There were iPads and iPhones aplenty as Canada’s digital elite gathered at the 5th annual Mesh conference in Toronto this week to plug in to trends in the online space.

 

Billed as “Canada’s Web Conference,” the annual event aims to bring together people with an enthusiasm for the web to talk about news media, marketing, business and society as a whole. Held at the MaRS Discovery District on College Street, the sold-out two-day event featured keynote speeches, panels, workshops, and networking opportunities for the over 400 members of the digerati in attendance.

 

The schedule reflected trends in social and new media like the real-time web and the future of news. Sessions ranged from using social media for business to getting your startup ready for investment, and were led by local community leaders like Social Media Group founder Maggie Fox, and experts from across the country like Montreal startup expert Mark MacLeod.

 

In the wake of the controversy around Facebook’s privacy policies many of the discussions focused on online privacy and security. Keynote speaker Joseph Menn, journalist and author of the new book Fatal System Error: The Hunt for the New Crime Lords Who are Bringing Down the Internet, talked about the prevalence of cyber-crime rings, specifically in Russia. He says consumers should care about cyber crime because it’s a threat to national security and the economy, and to their individual financial data.

 

“The odds of getting robbed blind are high, much higher than people realize, and are going up dramatically,” Menn says. “People should educate themselves about what the issues are.”


In order to protect themselves online Menn recommends consumers use an operating system, anti-virus software and firewall that update automatically, not use debit cards online, and keep online commerce to a minimum.


Building on the online security theme, a panel discussion was held about Privacy in the Age of Facebook featuring Ontario’s Privacy Commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian. She’s trying to educate people about Facebook’s privacy settings, and advocating the importance of opt-in rather than opt-out settings.


Conference attendee Jon Lim is the founder of Up+Atom, a local small business that provides rich media content to businesses. He attended the Facebook privacy session but says he isn’t concerned with the changes to their settings.


“As someone who does use Facebook a lot I tend to restrict everything I say and do. I made sure my privacy settings were locked down,” he says. “I go through them often. It’s something I’ve had control over since day one.”


He says he’d only close his account if Facebook started selling his data without his permission or knowledge, but agrees that educating people about their privacy settings is important.


Not all of the sessions were on the trends of the moment though – Montrealer Adele McAlear held a unique session about Death and Digital Legacy. She was inspired to research the topic after an online connection passed away unexpectedly in late 2007, and she wondered how to interact with his online presence.


“I want to influence content creators to take care of his digital assets to make it easier for his families and friends afterwards,” she says.


She spoke about what happens to your digital properties if you pass away, and advocates that web-savvy people or early adopters appoint a digital executor who knows at least their e-mail password.


Despite the shift away from last year’s focus on social media basics, the conference had a few recognizable features. The Twitter stream was overloaded, and the device-of-the-moment got a lot of attention – in this case, the iPad, which is available in Canada May 28th.


Even the entertainment at the after-party reflected the wired theme. Dave Carroll, the musician behind the United Breaks Guitars phenomenon, serenaded the crowd with his viral hit. A fitting way to close out Canada’s biggest web conference – with a YouTube celebrity.


Erin Bury is the Community Manager at Sprouter