Atlanta should skip Web 2.0

May 12, 2008 § 11 Comments

I love Atlanta. I’ve been here for almost 12 years and I think it is a great city. We’ve got millions of people,  great neighborhoods, great restaurants,  a major airport, lots of free wi-fi, plenty of diverse businesses, a healthy laptop per capita ratio in any coffee shop you should happen to wander into, but somehow I think that Atlanta is not living up to its potential as a great center for web innovation.   And I don’t think I am alone in this opinion.

I’m not saying there is no innovation here, but I think as a city we are a little behind the times.  I offer as example the reluctant adoption of Web 2.0 in Atlanta.  Web 2.0 as both  a term and a practice seems to have only grudgingly been accepted in the Atlanta business world.   Sure, there is a growing pool of adopters leading the charge at events like SoCon07 and 08, AWE, and Barcamp, but to call them early adopters would only be accurate in a geographically limited definition.  They’re early for Georgia, but not for the world.  I’d like to see that change.

I think Atlanta should skip Web 2.0.  Not skip as in miss, but skip as in skip ahead.  Instead of playing perpetual catch-up with innovation centers like Silicon Valley, Seattle, Boston and NY, we should leap-frog those places and boldly invest in our time, money, thoughts and effort in redefining the context of the Internet.  The web has become the plumbing of our lives. Business is changing, marketing is changing, socializing is changing, lines are blurring, but we drag our feet and take incremental steps toward ideas that come to us from the west coast.

There are people in this town who would like to see Atlanta at the center of the discourse – a legitimate force in shaping our collective destinies through technology and its catalytic effect on human interaction.  And there is no reason why we can’t be, but we won’t get there by being a follower.  We need to figure out what Web 4.0 is, or 5.0, or maybe dare to embrace a term that isn’t Web x.x anything, but something new, something ambitious, something risky.  We might look silly, but we also may find a point of view, a value, a context that re-centers the discourse.

Let’s start talking.

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§ 11 Responses to Atlanta should skip Web 2.0

  • extraface says:

    Nothing’s really missing. The way I see it, we don’t need an ism. We don’t need a defining movement or perspective. We don’t need more social media cowbell, or some missing hobnobbing or “scene” or business climate. We don’t need to accept or reject whatever is meant by web 2.0 in it varying contexts. We should just apply ourselves to advancing what each of us is into individually, helping each other do the same, and solving actual human problems and pain points in our midst rather than making up new, imagined problems to solve. I’m not worried in the least about what we do or don’t have here, as far as the environment for creation, productivity, and creativity. We have had great niche events targeted around specific areas of interest, and I’ll be pleased if there are more and more of those that I find intersect with what I’m in to. I’d love to skip talking about “social media” as some generalized, all-inclusive glob any more than we already have. I would like to see more stuff organized primarily around the content rather than the forms of media. Amber’s Sex 2.0 would be a great example to follow. I’m also thinking of the Fluke festival for small press comics that used to take place (still does? not sure?) in Athens every Spring.

  • marcg says:

    I’m sure you’re not wanting to hear this ish but Atlanta isn’t a great city. It’s busy crapping on the poor and homeless, nurturing white supremacy and the regressive policymakers that continually get elected to high office by pandering to it. These retro-JimCrow politicians aren’t interested in investing in forward technological advances. They aren’t interested in doing anything but defunding the public sphere because there is no way to avoid resources going to poor and Black people if they invest in public infrastructure. Therefore, no public investment.

    And regardless what the silly freemarketers smoke, everyone knows that things happen when the govt invests in technology. Then the private sector comes along after. So Atlanta being a lagger should come as no surprise to anyone paying attention to the rest of this city. The same reason the public health system is defunded almost to collapse is the same reason that public transit (MARTA) is the largest in the country to receive zero state funding is the same reason our public schools are defunded into the gutter is the same reason we are technologically sloooooow…

    You can’t fix one aspect without affecting the rest. And one set of Atlantans has always been set on keeping itself apart from the other set of Atlantans.

    Story of our city.

  • robertmayberry says:

    I would like to see Atlanta take a leadership role in emerging technologies, obviously. I’m not sure you can really anticipate the “next next big thing”.

