On the record, off the record

It’s a bit unclear at Davos when a session is on the record and when it’s off the record. In years gone by (I am told) part of the magic of Davos was the opportunity to hear the thoughts of global leaders off the record. But in the digital age of bloggers, Twitter and YouTube, the dividing line is less clear. And I think that is a good thing. Davos is much more transparent now.

The place is awash with bloggers and “tweeters”. Folk like the legendary Michael Arrington and Robert Scoble, Loic Le Meur of France and Richard Muirhead of Tideway in the UK broadcast continuous updates to their Twitter followers running in to the tens of thousands around the world.

However, sometimes you get caught out. I gave a presentation on the emergence of the semantic web as the next generation of the web, and to grab the audiences attention and make the point that this shift to the semantic web is a quiet yet incredibly powerful revolution I started off by performing a bit of Tai Chi. Little did I know that moments later it would appear on YouTube (cringe).

Some old campaigners are far more astute. At Friday’s British Business Leaders lunch, Lord Mandelson was told that it was being held under the Chatham House Rule. Looking around and spying a few high-profile journalists in the audience, he didn’t fall for it for a moment, particularly when one of the journos ask “Lord Mandelson, do you think the pound has fallen enough?”

Some sessions are definitely on the record though. Many sessions have an official rapporteur whose job it is to try to summarise an often complex, fast moving hour-long dialogue into a pithy one-page summary. This morning I spoke at a session on whether the Internet itself is at risk, alongside Dave DeWalt, CEO of security company McAfee, Mitchell Baker, Chairperson of Mozilla Foundation, Professor Jonathan Zittrain of Harvard Law School and Andre Kudelski, Chairman of the digital security Kudelski Group.

We had a lively conversation, including contributions from folk in the audience such as Craig Mundie, Chief Research & Strategy Office of Microsoft and Howard Dean, former Chairman of the USA Democratic National Committee. Acronyms flew in every direction—identity theft, routers, botnets. The poor old rapporteur came up to me afterwards asking for a card “…in case I have to clarify anything.”

“….oh and by the way” she continued “you have nice dimples”.

Tom Ilube is chief executive of Garlik, who advise on security on the net

Davos blog 2009

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