The new media initiatives behind Toronto’s mesh conference

On April 7, Toronto Web developers were invited to the mesh 2009 conference to connect with others as excited about the potential of the World Wide Web as they are.
The World Wide Web is entrenched in every aspect of industry and the market today. The demands on users and customers have changed the way the Web operates in today’s world. The mesh conference in Toronto this week had the task of showing those who are behind the scenes what the Web can do for them and what the developers need to be ready to work on for the future.

Social media is a huge part of the new reality of the Web. Companies and individuals use the Internet to communicate, collaborate, entertain and inform each other. Part of the conference focused on inspiring those who build the sites to do great new things using the tools that are available for the Internet.

The keynote speakers of this year’s conference were a diverse mixture that represents the world of business, government and social change.

Jessica Jackley, co-founder of Kiva.org the first peer-to-peer online microlending website. Kiva.org has been one of the fastest growing social benefit websites in history.

Kiva’s mission is to connect people through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Each person that you see on the website is real and in need of funding, not marketing materials. The profiles allow you to choose someone to lend to, make a loan and thus help a real person improve their lives through economic independence. The loans are are for 6 to 12 months. When you give a loan the site allows you to receive journal emails and track your repayments. When you have been paid make you can then offer another hand up to someone else in need.

Kiva works with existing expert microfinance institutions, making this a practical way to help others. This the web site doing the tracking of who is best qualified to make good use of your loan to them the risk is not as great as it could be.

“If you look at Kiva.org, people with a very modest amount of money can make a huge positive impact all around the world. There are so many people who want to give but don’t really know how to do it. Through Kiva.org, people around the would can become micro-bankers to developing world entrepreneurs, who have their own ideas, so we can give them a chance to raise their kids with dignity, send their kids to school, and in troubled places like Afghanistan we can marginally increase the chance that peace can prevail, because people will see there is a positive alternative to conflict.” – President Bill Clinton

Michael Masnick is the founder and CEO of Floor 64. He is responsible for building the management team and overseeing all editorial aspects of the Floor64’s public and customer sites. He also runs the Techdirt blog with was launched in 1997.

Masnick built the company by accident in 1997 while still a student at Cornell’s Graduate School of Management. At that time Techdirt was an industry insight newsletter.

Floor64 was created because of the industry’s media to have access to the same type of analysis and insight that was being offered for a general market on the Techdirt blog.

To provide the most efficient way to deliver both Techdirt and corporate blogs a series of “insight platforms” were built.

As the company grew Floor64 tapped into the expertise of the blog community of Techdirt.

Bonin Bough is the Global Director of Digital and Social media at PepsiCo. He oversees digital strategy and the implementation of social media tools and techniques across the company. Before being at Pepsi he was EVP and Director of Weber Shandwick’s global interactive, social and emerging media practice, leading a 100 plus-person global team.

The final keynote speaker of the event was David Miller, mayor of Toronto. Miller has a degree in economics from Harvard University and a law degree from the University of Toronto.

Prior to being a public official he was a partner at Aird & Berlis specializing in employment and immigration law and shareholders rights.

He became Toronto’s mayor in November 2003. His goal is to make Toronto a city of prosperity, opportunity and Liveability for all residents.

One of the ways to do this is by securing a New Deal for Cities with senior orders of government that has enabled Toronto to garner new powers, moneys and respect from both the provincial and the federal governments. Under Miller’s leadership Toronto is the only city that has a direct agreement with the federal government on transit funding.

Dave Lougheed is a VP in User Experience at Klick Communications. Klick was founded in 1997 and have grown on average 30 percent every year. In 2009 it made it on the Canada’s 50 Best Managed Companies Listing.

He attended the mesh conference this week.

Some of his insights to the conference were that David Miller is answering Tim Berners-Lee’s call to open data up for public consumption. Some key areas of this is having GPS data for every TTC vehicle to be opened via API. Other areas include making it possible to pay for parking tickets online and having Municipal budget details and meeting minutes available to all of us in Toronto.

He also discovered how much blogs matter. In an age where print editions of newspapers are being discontinued blogs are completing with the news media. “Talent displaced by the old model will be consumed in the new.”

I was able to have an interview with Mr. Lougheed about his thoughts on the mesh conference as an industry insider.

KJ-What was the most important thing that you took away from the conference?

Lougheed-Well for me it was the social media, where it fits in for the industry right now. We’re in the Stone Age of the industry right now and are just learning how to employ social media.

KJ-Do you think Toronto as a city is ready and in place to keep up with the demands of where the world is going with the Web?

Lougheed-Absolutely. We have the talent in Toronto. People who have been in the industry as long as the industry has been here.

The more that I travel Toronto is viewed as the hub for technology. The North American cities I have visited view Toronto as the city of the future in this industry.

KJ-I read that you were impressed with Mayor Miller, do you think that he could be doing anything more than what he is doing at this time?

Lougheed-Honestly Miller is doing a lot of heavy lifting to open up data for Toronto. He is building the foundation for now and the future.

He has opened up data so that the public can get the most out of Toronto as a citizen. Citizens have more access to the government than ever before. Things that were never accessible by the public now are.

One example is the TTC program. By using Google Maps I can create a program that shows street cars in real time exactly where they are.

KJ-As a VP in User Experience did you think that the conference was on par with the realities of the business industry in Toronto at this time?

Lougheed- The mesh conference was a great opportunity to gather those in different industries and show how they all are now fitting together because of technology. The title of the conference mesh was perfect because that is just what it was, a mesh of people in different fields working together.

While I have attended other conferences that were more involved as a tech person this one was greatly informative on the social aspects.

KJ- I read on the mesh page the term ‘cloud computing.’ What does the term mean for the average person who’s not up to date on the new computer terms?

Lougheed-Cloud Computing is taking a bunch of computers that are networked all over the Internet and then harnessing that power. By harnessing the power from all of the computers you are able to be bigger than yourself.

KJ-I also noticed that you discovered how important blogs are in the world today. Do you, yourself read blogs to stay up to date with news and your industry?

Lougheed- Yes. Absolutely. As a matter of fact I depend on blogs. The industry is now so specialized that I only want to hear from the experts. Blogs allow that to happen.

As for the news I tend to get my news from traditional sources like CNN, Channel 24 and the Toronto Star.

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