How SotN was born

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The idea of ​​doing State of the Net comes out in 2007. In Udine, since a couple of years, there is InnovAction, an exhibition sponsored by the local government: it aims to bring together public administration, business companies and university within Friuli Venezia Giulia to trigger sparks of creativity and innovation. The network as a tool for social gatherings and economic recovery still has a marginal role. And to Beniamino Pagliaro, an enterprising journalist from Trieste in his twenties, occurs that maybe this gap is now mature enough to be filled.

A few months before Pagliaro has met and involved in other events Paolo Valdemarin, an entrepreneur from Gorizia who develops social software and mess together with internet gurus around the world, and Sergio Maistrello, a journalist from Pordenone who has just published a book that will become a small classic in a small shelf, La parte abitata della rete. In early summer of 2007, Pagliaro calls Valdemarin and Maistrello for a coffee in Trieste and tells them about a project called “State of the Net”.

There is the chance to do a preview of InnovAction, whose third edition is scheduled for the next February. An event focused on the internet, that should warm up the atmosphere and uplift the technological slant of the main fair. The local administration headed by Riccardo Illy seems aware on the opportunity and interested in supporting the start-up of the event. There are already a good number of conferences in Italy wich cover the internet and its specializations, say Pagliaro, Valdemarin and Maistrello, but – from the blog rally to at the programmers’s assembly – in fact there isn’t still a single one that tells the internet industry as a whole, analysing organically its impact on economy, politics, society and culture.

Pagliaro, Maistrello, Valdemarin open SotN12's second day

What’s also missing in Italy, and this is Valdemarin’s ace in the hole, is an international perspective on these issues and the ability to connect to international conversations, overcoming the self reference of their country. We’ll do the italian LeWeb, the friulian Reboot, the Udine’s Next, fantasize the three. They leave after an hour, amused by the idea but underneath convinced – at least Valdemarin and Maistrello – that it will never happen for real. They underestimate the determination of Pagliaro, who wins one by one the doubts of public officers involved in the process and eventually gets all the go-ahead. It will not be immediately the italian LeWeb, but in the meantime it is a go: two days in early February, at the Visionario film club in Udine, with a small budget to be completed with private sponsors. And with all the difficulties, the slowness and the lack of flexibility that come having the public administration as main partner.

With a sense of impending doom in the soul of the organizers, the two days begins with great expectations in the Italian web scene, a high media exposure and a room for three hundreds that fills up quickly. The schedule is based on an alternation of keynotes and informal conversations on the couch. Next to some of the most lucid observers of the italian internet scene, including Stefano Quintarelli, Gigi Tagliapietra, Marco Zamperini, Luca De Biase and Marco Formento, there is a small group of brilliant international speakers such as BBC and Nokia consultant Euan Semple, Technorati’s founder David Sifry, Social Text’s Ceo Ross Mayfield and Personal Democracy Forum’s editor Joshua Levy (watch on YouTube). The distinctive feature of State of the Net emerges quickly: speakers and participants share space and time for two days, mingling each other and sharing experiences and sensibilities. People leave the Visionario feeling enriched, speakers first.

Valdemarin Pagliaro Maistrello

Being far away from major economic and technological italian centers seems to be not a limitation, but a peculiarity: State of the Net is a conference where you decide to go, not a conference where you pass by chance. On the other hand, it becomes clear that straddle italian and english during the conference doesn’t work good and that, in order to take full advantage of the presence of international experts and of the format wich boosts participation, it is necessary to foster english as common working language. Fact is that people liked the event. The dreaded catastrophe has turned into a successful experience and the three organizers shake their hands satisfied. This is perhaps the real moment when State of the Net has born, even if it’ll take four years of attempts and contacts before being able to do it again, in Trieste.

 

Go inside the history of State of the Net: