Monthly Archives: January 2000

Davos Newbies Home

***The Davos scramble
Here’s an insight into what we have to do with the programme. At 2.45pm today I learned that Göran Lindahl, CEO of ABB, and Thabo Mbeki, president of South Africa, would not make our plenary session on globalization at 6.15pm (Lindahl has been kept in bed by his doctor, and Mbeki had to get back to South Africa unexpectedly early). What do you do (that should be the interview question for someone that wants to join our team)?

I had a rapid discussion with a couple of people here and headed off to the Seehof Hotel. That’s where the governors for two groups were meeting. I spoke first to Jack Greenberg, CEO of McDonald’s. Jack is a Davos friend and he said he’d help if we needed him, but he didn’t really see his fit with the panel. So I went down the hall and found Phil Knight, CEO of Nike. Hallelujah, he agreed. We’re really fortunate we have such friends in need.

***Lessons on leadership
Procter & Gamble’s Durk Jager, Yahoo’s Tim Koogle and Intuit’s Scott Cook discussed “Managing in an Age of Creative Destruction” this morning. We successfully resisted the usual pressures to pack more people onto the panel, and the result was good chemistry and better content.

Their concluding advice for leaders? Jager: “Be lucky.” Koogle: “Allow for serendipity.” Cook: “Don’t expect to know the answers, but be prepared to change.”

***Gates, Case, Idei, Redstone, Dertouzos
Starting plenary sessions at 8.20 in the morning is generally a slightly nervous time for us. Participants in Davos are eager, but reaching a seat in the plenary hall at that time means not just getting up and having some breakfast, but making one’s way to the Congress Centre and then navigating security, which can take time.

We had no problems this morning, however. The prospect of Bill Gates and Steve Case on stage, for the first time since the announcement of the AOL-Time Warner merger, meant the hall was absolutely full. Nobuyuki Idei, president of Sony, chaired the discussion, which also included Viacom CEO Sumner Redstone and Michael Dertouzos, director of the MIT Laboratory for Computer Science.

What made the session so good was not just the cast, but the fact that Idei compressed the idea of opening statements to just a few minutes, and then allowed discussion and questions for more than one hour. Gates got one of the biggest rounds of applause when he took Steve Case’s technophilia down a notch: “I think you’ve got to get you priorities straight. It’s more important to concentrate on health and education, rather than saying, ‘You’re not well. Here’s the Internet’.”

Davos Newbies Home

Sunday is an odd day in the Davos context. The morning is reserved for “Sports Day”, but it was snowing so hard today that few outdoor sports were possible. The yoga session we had arranged with Larry Payne from UCLA, however, was packed.

In the afternoon, we have big, set piece plenary sessions. The first session paired US secretary of state Madeleine Albright and treasury secretary Larry Summers. This was the first time the two had been on a stage together, they said in the green room. Only in Davos.

The remarks by both were well-considered, but I really wonder whether the art of oration has died completely in the US. Clinton yesterday had intelligent things to say, but they were delivered very flatly. Summers and Albright, however, were very good over questions. They both acknowledged that much of the world is concerned about US domination, but they categorically denied any kind of American imperialism. Cooperation and coalition were the hallmarks.

After the Larry and Madeleine show (our fond designation of the session), we had King Abdullah II of Jordan. He gave what was probably the speech of the meeting, and his answers to totally unscripted questions from the floor were sincere and eloquent. “Some people wish for peace for our children and their children. This is not enough. We must insist on peace for ourselves.” Hugely impressive.

I wish I could say the same about the Russian plenary that followed. I was relieved that they stuck to their time limits, since three of the four panelists had turned up with 20 minute speeches, instead of the six minutes for remarks that we had allotted. But it was profoundly boring.

***Clinton follow-up
The visit of a president does many things, prime among them generating reams of media coverage.

BBC Online had Clinton gives world trade wake-up call while CNN had Clinton pushes open trade. Bizarrely, to my mind, both led with demonstrations rather than the president.

