I'm in love with Paris...but who isn't? It's one of those cities that I long for no matter how much I visit it. And for a while, I went quite frequently. It just doesn't get 'old'. In fact, I love its old. I still remember my first trip to Paris. I had a crappy Fuji SLR-type, but I took loads of photos. Amazingly, my lack of photography skills combined with the jet-lagged wandering about the city in the middle of the night culminated in some lovely moody shots...or at least I look at them and I'm back in that moment 5 years ago.
The reason I was in Paris for the first time 5 years ago was because of Les Blogs Deux...now evolved into Le Web, a conference produced by Loic and Geraldine LeMeur. It was a crazy, amazing time. I was pretty new on the startup scene, had moved to San Francisco only months before and Les Blogs Deux was only my fifth conference on web stuff I had been to (I lost count at 110 last year btw - I have a box of badges to prove it!). Truth be told, though, it's one of my favorite conferences each year....even after al this time.
It's not just because I love Paris, although that doesn't hurt my burning desire to go each year. It's about the people...the attendees. I love going to Le Web to get a new flavour of the technology/startup community: a European one. I don't know if it's culture or language or what that drives a unique perspective from European 'geeks', but they seem to think of the web and it's direction in a more human way. There is a deep philosophy to it. It's user-centric and revolution-based. A friend told me the other day that the French riot to make democratic change and it has worked for centuries. It's how the people let the government know they won't wait for change. As a Canadian, rioting has always seemed chaotic and maybe even futile. But when he described it and from the conversations with some of my favorite Parisians, I totally understood. A better way of life is worth fighting for and the French understand it. I truly think this translates into their startup culture.
Not to make grotesque generalizations, but the North American view of the web is focused more on commerce. There is revolution, obviously (or Twitter, YouTube and other such platforms that aid and abet revolutions for free would exist), but at the end of the day it is about Serviceable Available Market, monetization, traction and other such words that feel disconnected from the big picture of what is taking place online. Last year there was a bit of a stir up when Robert Scoble visited a bunch of startups and dished out advice. His advice is good...for competing in an American landscape. And, yes, startups are a business after all, but there was a disconnect for the French entrepreneurs with this point of view.
But this is the stuff I love about Le Web. It's controversial because the conference is grounded in Europe with a mostly European audience and then you add a bunch of North American cowboys to the mix with our 'we've come to teach you a thing or two'. And don't even get me started about the Brits (who are from a whole other country of thinking as well). It's bound to bring on a cultural clash or two. Or three. Or more. And somewhere from this drama and messiness emerges a beautiful experience, amazing friendships and a whole lot of great ideas.
I may tease Loic about the food and would still love to see fewer panels, but I wouldn't miss this conference for the world. I can't wait to see what kind of controversies brew this year. I'm sure they are exactly what the web...or le web...needs to continue to reach its full potential.