2500 a pop, I don't know about a lot of other women, but even when I had lots of money, I wouldn't have paid this much for anything.

The wiki is a start, but attitudes have to be changed. Women have to become valued in their own right, not as men-wanna-bes. Women are working in Web 2.0, but not everyone is into dot-com 2.0.

All in all, I think that Web 2.0 demonstrates the worst, the absolute worst, of this environment. Money, hype, and white male supremacy.

Posted by: Shelley at October 7, 2005 02:16 PM

I certainly can't speak for all women, but I can speak for myself as well as wager a conjecture that for many women, the pursuit of money in and of itself just isn't all that compelling. Very distantly there's supposed to be some connection between making that money and using it to build something that promotes the betterment of the world/humanity, but I cover the social software space pretty closely and I'll be damned if I can remember the last time I heard much about the latter from the cast of entrepreneurs. Not surprisingly, this turns a lot of women off -- it certainly turns me off.

I agree with Shelley that part of the problem lies in framing the problem in terms of wondering why women "don't measure up" to the yardstick of success as measured in male-centered dot-com bubble world. I think a lot of women don't actively compete because they simply don't value competition. It's not necessarily that they're intimidated -- it's that they don't share a lot of the values the tech industry tends to hold dear, and would rather undertake other projects and goals that better fit their values.

Posted by: barb dybwad at October 11, 2005 01:03 AM

There's a very powerful principle of the 'strength of weak ties' - you learn a lot more from people who you don't know very well because they are exposed to a lot more things outside your usual scope.

I am sure there are other women in video who are entrepreneurs - but I'd look to people I didn't know very well in LA or NYC or Toronto or Vancouver, people who didn't know very much about wiki, and see what kinds of unpredictable connections you could successfully make.

Posted by: Edward Vielmetti at October 11, 2005 11:14 AM

Napster was a Web 2.0 company back in the 1.0 world. Here is a glimpse into the inside story of Napster, and at the end, some lessons learned for entrepreneurs. I was VP of product development at Napster back in the wild days of 2000. We went from just a million users to over 50 million users in about 7 months time. At the time it was the fastest growing application in the history of the internet. We changed the world, but failed to achieve business success.

Here is a link to the full post.

I did another story on WHY the early innovators (Web 1.0) were eclipsed by imitators or fast followers in the Web2.0 world. Fascinating stuff. The full post is here http://dondodge.typepad.com/the_next_big_thing/2005/10/innovate_or_imi.html

What is your view on why Napster failed, and why many Web 1.0 leaders failed as well?


Posted by: Don Dodge at October 15, 2005 10:28 AM

Hi Mary,

I've just listened to your podcast interview with Tony Conrad over at the BusinessWeek feed. Fantastic insights. I can't wait until you guys are coming out with the new search engine - how silly though for the host to open with such a feeble criticism of the name "Sphere" - thought Tony handled that kind of unnecessary opening very gallantly and with style, well done ;-)

But your post really prompted me to drop you a line: You are so right in what you are saying about women's natural talent in this context. But like myself, women don't like to waste their precious time by attempting to swim upstream. Case in point is my venture (click under Categories "The Vision" on my blog). Conceived in later '99, it became rather quickly apparent, that the technological infrastructure simply wasn't there for my vision to be realized. So, unlike the well conceived, but for very similar reasons, premature and thus horribly ill-fated TW-AOL merger, I choose to wait and see - and please to not view the comparison as excessive hubris on my part but merely as a neutral observation according to my humble opinion...

So, I think your wish of having many more women entrepreneurs enter this field will come true as soon as the geek-factor is reduced to managable levels. And that point is fast approaching, if not already here. Again, case-in-point: my ability to start a blog from nothing for a monthly subscription fee of US$15. TypePad's service allowed me to almost exclusively concentrate on content which after a few months seemed to have attracted literally thousands of readers. That's simply revolutionary. Such enabling software with those kind of features and their relative ease of use would have cost me only 2 years ago hundreds of thousands dollars to create, not to mention the upkeep costs (forget about the PR and publicity costs to get the word out...). Now Sphere is yet another component that is promising to make this whole blogging phenomenon even more userfriendly.

That's the time when we join the fray. That's when women like myself are able to experiment and tailor next-generation business concepts without any of the traditionally associated waste and overhead burden. In fact, it's mostly those traditional processes that frequently intimidate and/or disenfranchise particularly women. So, my take is that as soon as we can in fact afford to focus much more on experiences rather then on the processes, we'll see a flurry of user-experience-oriented services appear.

In fact, my entire research over the last few years shows that women are totally ready and willing to join in, providing (1) we make it easy and fun for them to do so and (2) our services fit right in with their habits and cramped daily schedules.

All the best,


Posted by: Alexandra at October 24, 2005 04:39 AM