Mesh 2008 gets going in Toronto

Mesh, Canada’s largest web conference, got underway in Toronto yesterday.

The opening day saw a couple of interesting keynotes, including by Dr. Michael Geist, a pioneer in Canada’s Internet law. Dr. Geist talked about how people are actively engaging in various political and social issues through various blogging and communication tools like Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. Even some governments have become very active in communicating with their constituents online. The British PM for instance runs a blog and there are ways to file e-petitions.

One of the highlights of the day was a session called “15 minutes of fame” which gave the following startups an opportunity to pitch themselves before the Mesh attendees:

  • AideRSS is a web service which finds the best posts in a RSS feed. Ilya, one of the founders of AideRSS, mentioned that RSS is the new glue of the web and is in its early days as most people still don’t see its utility currently, but it gets apparent as the information overload increases.
  • Noah from GigPark talked about how his website makes it easy for users to recommend services/businesses to their friends. They have a Facebook version of their app as well. They launched a redesign of their site today only.
  • Carbon Networks, which deals with carbon credits and has tie-ins with carbon trading exchanges.

There was an interesting panel discussion with Nora Young about the importance of location in the online world. Another panel discussion, which featured Daniel Burka of Digg, Pema Hegan of GigPark and Candice Faktor of OurFaves, focused on the new front page of the web. Daniel mentioned that a recommendation engine for Digg is in the works and is being internally protyped and tested. It was also noted that even though Digg is a ‘new media’ entity, many of the links on it are often from traditional ‘old media’ companies like newspapers, etc. The panel concluded with some interesting insights on the future of print newspapers, with most agreeing that it is just the content that matters, and the distribution ways (for eg by RSS) will continue to evolve.

There were some other sessions held simultaneously as well, including on ‘Video on the web’ by Amber MacArthur; Music and the Web; Government 2.0; and a discussion on privacy on the web today. Michael Geist made a presentation about digital activism and some folks from Mozilla (the developers of Firefox) also shared their views. A rather interesting day but the true value of Mesh, like all such other events, was in the networking opportunity as it brought together web developers, designers, investors, entrepreneurs and evangelists, etc in one single place.

Today’s schedule seems to be even more exciting, with some of the sessions including ‘How to raise angel funding in Canada’; Online advertising; Building a brand on the web and on VCs in Canada, among others. Stay tuned !