Today’s OneWebDay event in New York’s Battery Park was disappointing. Perhaps because I read a lot of blogs, and many bloggers require little coaxing to wax rhapsodic about how the Web has transformed their job/social life/sense of community, I expected a more enthusiastic, if not a larger, crowd.
It was a perfect, sunny, fall day in Battery Park and I expected to be in the company of a bunch of my peers, reminding myself about the potential of the Web to change the world. At the very least, since the park was set up for wireless internet access, I imagined I’d catch a glimpse of one or two of New York City’s bloggers in action.
Yet, surprisingly few people turned up for the event. It was a lackluster group that listened to web celebrities Craig Newmark and Meetup’s Scott Heiferman speak. Granted, Craig and Scott each only spoke for about five minutes apiece.
Craig Newmark, of craigslist fame, spoke briefly on the revolutionary power of the Web. He praised Wikipedia as a tool that lets not just the winners of wars write history. “We are now adding our own words to the history of the world,” he said.
Meetup founder Scott Heiferman tried to get the audience to praise the Web, revival-style. “Can I get a halleluiah?” he asked, after counseling “Don’t praise the Internet, but praise what it does for people’s lives.”
Don’t get me wrong, such sentiments can inspire me to raise my hand and sing “Amen-brother” or at least to clap and give a little whoop. But it felt odd for respected web pioneers to act as little more than cheerleaders for a five minute pep-rally. I guess I imagined a slightly more substantive panel format — maybe some anecdotes or a Q & A session.
During the event, a large video screen beside the stage projected photos that had previously been contributed to a global digital photo project in honor of OneWebDay. In her role as emcee, Susan Crawford, instigator of this first annual OneWebDay, exhorted the crowd to take photos of the event and email them to a volunteer who would add them to the slideshow where they could be seen during the event.
How very appropriate, I thought. After all, isn’t user-generated content the cornerstone of Web 2.0? Alas, something, perhaps technical difficulties, stood in the way of the organizers’ very Meta plan for participants to watch photos of themselves watching photos.
I saw people taking and sending photos at the New York event, but images from Battery Park never made it to the Battery Park screen.
At various times, the screen also showed “messages from our sponsors” and YouTube hits like “Ask a Ninja” and “the skateboarding bulldog.” While I understand that sponsors are what make an event like this possible and they deserve their props, I questioned the need to broadcast OK Go’s treadmill dance video or the video where the World of Warcraft avatars dance. I mean, surely the people who turn out for an event held in praise of the Internet would already be tuned in to the silly joys of YouTube?
After the event, I returned to my computer to see what others thought of the event. Maybe I’m being too cynical, I thought. Maybe the event wasn’t nearly as lame as I thought it was.
I promptly searched IceRocket for blog posts with the tag OneWebDay. There were only 32 posts with that tag, and no entries with the tag referenced the New York event. I could almost hear the crickets chirping.
Now, a few hours after the event, Technorati tells me there are 116 posts with the OneWebDay tag, but few have been posted in the hours since the New York event and none seem to mention it.
The silence is deafening….