This morning I attended a breakfast discussion (thanks, Kara Kelch for inviting me) put on by Potomac ExecutveBiz at the Tower Club in Vienna, VA.  About 20 persons from various organizations, consulting shops, technology firms and start-ups showed up to throw around ideas and experience regarding Web 2.0.

It was well worth the time spent (The food was way better than most places!) and great to hear from others in the field.  Jim Garrettson of ExecutiveBiz led the discussion.  Here are a few comments of my own – my idiosyncratic take-way.  Sorry if I missed any important points (I’m over 50); you can add them in the comments section.

As we all know, the consensus was that there is no firm definition of Web 2.0.  Blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, YouTube and Flickr all got their due.

In a general way, Web 2.0 is about giving more power to the individual to express, explore and collaborate with others on the web for personal, professional and organizational advantage.  Many more voices, connections to friends, associates and strangers, and fleeting, at times, or lasting relationships for many reasons, at others, on a local, regional and global scale. (For a contrarian view, see Mark Cuban’s posting on how boring the web has become.)

  • Vishal Gupta talked about how Cisco is harnessing wikis (following the model set out by James Surowelski , to spur innovation through collaboration, and how Jeff Crites at has built a start-up around the notion.
  • Thomas Wallace from Ecofusion and Chase Warmington from described their new start-up to leverage the power of user-generated video in the sustainable development space.
  • David Gorodetski at Sage Communications raised the important distinction between the technology itself and the social aspects, and Brian Reed at Boxtone talked about the strategy of implementing 2.0 tactics.  (This to me is critical: the strategy must dictate the application of the technology.  It matters that we’re clear about what we want to achieve before we select the technologies.)
  • Brands are evolving.  As Andrea Morris of Hinge, Inc.  (I think) paraphrased Jeff Bezos, “Brands are what people say when you are not in the room.”  How true.  And companies are finally coming to the realization that they can’t control the message, the word of mouth, or customer interactions.  Phil Zalewski at Pulse Media Group mentioned Nike’s efforts in this arena, and the example of Dell was brought up.
  • As Arthur Clarke once said,” The future is here but it’s not evenly distributed.”  There was lots of talk about how everyone is an organization can and should (?) make use of the evolving web.  As Martin Ringlein of nclud noted, not everyone has the temperament, skills or inclination to participate.  Others disagreed, saying that there’s probably a place for everyone on the new web.  (I’m not convinced).  And the same goes for organizations.  Some still try to limit the use of the web, and others are very slow to adopt.  Carie Lewis was surprised to learn that Instant Messaging was not available in her new organization.
  • The World Bank’s Irakli Nadareishvili brought up what I thought was an under-appreciated idea.  Making new applications (software, databases, widgets, etc.) available to others for their blog and websites will push the boundaries of Web 2.0.  Facebook is doing this, and so is The Washington Post, as is The World Bank with its blog tracker, very much like our own ImpactWatch (but which isn’t free).

These new things – mixtures of data, visuals, interfaces, etc. – much like Google maps and restaurants on your mobile phone – called "mash-ups" will truly push to the next level.  It’s one thing to have a platform to say something; it’s truly another to offer services that help find people (the current search for Steve Fossett), offer services to the aged, and transform our health care system, alleviate poverty and reduce violence (those elusive goals founders of the Internet keep aiming for.)

We were asked at the end to say who’s the winner of Web 2.0.  The consensus favorite was the individual.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure we're all equal winners.  I'd feel differently if I had been a founder of Youtube or MySpace.