For someone involved in the Congress Centre the three hours of demonstrations caused a handful of problems (participants could not return to the Congress Centre from one direction because of blocked roads). The 1,200 protestors broke the windows of a McDonald’s (what else?) and injured two policemen. My trust in the Swiss cantonal police plunged to a new low, since I think most police forces would have contained this limited number of demonstrators far more effectively — and with less violence.

But I really think the media have vastly overplayed the story. But I guess that’s what the protestors wanted.

The New York Times had a more evocative take on the speech: “At Conference on Trade, Clinton Makes a Pitch for the Poor”. I liked that, except whoever wrote the headline should realise that one of the last ways anyone I know would describe Davos is as a “conference on trade”.

On a different note, had a sidebar on Protestors upstage Clinton. Was this about the demonstrations in the street? No, it concentrated on the refusal of our audience of CEOs to leave their seats for our security check before the president’s plenary.

***Newbie information
This newbie act is catching. Dave Winer devotes what I believe to be the longest-ever Dave Net to newbie advice. My belief that Dave should be in Davos is confirmed by his reactions: “I came to a different conclusion.The people at Davos are thirsty to know. There are a lot of things they don’t understand, but the spirit of Davos is Ask!”

Dan Gillmor, who is doing his eJournal from Davos, told me he has figured it out (he’s a loyal Davos Newbie). “Go to the lunches and dinners where you know something about the topic, so you can participate. Go to sessions in the hall on topics you know nothing about.” I think that’s perceptive.

Davos Newbies Home

That’s President of the United States to you and me. Well, president Clinton has come and gone (he has some private bilaterals, but he’s out of the Congress Centre). I’ll give you an honest assessment: his speech had good content, but was delivered rather flatly (when he came into the green room before the speech, he said he hadn’t really slept for three days). His answers to a few questions were far better.

Best of all, however, was the 20 minute walkabout the president did after the speech. His brief conversations with various presidents, prime ministers and CEOs were truly animated and interesting. He clearly really enjoys dialogue with small groups.

My mind was, for much of the president’s visit, far more taken up with the logistics of ensuring the order of the plenary hall and getting people seated in a reasonable fashion. We’ve gone through various scenarios of how we might have done it better, but the truth is we had nearly 2,000 people wanting to get into a hall that seats 800. There isn’t any way to do that. Sorry to anyone who was disappointed at not getting a seat.

Davos Newbies Home

***Delays expected for Newbies
We have the small matter of president Clinton to deal with on Saturday. So I fear that my Saturday posting will be considerably delayed. Apologies to anyone who visits before that on Saturday.

***Back to normal service
The rubber really hit the road today. Loads of sessions, almost all of them absolutely full. One embarrassment was a session on memory, “I can’t remember… am I losing my mind or is my mind just overwhelmed”. I hear the session was wonderful, but I couldn’t even open the door to see.

One of the results of the Clinton shuffle (our rearrangement of sessions to clear the decks for the president tomorrow) was that some sessions needed to be crammed into rooms we wouldn’t usually use. Memory was one of those. It’s something I’d rather forget.

***Blair and Dell
Regular readers of Davos Newbies might recall my announcement of the session where British prime minister Tony Blair and Dell CEO Michael Dell had what we hoped would be a conversation on leadership. After some initial awkwardness, it really turned into a relaxed chat. One of Blair’s advisors told me afterwards that they thought it was like two peers talking by the fireside. That’s exactly what we wanted.

***Umberto Eco
“The terminal death of the universe is not for tomorrow.” Umberto Eco’s optimism in the face of entropy (the gradual dissipation of energy) was perhaps the most striking quote of an unprecedentedly busy opening day in Davos.

***Breaking news
Israeli prime minister Ehud Barak, in the face of a domestic funding scandal, cancelled his trip to Davos at 5.30 this morning. Unsurprisingly, for all politicians, local concerns far outweigh the potential benefit of addressing a global audience in Davos. What this means for our Sunday session on peace in the Middle East still needs to be worked out (in between running all the other sessions we have going today).

