Web2.0 is starting to pick up in Hong Kong - at least in certain quarters. Angus Lau, Hong Kong's main Web2.0-blogger, reported on Hong Kong's first-ever Web2.0 conference earlier this month - which I missed. Angus said that while it went better than he expected, it was mainly an intro to Web2.0 for people who know little or nothing about it.
Today I went to a Hong Kong Web2.0 seminar in Cyberport organized by Diantang Communications. It was a small event - just a few dozen people in the audience, and it seems that a good number of those came from Web2.0 startups. The seminar program was unfortunately posted on Diantang's site in the most blog-unfriendly format, PDF, so you'll need to download it in order to read the whole thing.
(<rant>I dream of the day when every Web2.0 conference organizer actually uses a Web2.0 media platform to publicize the conference - it need not cost anything in web development time, they can just throw something up on Wordpress or Typepad or Blogger...link to the websites belonging to the speakers, link and trackback to the bloggers you want to attend, try to get a discussion going beforehand about who will be going and what they're interested in discussing. Using Web1.0 tools to publicize a Web2.0 conference gives the impression that the organizers don't understand Web2.0 themselves, which impacts attendance.</rant>)
Web2.0 guru Tim O'Reily was invoked frequently. Somebody pointed out that Web2.0 is more than using lots of Ajax - rather, it's about creating and facilitating conversations, and enabling the user to use, combine, define, create, and react to content the way he or she chooses.
A major focus of the afternoon was on how to find more effective ways to monetize the participatory, user-driven, mash-up aspects of web2.0. Is there a business model beyond getting bought by Google or Yahoo? How do you become the next Google instead?
The most interesting talk to me was by Keith Li from m-gen.com, a "mobile 2.0" company. He described how mobile users use the web very differently than people who access the web from computers. They tend to be the people who aren't doing white-collar office jobs with computers at their desks, but rather people with the kinds of jobs that require them to be outside or on the road or running around a restaurant, or whatever it is, and don't have much internet access at home either - or not the kind that makes private or personal conversations and interactions possible. These people find it worthwhile to pay subscriptions for mobile web services. His company developed a mobile blogging site which they then sold to a company targeting Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam. He commented that it's interesting how companies in South East Asia seem to have more "insight" than those in Hong Kong when it comes to utilizing these technologies.
As is almost always the case with any conference, I got as much out of my brief interactions with people sitting around me and hanging around afterwards than I did from the talks themselves. It was great to finally meet Angus Lau in person. It was also fun chatting with a group of people who are doing some very interesting work for Outblaze here in Hong Kong. They are now running a blogging platform for Sanrio - which means Hello Kitty and everything in her family. I bet you didn't know that Hello Kitty fans are now blogging in droves on a pretty sophisticated Wordpress Multiuser platform, with video editing and other media creation tools included. And they're not all fluff all the time.. one of them writes about Hong Kong censorship and the environment when not enthusing about the latest Hello Kitty gear. (Disclosure: Outblaze CEO Yat Siu is a friend of mine and Sanriotown sponsors the Japanese translation section on Global Voices.)
I hope that these guys (or somebody) will eventually launch a more general blogging community for Hong Kong - one which local professionals and aspiring journalists would feel comfortable using as a platform for sharing their ideas and work. I'd also love to have my students using something more local than Uniblogs.org, which is what we're mainly using now. Uniblogs.org is has some good features but is a little buggy, and at the height of the semester when lots of universities are using it all at once it gets really slow. (We don't want to have the university hosting student blogs at this point for a bunch of reasons, and Wordpress.com is blocked in Mainland China - where half of my students are from - so if I want to use a Wordpress-based hosted platform I don't have a lot of other stable options at the moment.)
Many times, what potential users want isn't nearly as fancy as startup guys think.