Jeff Pulver insists that his 140 Character Conference isn’t a “tech conference” for nerds. “The people who are there, they’re not tech heads really, they’re just regular people,” said Mr. Pulver, the founder of the company that became Vonage, self-described “futurist,” and orchestrator of the event in an interview this morning. “This world we’re gathering of people sort of, in my mind, resembles the bar scene from the first Star Wars movie. There’s all kinds of people there and the only thing they have in common is that they speak Twitter.”
The two-day conference on June 16th and 17th (at New World Stages on West 50th Street) includes a series of panels on the “disruptive nature of Twitter.” Mr. Pulver describes the event as taking a chance to stop and look around at the “state of now” (Ferris Bueller style?), at a time when Twitter seems to be at its peak of popularity. He has invited a “cast of characters” beyond the typical tech stars.
Sure, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, Web 2.0 godfather Tim O’Reilly, New York’s top venture capitalist Fred Wilson, and Twitter investor and betaworks chief executive John Borthwick will deliver speedy keynotes (15 minutes tops!).
But David Saranga (@DavidSaranga), consul for media and public affairs at the Israeli Consulate in New York, will also be a featured speaker, along with Moeed Ahmad (@moeed), head of new media technology and the future media department technology division for the Al Jazeera Network.
Gavin Purcell (@gavinpurcell), co-producer of Late Night With Jimmy Fallon; Rick Sanchez (@ricksanchezcnn), CNN anchor; and Ryan Osborn (@todayshow), producer of the Today Show, will appear on panels covering how Twitter impacts television and reporting the news. Area/Code’s Kevin Slavin will explain “things that Twitter.”
There’s a “White House Correspondency in the Age of Twitter” panel, with Air America’s Ana Marie Cox (@anamariecox) and Jason Linkins, (@dceiver), editor of the Huffington Post’s “Eat The Press” blog. The Twitterers behind fake accounts for Mad Men characters will also make an appearance. So will Wyclef Jean (@wyclef).
He expects a media frenzy.
“When I built the cast of characters, I wasn’t looking for the people with 500,000 followers,” Mr. Pulver told The Observer. “I was looking for people who had something interesting to say or people who were having an impact on other people. There was no rating system used.”
140 Characters isn’t the first conference to capitalize on the Twitter craze. But Mr. Pulver said this is perhaps the most diverse one yet.
“What Twitter has done is really democratize access to information to anyone, anyone who wants real-time information from anyone,” Mr. Pulver added. “What they do with it is up to them.”
Certainly the conference didn’t democratize access. It costs $895 for a two-day pass. But Mr. Pulver said the 350 seats he reserved at New World Stages will sell out and there will be standing room only. The VIP passes for $1,195 sold out. (This, in a recession!).
Mr. Pulver told The Observer he plans on announcing next week that he will host more Twitter conferences in Los Angeles and London later this year and will make “140 Characters” a yearly event in New York.
Mr. Pulver, just like Twitter, is a popular and “disruptive” character in the Web world. He is best known for catalyzing voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP) in its seed stages, back in the ’90s. He first experimented with Internet calls while working a day job on Wall Street. In 1997, he created the first VON conference (“The voice of network convergence”) and, a year later, founded Min-X, which raised $12 million in funding and became Vonage, one of the first independent voice over the Internet services. He stepped down from Vonage’s board in 2002 and started another company, Free World Dialup, which had the potential to be the next Skype. He is also the lead author of the FCC’s “Pulver Order,” which warded off mainstream telecommunication companies from wrestling control of VOIP technologies. VOIP now is a multibillion-dollar industry and Mr. Pulver is considered the go-to guy for tech journalists.
Since he resigned as director of Pulver Media in a kerfuffle of controversy, Mr. Pulver has focused on his own Rocketboom-like Web show, invested in seed start-ups and simmered on what he calls the Internet’s hottest new trend: the “state of now.” He has several up-close-and-personal videos on his blog and YouTube explaining his thought process on “the state of now” and how it helped him form the 140 Characters Conference, which he calls the “Davos of Twitter.”
“We’ve always lived in the past on the Internet, you know, data was archived, ancient to recent, but not new—available in this moment,” Mr. Pulver said. “For the first time ever … we know the pulse of the world.”