Posts about conferences

Playing Oprah

Yesterday when I led a panel at the Personal Democracy Forum, I gave props to Dave Winer as I told the room that they were the panel — that’s what Dave told me quite firmly at the first Bloggercon — and so I was taking the microphone to the room — the people formerly known as the audience — to involve everyone in the discussion and to organize the discussion not around people (I’m on the panel, you’re not; it’s my turn in the line…) but around threads of ideas. I now see that two days ago, Dave told the story of that Bloggercon. He taught me how to be Oprah and I have used that ever since and, indeed, his has made me a better moderator/discussion leader.

Today, I’m relieved and happy that the PDF leaders have decided to also come into the audience and play Oprah. Perhaps I should have called it playing Winer. A snippet of his story of the beginning of the format:

We reserved a suite of five classrooms and recruited Discussion Leaders (DLs), and tried to explain the format on the phone. I asked the DLs to think of the entire room as a panel. Two of them, well-intentioned, had recruited a few people they knew and asked them to come to the front. I rotated between the rooms, when I saw this, I asked the people in the front to take seats in the body. I made the DL stand in front, and lead the discussion. I remember the instant Jeff Jarvis, for example, understood what I was looking for — he ran with it, as far as I could tell everyone had a grand time (Jarvis is a fantastic DL). By the time the day was over, the format had been worked out, and get this — the hallways were empty! The conversations that used to happen in the hallway were now happening in the conference.

Thanks, Dave.

Us v Us

Amy Gahran and Steve Safran are headed for a group hug as they try to stop the us-v-them time wasting of too many conferences. I agree (and Jill Miller Zimon is right, I am tired of making the point). At the conference I’m holding at CUNY on Oct. 10, I plan to have a gong and the first attempt to attack MSM or blogs gets gonged off. This conference is about action, taking next steps, not about sniping, which is where too many conferences do turn. Wish us luck.

Conference spam, part II

Below, I complained about a conference — I’ll now say it is Streaming Media — giving out my email address without my permission to vendors. And it’s worse than that: Three of them called me at home! I was irritated but now, reading the comment from conference organize Dan Rayburn, below, I’m pissed. He said:

We allow any press member not to have their name included on a list that we give exhibitors, however we don’t allow that for speakers. Since speakers get a free conference pass, get to promote themselves, get to mention their websites, and get in front of thousands of people at the show, on the website and via the webcast etc… we expect them to also give back and allow companies to contact them who may want to meet them at the show. The networking is a big value of the show.

The problem we all face as one person pointed out is that too many PR people send out e-mails to people who are not targeted to their topic. That’s a problem that no conference organizer can do away with unless they just stop allowing people to network with one another.

What crap. They get free content out of us panelists. I didn’t attend a single session. And I have to put up with spam and invasions of my privacy at home? Bullshit.

I don’t think I’ll be streaming media with them again.

: LATER: In the comments, Rayburn, in my view, digs his hole deeper. Here’s his comment. My reaction:

This shows exactly why so many conferences are so screwed up and worthelss. His attitude is that everybody who’s speaking is speaking to sell shit and then he sells tickets to people to be sold that shit on top of more sponsors who sell more shit.

Gee, I thought people went to conferences to learn things.

Why did I go to the conference? Because Rayburn asked me. I viewed it as a favor. He clearly did not.

Why didn’t I go to any sessions? Because I didn’t find anything of interest. I can now see why.

And I find it pitiful that he’s now dragging in the people who joined the panel — as a favor to me. Yes, I made clear before and at the panel that IdolCritic was a production of my new company but there’s no business to be done for it now that the season is almost over. When I invited Black20, I hadn’t invested in it; I knew that J. would be good on the panel. I invited Fred Graver, a real visionary from Vh1, but he couldn’t make it so the conference added someone. I now feel bad that by inviting them, I opened these people to the spam email and calls from the conferences shills.

It is time for conference speakers to go on strike. No speakers, no conferences.

