Platform 9 3/4

 Hugh MacLeod cartoon

How do you know you’re an important part of the 2.0 firmament? The answer is that people have conferences about you and you don’t even go along. Tongiht’s BiMA ‘debate’ about facebookwas just that, and Zuckerburg couldn’t even be on hand by satelite conference to accept the praise. However the event was very well chaired (by Paul Walsh), organised and hosted (oddly enough by BT), with some amazing pannelists.

The initial discussion was wide ranging and interest. The debate bit which followed it was fun, although it decended into a sort of bizarre sixth-form debating contest – not suprising when the topics were things like ‘This house believes the opening of the F8 platform was a mistake’.

As Hugh MacLeod pointed out of the network itself, the whole thing was all very polite. I only made a couple of notes (funnily enough on the back of business cards), so these were the things that stood out for me:

The incredible JP Rangaswami asked the audience to put their hands up if they were on Facebook, getting something close to a 100% positive reaction from the few hundred people in the room. ‘Now put your hand down if you’re NOT on MySpace’. There were only three hands left in the air. The point he was making is that – even though they’re in the same general area, Facebook is not necessarily canabilising MySpace users, the fact that MySpace is calcifying and Facebook growing like crazy is clearly related but is not directly connected or proportional.

Another from JPR. When asked whether corporates should ban Facebook because people are using it during working time, he simply pointed out that he also, for example, uses the toilet and drinks coffee during work time. In a society of knowledge workers (he continued) it’s not about when you clock in and out but about how much you create – and if going on facebook is part of that then so be it (interesting information for his ex-exployees Dresdner Kleinworth, who have banned Facebook, without the full backlash we saw at Allen Overy).

Hugh MacLeod was thoroughly brilliant with a couple of particularly interesting points I noted down.

 He described how the original facebook was a small scale homely enterprise for Zuckerberg – although one to which 75% of the Harvard campus (where it was invented) adopted within a couple of weeks.

MacLeod also spoke about the benefits of his mother’s real-life walled garden (in response to a question about whether facebook was falling to the traps that ended up the undoing of AOL). He pointed out that, in gardening terms, walled gardens created protection from winds and pests, and that online they can do the same, and can be fine so long as they don’t do anything else to be destructive.

One of the debate team said she thought it was important that people practice their ‘social networking skills’ (a theme repeated by Paul Walsh, when talking about the ability to privatize facebook). Isn’t this a nice idea? In the olden days, schoold taught ‘social skills’, perhaps now they’ll teach ‘social networking skills’. “Today’s lesson children is about protecting your privacy in Bebo!”.

Finally, a floor debate erupted around whether you should accept a ‘friend’ invite from your boss. The general consensus was that it was a bit of shame that most people didn’t like their bosses enough to agree to this, but that otherwise it shouldn’t be a problem.

The debate turned to what you would say to your boss when they came up to ask why you had ignored / declined them. Some clever bugger in the audience knew the answer: ‘Because you’re my boss’. All of this technology and the English are still terrible at telling difficult truths!

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