Davos Newbies Home

The doors are open, and participants are flooding in. Those who have read Davos Newbies have quickly moved to the sign-up desks to grab their favoured sessions.

The flu bug continues to sweep through some of our panelists. I’m keeping fingers crossed on one major European corporate head who has apparently lost his voice with the flu. His office range early this morning to say there is a one in five chance he will recover in time to chair his Saturday morning session.


The Financial Times has also constructed a special Davos site. Like everything on, it’s a bit cumbersome to navigate. I saw Peter Martin, deputy editor of the FT and the person now responsible for, last night. There will apparently be a relaunch of the site in the next week or so which, he says, will improve things greatly.

The still far superior Interactive Wall Street Journal also has a special Davos section (subscription required). The lead story today, however, is a muckraking look at some of the side, business activities of Klaus Schwab, president and founder of the Forum. I’m quoted as saying the Forum is “gloriously personal and amateur — and I don’t see that as a pejorative”. In the context, I think this misses my point. Amateurs, in the original sense of the word, are lovers of their pursuit. Professionals are detached and blasé. I know which I’d rather be.

Read Wayne Booth’s For the love of it: Amateuring and its rivals to find someone in complete agreement with my point of view (I haven’t included a link to because of their foolish attitude on the One-Click patent).

World Link

World Link, my own magazine, has its Davos issue up with more Davos-related material than you can shake a stick at. It may be invidious to single out articles in this, but I particularly recommend Moises Naim’s Six Anxieties.

Scripting News

Dave Winer is running Scripting News from Davos. There are lots of pictures and initial, breathless comments from a Davos Newbie.

Davos Newbies Home

My time is increasingly not my own, so I hope I can keep posting at opportune moments. With less than 24 hours to go, the pace is understandably picking up in the Congress Centre.

There are the inevitable last minute flurries of comings and goings. The blizzard hitting the US east coast means some people who were planning to arrive today will only arrive tomorrow. We’re crossing our fingers that this doesn’t affect some of the Thursday sessions. If you find yourself press ganged onto a panel suddenly, a weather affected flight is the probable cause.

We’ve also had two people cancel because of skiing accidents — not here in Davos, but in the Rockies. Who gets to go skiing before making a trip to the Alps?

***More news

There will be few more thoughtful pieces on Davos than Martin Wolf’s scene setter in today’s Financial Times. “None of the readers of this column has much chance of being alive at the end of this century. But suppose, for a moment, one was. What would give most pleasure?

“My answer is simple: that the economic opportunities now available
to a small proportion of humanity would have become available to all.
The question, as the world’s movers and shakers congregate in Davos
for the first meeting of the World Economic Forum this century, is what needs to be done to promote this end.”

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) focuses on the NGOs assembling in Davos. “The social and environmental activists who helped sink last year’s Seattle trade talks are now converging on the ultimate elite party: the World Economic Forum starting Thursday in Davos, Switzerland.”

We’ve added a button on this page to access’s news feed on Davos-related material. is a useful start-up by ex-Financial Times journalist Nick Denton. A good story of what it takes to be successful in the Internet economy: I emailed Nick on Monday night suggesting a Davos feed would be interesting. By Tuesday evening had constructed the special feed. Within an hour my California collaborators at Userland had the button on the page. How many traditional corporations or institutions could match that?

***Late, late news

Advice of the day from Davos: being an economist on the east coast of the US can endanger your health. Two economists cancelled today, Robert Reich and Daniel Tarullo, and one, Jeff Sachs, alerted us that he will be a day late. They all have the flu. How many other economists have been affected? I think we should be told.

Davos Newbies Home

There are some people within the Forum who like to build the stress as the start of the Annual Meeting approaches. But for the most part, there is an excellent, well-honed machine working towards the opening moments (I’d say a Swiss machine, except the Forum is appropriately a rainbow nation, not a single culture).

