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Further evidence on how the online and the private truly MESH

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Once again, folks from the Office attended “Canada’s web conference”, MESH 2009, in Toronto – a place where flacks, marketers, hackers, people with money to spend, people looking for money, and activists gather and talk about how the web is “affecting media, marketing, business and society as a whole”.

Just ten minutes at this conference is a lesson in how much human communication has changed. People don’t generally put up their hands to ask questions – instead they send messages to the organizers through Twitter. When Toronto Mayor, David Miller (who is known for using the web to get information out to citizens) gave his keynote, and was subsequently interviewed onstage, he paused several times to either tweet or to read new messages he was receiving. And gone are the days of hanging around after a presentation to fill out a feedback form – at this conference people send tweets about the quality of a speaker or session as it’s unfolding, causing others to abandon simultaneously-running sessions to join the one that’s getting all the attention.

All it takes is a quick glance at some of the sessions that were offered (“managing your persona online”; how to integrate social media into your marketing plan”; and “using online word of mouth” are just a few examples) to see how privacy is intertwined with the new online reality. One keynote speaker, Jessica Jackley, co-founder of, the world’s first peer-to-peer online micro-lending web site, is living proof of how the Internet can be used for good. But isn’t privacy also a theme here, what with the online financial transactions that make the whole thing possible, not to mention the protection of the personal details of both the lenders and entrepreneurs?

The MESH conference tagline is “connect, share and inspire” and one of the themes is while social media can be “a difficult reality for some companies, it also offers tremendous opportunities for both businesses and individuals to communicate, collaborate, entertain and inform”. These are exciting words and ideas – as long as we don’t forget the important privacy implications that go hand-in-hand with them.

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