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10/14/2011
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Web 2.0 Summit Preview: Meet The Data Frame

Data acquisition and analysis have come to define the focus of Web companies and marketers, says John Battelle, Web 2.0 Summit co-chair. The conference opens Monday.

The Web 2.0 Summit opens on Monday at the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, promising an exploration of the way that companies are gathering and utilizing the data produced by online activities.

John Battelle, founder and executive chairman of Federated Media Publishing and Web 2.0 Summit co-chair, has been using the term "data frame" to describe how data acquisition and analysis have come to define the focus of Web companies and marketers.

"Everybody's talking about how to leverage data and turn it into actionable information," said Battelle in a phone interview.

Battelle says that given the huge amount of information that gets created when we interact with apps, digital services, and other digital touch-points like loyalty cards, it strikes him that we're increasingly living in a tapestry of data.

"The large Internet companies, and small upstarts in the ecosystem around them, almost to a one, have some angle around data now," he said. "When I hear pitches about new companies, it's almost always how they're planning to corner a particular market in data, or how they're leveraging a large storehouse of data in some way."

The data economy is thus a framework for understanding the discussion that has been occurring since 2004 at the first Web 2.0 Summit. It's a framework that has helped define and refine the business models of many of the companies that will be represented at the conference, companies like Adobe, Dell, eBay, Google, Intel, Microsoft, Salesforce.com, Yahoo, and Zynga.

[ For a full list of conference participants, see the Web 2.0 Summit schedule. ]

There will be news announcements coming from some of the conference participants, Battelle said. Among the many well-known executives, entrepreneurs, and luminaries scheduled to be interviewed at the conference are: Sean Parker, Mary Meeker, James Gleick, Steve Ballmer, and Vic Gundotra. Battelle also said he was looking forward to sessions involving representatives of established brands from outside of Silicon Valley, like Coke and Pepsi.

Battelle suggests that companies are creating strategies based on their access to, or lack of access to, the various silos of data that have emerged, such as social graph data, app transaction data, and location data. He points to Google as example of a company that didn't have access to a lot of social data at the beginning of the year and now does, thanks to Google+.

The consumer perspective on the data economy, Battelle says, often gets lost in the excitement of marketers. To address that, there will be conversations with the likes of U.S Senator Ron Wyden, FTC director of consumer protection David C. Vladeck, and Ann Cavoukian, privacy commissioner of Ontario, Canada. Battelle says that he believes the individual will start taking control of his or her data stream and leveraging it for personal advantage. "I think we'll be using data streams to figure out better deals, stronger relationships, better services, and that's a movement that's just beginning," he said.

While Battelle contends that there are opportunities for companies to become consumer advocates in the way that they handle data and respect user privacy, he also acknowledges that the principles that defined Web 2.0 as a movement--the openness of the Web platform--have been called into question.

We're in a confusing period, suggests Battelle, because the rules governing the mobile world are not the same as those that governed the PC world, where Web 2.0 first coalesced as a concept. He doesn't believe that the principles of Web 2.0 have been repudiated, but he acknowledges that there have been a lot of questions about how those principles can stand in the face of really large companies with a lot at stake, companies that might lose their competitive advantage if they're open or share data.

"I think our whole society is waking up to the fact that this information exists and that this information is actionable," said Battelle. "And it requires that we have a conversation about the impact of this data. That's the framing of the conference."


Web 2.0 Summit is operated by TechWeb, which also runs InformationWeek.

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