Sunday, March 2, 2008

Future of Web Applications Conference

The annual Future of Web Apps conference (like the Future of Entertainment at MIT) is one of the events I'd most like to get to. A BarCamp, conference, workshops, parties... did anyone out there attend?


On Friday, I moderated a fun panel at the Future of Web Apps conference in Miami (see photo above). The basic premise was to try to come up with a compelling web app in 40 minutes. There were a lot of good ideas, but the best ones centered around communications and how to use technology to get around the frustrations of e-mail and phone calls. It was clear that the panelists think these communication modes that we rely on every day may very well be in the process of breaking down. (CNet’s Caroline McCarthy, who was covering the conference, notes this as well).

A lot of the ideas were about getting around current communications bottlenecks. Leah Culver of Pownce came up with a white pages service that uses SMS text messages to look up phone numbers. Blaine Cook of Twitter suggested creating a call-back service that would, in effect, allow you call companies and put them on hold until a human answered. In other words, you would specify what department you want to speak with at a company, and the software would call and go through the phone tree, and digitally push all the right buttons until it got to a human operator, at which point it would ring your phone. I thought this was brilliant.

But the app we ended up spending the most time brainstorming was one that Digg’s Kevin Rose dreamed up to help him manage his e-mail. He can’t keep up with it all, and wanted to come up with a way to stop offending people who he never gets back to by sharing some of his e-mail data with them. The concept was a site that keeps stats on your e-mail usage that your friends can check to see how far behind you are in responding to e-mails in general. (”It’s not you, it’s me”).

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