Paris is lovely in December. And even lovelier if someone else is footing the bill! Oblivious to the world's economic meltdown, 1,500 self-involved, self-indulgent opinionators have flown to France for Le Web, a meet-and-greet on the tech circuit.
Le Web is the brainchild of Loic Le Meur, an entrepreneur best known for peddling a worthless French blog startup to Six Apart, who has parlayed his very slight resume into press clips that include being named one of BusinessWeek's 25 most important people on the Web. (One of the 25 most self-important, more like it.)
Le Meur is handsome enough, improbably tall for a Frenchman, and charming when he wants to be. As a businessman, he's hopeless; his online-video startup, Seesmic, recently had layoffs and is said to be a hot mess. But it's as a showman that Le Meur excels. He outraged bloggers in 2006 by inviting Nicolas Sarkozy, then a French presidential candidate, to speak. (His critics viewed the invitation as crassly sullying the purity of a Web-focused event — as if the Internet were somehow apart from politics.)
To understand the problem, look no further than the guest list, which includes media ubiquity Marissa Mayer, the Google VP in charge of looking good and making money; an also-ran at MySpace; and Chris Anderson, organizer of the TED conference series. Just imagine: You can fly to Europe to attend a tech conference, where you can hear an organizer of a tech conference speak!
And yet people pay thousands of dollars — rather, charge thousands of dollars to their expense accounts — to do exactly that. They attend parties where they can meet exactly the same crowd they just saw last month at Web 2.0 Summit, and before that at TechCrunch50, and before that at Brainstorm, and before that at D6. Round and round they ride, on the tech-junket carousel. Why doesn't the tech-conference crowd give some of their social-networking tools a try and just gab with each other online? At a time when 533,000 Americans lost their jobs last month, that seems less embarrassing than flying to France to party.