Mesh Conference vs Web 2.0 Expo: Pros & ConsMarch 12th, 2010 by mark
I have attended Mesh, Canada’s Web 2.0 conference, every year since its inception 5 years ago. I have also attended a number of web conferences in the US over the years, among them Office 2.0 and Web 2.0 Expo.
As Web 2.0 Expo (#w2e) is the grand daddy of web 2.0 conferences, I wanted to review the principal differences between the Expo and Mesh and why the Mesh experience offers some unique advantages over its larger, more established US counterpart. These comments apply to Web 2.0 Expo (NYC).
Venue: The Web 2.0 Expo is held at the Javits Centre in NYC, a downright awful venue compared to the beautiful MaRS building where Mesh is hosted in Toronto. Among the shortcomings at Javits: (i) location in NYC (off the beaten path by the Lincoln Tunnel), (ii) layout of the building (cavernous), (iii) the industrial vibe (iv) limited access to electrical outlets. This is in contrast to MaRS’s downtown location housed in a modern, airy complex devoted to entrepreneurship and science 365 days a year.
Wireless access: Not great at Javits, spotty at best. Plentiful at MaRS. This was very surprising to me given that Web 2.0 Expo is, well, a web conference.
Food: Web 2.0 served cold sandwiches for lunch with no breakfast. Mesh serves a nice breakfast, gourmet lunch and hosts awesome post conference parties, all decked out with food and drink.
Content: Undoubtedly, Web 2.0 Expo attracts a fabulous roster of speakers. The highlights in 2009 alone were Jeff Jarvis, Chris Brogan, Tara Hunt, Baratunde Thurston (his keynote was hilarious), Caterina Fake, Jay Adelson and Kevin Rose. Mesh is no slouch either, having attracted Michael Arrington, Jim Buckmaster, Om Malik, Bonin Bough, Austin Hill, Chris Messina and Tara Hunt over the years. This may be a matter of personal preference, but Mesh’s smaller size allows for greater interaction between the speakers and the attendees, enhancing the community feel.
Social: Very limited at Web 2.0 (or at least, social events are not well advertised by the Web 2.0 people). Nothing compared to the Mesh social events (ie. immediately after the event + later in the evening). After Web 2.0, people scattered. At Mesh, everyone moves together. At Web 2.0, it feels like everyone for themselves.
Swag: No swag at all!!! While I am biased in this regard (full disclosure, we provide swag to Mesh), people love swag and it makes them feel special when they arrive, especially if it’s done well. The Expo event cost $1000+ so I was surprised there wasn’t a gifting component. This felt cheap to me.
Cost: Mesh costs $539, while Web 2.0 is double the cost (mind you, Web 2.0 is 3 days to Mesh’s 2 days). In light of the surprising lack of amenities listed above, I would say Web 2.0 represents inferior value to Mesh. 3 days is also a bit too long for a conference as most people find it hard to retain much after 2 solid days.
Overall vibe: Mesh has a nice community feel to it, while Web 2.0 Expo is somewhat cold with limited opportunities to meaningful engage with other delegates (it’s also 3-4 times the size so it’s easier to feel a bit lost). Keynotes were at lunch so we were never welcomed at the beginning of each day. This felt strange.
Web 2.0 is more corporate and I think that’s just a reality when you get a professional publishing outfit like O’Reilly putting it together. Not necessarily a bad thing, just different.