    Some areas where grabbing a leadership role is highly desirable: biotechnology, particularly agritech. Ubicomp (Georgia Tech is actually already doing some great work there). Quantum computing. Photonics (though I haven’t heard much about progress there lately). Biologics (though obviously there’s a great deal of public policy risk if you do any research in the medical field). Market-wise, there’s a new emphasis on emerging markets like the BRIC countries and the particular needs of their consumers.

    Atlanta is actually seeing a lot of activity on the commercialization front– a new emphasis on tiger teams and other kinds of interdisciplinary studies. I know in the biotech field they’re really working on developing a startup-friendly environment. The trick is to make sure that our new graduates in these fields stay in-state, and to ensure that we have capital, organization, and infrastructure ready to digest and commercialize new ideas.

  • dlaw says:


    After a much-heralded term as Atlanta’s first CIO, during which time ATLANTA was named 2006 “Most Wired City In America” by Forbes Magazine, the architect of the city’s IT strategy is gone.

    Named in his place is an interim chief – Mark Campbell. So far, Mr. Campbell is only quoted praising the RIMM/Blackberry product BoxTone and talking up its adoption by the city.

    Who is Campbell? His picture on the Atlanta website looks sharp, but his bio is light on details as to his qualifications for the job – other than the fact he was Deputy CIO.

    Is Atlanta DIT going to sink into the muck of political hackery after shining during the early 2000s? We don’t know. Who is the city looking at to replace Kani? What will they focus on? Will it be a person with vision or just a “competent” systems person?

    Why did Atlanta spend the money to garner the reputation if it didn’t intend to follow through? Where are the city’s business leaders on this question?

    Do they understand that a city’s infrastructure is about more than voice, more than data, more than wireless, it’s about community?

    Have they forgotten?

    And why is this Interim CIO Mark Campbell getting his “doctorate” at online correspondence school NorthCentral University – or does he mean the Pentecostal Bible school in Minneapolis?

    Get it together, Atlanta.

  • davidscohen says:

    I don’t think we can simply lay our blame or our collective troubles on the doorstep of and interim city CIO and then expect to see results. Creating incentives for technology business growth is only half the battle. We need to see even more pioneering leadership outside the government machine and forward-thinking adoption of best practices within the context of optimizing city services.

  • Justin says:

    Here’s one site that I think will make Atlanta leapfrog the others.

    It will launch in a few months…

  • davidscohen says:

    @justin Could you expand on that a little? I’ve heard a little bit about Techpedia Atlanta, but other visitors here might appreciate a little teaser.

  • steve gorges says:

    David – lived here for 10. To your comments, I keep waiting to see if there really is a “wizard” who’s going to surprise us all with some sort of robust ‘follow through’ as you say – or will the ATL remain a simple conduit (but with a huge projector of course) that sits behind a curtain, too timid to come out and really play.

  • Temi says:

    I strongly agree that Atlanta is not meeting up to it’s potential on the web 2.0 scene. I’ve been searching for web 2.0 forums or conferences for the fall but it seems the closest I’ve found is somewhere in California.

    This just means there’s a huge vacuum that needs to be filled. It’s an opportunity for people like me with ideas and a bit of talent to show Atlanta what we’ve got.

  • davidscohen says:


    Talent is always welcome in any scene. If your talent is strong on the coding side then you may want to look into Barcamp, which will be returning to Atlanta in October. More info here:


  • Michael Preiss says:

    David –

    I think one of the reasons that Atlanta’s behind the times is that technology as an economic driver in Atlanta is an afterthought. Funding for technology companies, especially early-stage companies, left during the tech bubble and hasn’t looked back.

    I think another reason is that Atlanta has one of the worst public school systems in the country and only two universities perceived as strong, Georgia Tech and Emory. Only one of them is a technical powerhouse – Tech. Now factor into the equation the pollution; the corrupt city government; the city’s crumbling infrastructure; a prayer-for-rain-leading governor; a horrendous court system filled with incompetents at all levels; the lack of cultural destinations that aren’t all about the Civil War; the mind-numbing traffic; and one of but a handful of states, like Massachusetts, that still enforce Blue Laws; and you have a city that doesn’t seem like such a great place to hang your hat, let alone locate a tech business.

    In my mind, Atlanta’s best known for its well-publicized crime statistics, totally nude adult entertainment, and being the city that’s in bed with developers. If I could have, I would have left long ago, but my children are here, as well as my network. I’ve worked too hard to have to start again.



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