Notes from LeWeb’12, Tuesday Morning

I’m at LeWeb’12 in Paris, if you’d missed the news. I arrived late at the main stage, after dealing with the inevitable “badge drama” that shows up on the morning of the first day. (A few of the badges for official bloggers couldn’t be found…) After that I headed upstairs to the official blogger lounge so I could power up a bit and check it out “live”.

I arrived in time to catch the second part of the NASA talk about Curiosity Rover (@marscuriosity). Read Rachel’s live-blogged notes. The video footage of the touchdown on Mars and the reaction of all the people working on it was very moving.

SmartThings. Now that was interesting. (Not that NASA wasn’t but… in a different way.) How about providing a single centralized interface (on your phone) for interacting with physical objects? Obvious example: a light switch. Less obvious example: getting an alert when the liquor cabinet door is opened. And how about adding layers of intelligence so that an event can trigger another? Example: turn the lights on when the front door is opened.

I’m only scratching the surface here, but I’m feeling the same inkling of excitement as when I was listening to the talk on 3D printing at Lift earlier this year. The code is simple, I feel like tinkering. It feels like a playground, like the web felt to me 14 years ago and social tools 8 years ago.

SoundCloud CEO made a great point about the importance of sound, and this vindicates a point I’ve been trying to make since the early days of videoblogging: sound allows you to do something else while you’re listening to it. Video? Not so much. You’re watching video, or you’re not. It’s hard to watch video and do the dishes at the same time. Possible, though. Watch video and drive? Nope. But you can listen to audio during that time. Which makes me think: should I be doing more video, or more audio?

The big surprise of the morning for me was charity: water. I’d heard about it, of course. I’d heard about people giving up their birthdays. But from where I stood, it sounded like another of these American charity/volunteer/cheesy thingies. Listening to Scott’s story on stage though, I’ve been turned. I especially like their 100% model: 100% of donations go towards the “core charity”, and the organizational costs are covered by private donors, foundations, sponsors…

I remember from my brief experience with Wildlife SOS in India that it’s way easier to find people to give money to feed or save the bears, than it is to find people to provide money to pay salaries or a new computer that’s needed for the office. The 100% model helps solve that problem. You need to be good at marketing and fundraising, though ;-)

Another thing Scott managed to do is create a strong non-stuffy brand. Charity: water is a non-boring charity — which is maybe why I perceived it as “very American” through the lens of my Swiss values. But actually, upon looking closer, it’s great.

The 100% model and use of “modern” technology (GPS trackers! Google Maps!) means it’s possible to introduce traceability for all their actions. You can actually pinpoint where each donor’s money goes, and nobody feels kind of “cheated” of their desire to make a direct difference in people’s lives because their donation went towards paying for software licenses rather than actually building a well.

No live-blogging, you’re asking? Nope, but definitely pretty much live-storifying of all the coverage provided but the wonderful official bloggers at the conference.

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