Abandon whining all ye who enter here

I didn’t attend any of the Streaming Media conference, except the panel I moderated with talented people who are remaking TV online: J. Crowley of Black20 (disclosure: I’m an investor), Mary C. Matthews of IdolCritic (disclosure: she’s making this for my video company) and 39Second Single, Adam Elend of WallStrip, and Robert Scoble of Scoble. I ran into Steve Safran of Lost Remote and asked him how the conference was and he shrugged a bit and then explained that he likes the fact that at this conference — as he later said on his blog:

there is no arguing. There is good debate, to be sure. But there is no “us vs. them,” no “blogs are death,” no “that’s not real media,” no “that’s not our core competency” arguments. The open-mindedness of companies here is terrific. Broadcasters need to learn from the entrepreneurial spirit of these folks. They look at emerging tech and see the possibilities, not the limitations.

That’s what we need at newspaper and TV journalistic conferences: A big banner at the door that says:

NO ARGUING ALLOWED. LEAVE YOUR KVETCHES AT THE DOOR.

Conference spam

I’m going to put a new requirement on conference speaking and attendance: no conference spam. I’m at a conference today that clearly gave my email address out and I’m getting tons of unsolicited email.

Virtual me

I’m learning that making videos is a great way to get virtual attention. My video post for Comment is Free was shown at yesterday’s Guardian and my McCain PrezVid show on today’s presentation (see the post below). Gee, maybe I can stop going to conferences and attend virtually. But then, I wouldn’t have heard the laughs I got today. Gotta have an audience, eh?

The first punch in the first round

Rich Skrenta of Topix throws in the towel on we media — way, way, too soon, I think. Because people at the latest We Media conference — just like the last one — couldn’t agree on how the various tribes of news can and should work together — once they ever stop baring their teeth or beating their breasts at each other — Rich says it’s not going to happen. I’m guessing he sees no hope for global warming, either. Says Rich:

The problem is that the hopes that Dan Gillmor raised for the media industry in his book — which kicked off this whole business — have largely failed. . . .

There is actually a media revolution in the works. So what’s going on here? By implicit definition, participatory media is non-commercial. If it’s commercial, someone owns it, and it’s not “we” anymore.

There we disagree. That’s the problem with PayPerPost, not with commercially supported media, big or small. And we have not even begun to plumb the possibilities of commercially supported networks of small media. Rich continues:

Furthermore, as soon as a new media venture crosses the line and tries to become a business, it either becomes a successful business or a failed one. Businesses aren’t about ideology, they’re about getting a job done and earning revenue to keep the thing going. Even wild success tends to leave ideology behind. Ideology is the realm of nonprofits and failures.

And here, too, we disagree. First, the definition of business success depends on the business. And I’d argue that journalism has been driven by ideology — by the desire to make the society more open and the world a better place as a result. More:

There is still a power law to success, and the few continue to reap disproportionate rewards, as they always have. Pub media turns out to be a farm league for big media. The bloggers who “make it” look more and more like regular media than “us”. They graduate to to the A-list, and start to get lumped in and criticised along with the establishment. Success looks like a sellout to a big media company, or a good business doing job boards and conferences on the side to pay the bills.

And there we really disagree. It is a mistake to judge success by the standards and old assmptions of the old media economy. Not every blogger wishes to be big media and not every blogger who doesn’t shouldn’t be judged as a failure. (I’ll spare you the reprise of the there-is-no-A-list argument.)

What Rich is leaving out, I think, is the network model: working together both journalistically and commercially. I believe that’s possible and I don’t believe we’ve even begun to scratch the surface of possibilities.

I do agree with Rich that conferences need to get past arguing. I say they need to get to the job of innovating. But more on that later.

It is way, way too soon to throw in that towel.

(Disclosure: Rich’s company, Topix, is a competitor in some ways with the company I work with, Daylife; he lists both in his post in a collection of new-media news startups.)

: And amen to Richard Sambrook on what should be next:

Enough of conferences going over the same ground, enough of bloggers (several of whom make their living from consulting with big organisations) saying big media doesn’t “get it” and only they have insight, enough of big media publicly agonising over how to respond to the huge disruption the internet has brought. Enough of the fallacy of thinking there is some kind of power struggle going on. It’s about integration, not subsititution…
For me this year has to be less about talking and more about doing.

Always conferencing

Nick Denton accused me of being a panel whore for doing this. Guilty. But I look good in black, don’t I? I get back from the World Economic Forum in Davos late last night and this morning, where am I? At Tony Perkins’ Always On conference in New York. Perkins is webcasting the whole thing, good on him.