Kaliya did a great job facilitating, using the open space model of unconferences to allow natural order to emerge from the potential chaos. And that’s not easy, given the political and technical hurdles to enabling the sharing of users’ personal information between various commercial services in a manner that keeps the user fully in control.
What impressed me most? All of the “big guys” took the event seriously, and made sure to have action-oriented representatives there. The various discussions were greatly enriched by having heavy-hitters from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL present and engaged. And, without exception, these titans of the online world were strongly supportive of the core notions embodied in the Bill of Rights for users of the social web.
What was the biggest disappointment? Facebook did not view the topic of interoperability between social networks to be important enough to even send a representative. To make matters worse, they had said they would, so over the course of two days, we kept thinking Facebook would show up at any minute to enliven the debate. Of course, I should have known better. Facebook backed out of the Office 2.0 panel, cancelled Wednesday’s planned meeting with Marc Canter and Joseph Smarr of Plaxo to discuss the Bill of Rights, and avoided the Bar Camp Block in Palo Alto a few weeks ago. Apparently, their version of “open” does not inlcude direct engagement with other participants in the industry and the community.
On a positive note, we had a great discussion about the Bill of Rights (draft 1.0) and how to refine it to make it something that the “big guys” can easily get through their legal departments. Details aside, what was clear is this: Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL are all on the right side of the debate, along with Plaxo, and a number of the up-and-comers, like Marc’s Broadband Mechanics. So, even if one or two of the “walled gardens” choose to opt out of the Open Social Web, that will be their business decision, and one that lodges them squarely on the side that loses in the long run — the “closed network” proponents.
As the summit came to a close, many participants stepped foreward to plant their signature on the poster-sized version of the Bill of Rights. Now, I need to bring it to the co-authors who haven’t had a chance to sign, including Robert Scoble and Michael Arrington. And then, I plan to bring it over to Facebook, to see if any of their employees support the notion that users should have ownership, control, and portability of their personal information…
Here are some of my pictures from the event: