Le Web attracts Le Whinger

Thanks to Loic and Geraldine for another great Le Web conference. Saw old friends, made new ones and watched some great presentations and start-up pitches.

Once again, however, Le Web attracted Les Whingers.

This year’s prize for Le Grand Whinger goes to Paul Carr for his posting in The Guardian.

Le Web’s biggest “controversy”, of course, was Sarkozy speaking to the conference in 2006. Not to dredge ancient history, but I do wonder how many conferences would like to have the “problem” of hosting two of the three candidates for the presidency speaking at their conference?

Among Carr’s complaints:

– Shortage of Wifi
– A misspelled sign (“Cloackroom”)
– Chilly room
– Speakers – He complains that some were good and others not good. One of Carr’s least favorite speakers, Paulo Coehlo, was mobbed by attendees for nearly half an hour after his presentation.

There is always room to improve a conference – or any creative endeavor – but I have found the reaction to Le Web fascinating over the years.

In some ways Le Web offers a micro-study of European self-hating attitudes. (Full disclosure: Loic is one of my best friends and I have been involved in Le Web since it started years ago as Les Blogs.)

In Sauna Veritas

From his comments about the Sauna set up outside the conference, Carr shows his true European colors:

I found [the sauna] packed to its pine rafters with Brits, getting slowly drunk on licorice vodka and gleefully bitching about how disappointing everything was.

This gleeful bitching and cynicism by Carr and his fellow Europeans may have something to do with the difficulty Europeans have in getting things done.

As a European-American now living in Asia, the morosity and self-hate of Europe is really striking when I come back. I am not asking Europeans to adopt Pollyanna-style positivism (Panglossian positivism to a European), but they should try to encourage those who actually do things.

An example outside the conference: I have a young friend now doing his MBA in France who, while studying,  launched a small start-up business. Rather than being cut slack for the project, my friend has been forced to keep the business hidden from fellow students and most professors. Starting a business would be seen as grandstanding to students and distracting from this studies to professors.

The striking aspect of the Sarkozy “controversy” of 2006 was how European many of the complaints were. Much of the righteous indignation came from French pariticipants writing in French about how foreign visitors would not want to hear French politicians. In the Anglophone blogosphere (or more precisely American blogosphere) there were many neutral or even positive comments about getting a chance to see a high ranking politician (and future president).

My message to Paul Carr and his fellow Euro-whingers: Get out of the Sauna and cheer up!

Any other Le Web attendees have views on this topic?

UPDATE: Boris Veldhuijzen van Zanten concluded his posting on “Why we love to hate Le Web” with a great Sibelius quote: “Pay no attention to what the critics say; there has never been set up a statue in honor of a critic”. Svetlana Gladkova did a posting on criticism of the conference.

Leave a Reply


  1. Thomas, you can disagree with Paul Carr’s critics, but from my point of view putting his photo on your post is a little bit unfair, not to say rude…

  2. Le Dude

    Er… get a sense of humour maybe?

    Seriously, NO FRIGGING INTERNET AT A WEB CONVENTION!? That’s got nothing to do with self-hate, that’s just plain stupid.

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  4. Grant Goodyear

    Which company was responsible for Wifi at LeWeb?

  5. @Pierre Col

    Loic is being held accountable for Le Web, so shouldn’t Paul Carr be held accountable for his statements?

  6. hairv

    @Grant Goodyear => swisscom…

  7. Ok Thomas, but Paul Carr did not put Loïc’s face on top of his article, as a “wanted” notice 🙂

  8. @Pierre Col

    Perhaps it was over the top to include the photo, but I do get frustrated when people snipe without consequence.

    Turns out from his tweets, that Paul Carr may have been grandstanding through negativity.

    One example: Enjoying hearing “The Guardian” was harsh on LeWeb. Now I know I speak for the whole paper, I intend to set policy on Iraq, porn and more…

    Unintended consequence: If you search for Whinger on Google, this is now one of the top postings.

  9. I’d say Carr is about right on. The lack of wifi, food or warmth would have been okay if the content had been worth a damn. It wasn’t. It was vapid, trivial and self-satisfied. Who needs a critical question when a softball one will do? If you’ve got a guy from Microsoft or Google or Facebook on stage, fucking well pummel ’em. Don’t let them off the hook. You need to go Jeremy Paxman or Helen Thomas on their ass.

    I fell for this shit two years ago, and, tempted this year by an official blogger position, I fell for it again. Well, no more. My time would have been better spent putting together a fully buzzword-compliant web service to allow users to catalogue and rate their toenail clippings and share them with ‘the cloud’ (or whatever the latest Web 2.0 lingo is for ‘the Internet’).

    LeWeb needs a radical rethink. The economy is showing no signs of turning around, and it’ll be harder and harder to convince people to pay 1500 EUR for LeWeb next year. And LeWeb will have a harder and harder time getting sponsorship.

    Next year, the smart money will be spent on BarCamps and unconferences. Low cost, working wifi, good food, high information output. Perfect for a recession.

  10. Hey, haven’t any of you geniuses twigged yet that Carr is being paid by the Guardian to write a HUMOUROUS column each week?


    I thought not …

  11. LOLster – yes, indeed. We’re still waiting for him to write it.

  12. Great post, Thomas. I think there is some French-Brit rivalry. Jealousie is even worst in Southern European countries. In fact, latin and Catholic backgrounds reward people not being successful.

  13. Thijs

    Thomas, I enjoy your blog, but I don’t get this post. I understand this is a reaction to Paul Carr’s negative review of LeWeb.

    But! The part I don’t understand is: “difficulty Europeans have in getting things done” (and some other Euro ramblings in your post). Where is that coming from? How is that even related?

    In “our” daily China context, we get to see enough weird and unfortunate generalizations from foreign journalists already.

  14. @Thijs

    Thanks for your comment, but I disagree with your criticism.

    This posting moved from a specific incident to make a broader observation.

    The incident, a rambling negative posting by Paul Carr on the Guardian website, is emblematic of a broader European malaise that I have observed in relation to success.

    I provided examples from Carr’s piece (His self-confessed “gleeful bitching”) and offered specific examples of that same attitude from a previous edition of the same conference as well as an example from another context (the business school).

    Do I believe these attitudes apply all Europeans?

    No, of course not. That is why I ended the post with a call for Paul Carr and Euro-whingers to get out of that sauna and cheer up.

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