The weather is magnificent: sunny, with loads of snow, and really, really cold. When I walked to the Congress Centre early this morning, the thermostat at the bus stop read -28 degrees Centigrade (that’s -18F, for benighted, non-metric folks). If you like this kind of thing, you’ll delight in this non-Annual Meeting Davos piece from Salon about sledding down from the Schatzalp.

More relevant to the content of Davos, the Financial Times has a preview piece. One of my team described it as bland. I thought it was lazy (a clippings job, little more).

***More news

We’ve included a link on Davos Newbies to Newsweek’s Daily Davos site. My friend Michael Elliot, editor of Newsweek International, generally (always) neglects duty on Sunday morning to go skiing in Davos. His guide to the best runs is worth a look.

UserLand’s Dave Winer is going to try to do WAP at Davos.

Davos Newbies Home

The number of articles on Davos is growing as the opening of the meeting nears. CNNfn has a preview piece that makes a nice play on the two Bills: the “world’s most powerful man”, Bill Gates, and the “almost as powerful” Bill Clinton. The Washington Post has a not very kind piece that focuses on the companies that help support the Forum. We have 850 different people involved in the programme as panelists and moderators, more than half of the participants. Anne Swardson focuses on ones who come from partner companies, including Sun’s John Gage.

I’d like to link to Dan Atkinson’s little piece from The Guardian on their site, but it provides hopeless navigation to previous days’ articles. So you’ll have to live with our discussion group posting.

On more practical matters, Cal Tech’s Nate Lewis has asked me about email access in Davos. There is the Novell Internet café with PCs in the Congress Centre, but the Forum’s technical supremo André Schneider has provided some additional advice.

Email access in Davos

Here’s the advice from André Schneider.

You may get questions by our AM participants on how to access their office mail while in Davos. Here are the three possibilites that we can offer our participants:

They can access via Internet their office mail. This is done using a protocol called POP3 (Post Office Protocol 3). To find out if they can do that they have to address their technical staff to find out if their office mail supports POP3. If this is the case they should send their technical staff to our AM private area to fill in the “Office Mail Account Registration” with the appropriate information. If, in any case, they have forgotten to do so prior to the AM, they can address themselves to the IT Help Desk (just to the left of the ASCOM Communication Center) with the appropriate POP3 definitions and have their office mail set up on the kiosk.

For those who have done so, a special button will appear in the mail screen of the kiosk (with the word POP3). When they click this button all their office mail will be retrieved and displayed on the kiosk.

If they do not have POP3 access, they can when arriving at Davos send an e-mail from the kiosk to their home office. This will allow the home office assistant to forward the mail to the address in Davos.

WARNING: This address will only work during the AM and therefore we cannot distribute these email addresses prior to their arrival. To avoid mail errors at the end of the AM, when the mail accounts are disabled, we recommend to send at departure a mail to the office to indicate that the forwarding should from then on be stopped.

Participants can also come with their laptop computers. If they encounter any problems with the telephone lines at their hotel room, they can address themselves at the IT Help Desk (just on the left of the ASCOM Communication Center), where they will be able to get assistance, adaptor plugs, or an extra telephone line put into their hotel room. Services provided by this IT Help Desk, like a special telephone line, are at the participant’s cost.

Davos Newbies Home

This posting merits a dateline, since Davos Newbies will now be written and dispatched from the epicentre of activity.

The weather report was accurate: there’s tons of snow and it’s still coming down. From our perspective, it’s better that the snow comes now than on Thursday (or Saturday, given the Clinton logistics).

On the programme, we’re just tinkering now, filling the odd gap caused by late shifts in plan. I can’t say for sure, but given the news from Ecuador, I doubt that Benjamin Ortiz, foreign minister at last report, will be coming this week.

***New York Times on Davos

Paul Krugman: The Magic Mountain. “The scene at Davos — the superrich and their trophy wives schmoozing with officials elected and appointed, the lavish parties thrown by third-world nations, and so on — represents a sort of distilled essence of everything that people love to hate about the New World Order. Those on both left and right who view globalization as a sort of conspiracy by rootless cosmopolitans against the rest of us could hardly have asked for a better spectacle.”