“We don’t need help. We are not invalids.”

I’ve been doing a bit more digging around and come up with some more ‘interesting’ facts about the social media presence at this year’s Davos:

  • For the second year running, there was a YouTube Corner. Heads of state, CEOs of multinational corporations and various world dignitaries and could stop by to give their response to questions posted on the video sharing network. Kofi Annan, Ed Milliband, Paolo Coelho, The President of Rwanda and The Chairman of Intel Craig Barrett all shared their views.
  • Prior to Davos, both YouTube and MySpace ran competitions for one lucky subscriber to get all expenses paid press accreditation at Davos. Pablo Camacho (YouTube) and Rebecca McQuigg (MySpace) became “Citizen Reporters” – interviewing everyone from Bill Gates to the president of Columbia between them.
  • Facebook ran live online polls during 12 of the key sessions. During one session, Advice to the US President on Competitiveness, Facebook users were asked if Barack Obama’s proposed stimulus package was on target. According to Techcrunch, 120,000 responses were recorded in twenty minutes: 59 per cent said “no” and 15 per cent said “yes”. These results were played out directly over the heads of the panelists (including Rupert Murdoch, CEO News Corp, and Ellen Kullman, CEO DuPont) who only minutes beforehand had generally backed the package. Nonetheless, World Economic Forum officials were apparently “delighted” with the polls.
  • While 2007 appeared to be the year the bloggers first arrived ‘en masse’ at Davos, 2009 saw plenty more faces from the social media/tech scene: journalists Michael Arrington (Techcrunch), Robert Scoble (Fast Company TV), Jeff Jarvis (Buzz Machine) are becoming veterans, alongside Web 2.0 entrepreneurs such as Tim O’Reilly (O’Reilly Media), Jimmy Wales (Wikipedia), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Chad Hurley (YouTube) and Tariq Krim (Netvibes).
  • For anyone in any doubt that Davos is social media savvy, the World Economic Forum now has a Twitter feed, a fan page and group on Facebook, and a dedicated photostream on Flickr.

My final point isn’t about social media specifically, but about the importance of accommodating diverse viewpoints – especially important if you prefer not to be humiliated in public: illustrated in the story of the exchange between poor old Dell CEO, Michael Dell, and the pithy Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

As if any further proof was needed of fading Western dominance – Putin’s put-down of Dell’s founder summed up the new world order. Peter Gumbel of Fortune magazine reports how Michael Dell was first up to ask a question after Putin’s 40 minute speech:

“[Dell] praised Russia’s technical and scientific prowess, and then asked: “How can we help” you to expand IT in Russia. Big mistake. Russia has been allergic to offers of aid from the West ever since hundreds of overpaid consultants arrived in Moscow after the collapse of Communism, in 1991, and proceeded to hand out an array of advice that proved, at times, useless or dangerous. Putin’s withering reply to Dell: “We don’t need help. We are not invalids. We don’t have limited mental capacity. The slapdown took many of the people in the audience by surprise.”

Putin’s remarks are good to bear in mind as we think about our (definitely subjective, probably patronising) attitudes to other cultures in shaping the “economic forums” – and corporate boardrooms – of the future.

As Davos is no doubt learning, it’s great to use social media to gather diverse viewpoints, but it’s our reaction to these views, and our accommodation of them, that we need to really think about.