Posts from February 2004

Beyond the panel discussion

Beyond the panel discussion
: I sat on a panel yesterday with the best possible panelists — people of stature with experience and plenty to contribute; the best possible moderator — who knew how to keep the discussion going; and the best possible audience — with interested people who asked good questions.

But it struck me that we need to move beyond the form of the panel discussion — because we can.

When I ran a panel at BloggerCon, Dave Winer got me break the form by insisting it wasn’t a panel; everyone in the room had plenty to contribute and was part of the discussion; there was no panel or everyone was on the panel.

At ETech and Bloggercon, I’ve watched the back-channel discussion on IRC (particularly Joi Ito‘s channel) with fascination.

With just a little added software, I think someone could blow up and reinvent the panel discussion:

1. Give the entire audience a back channel (and, of course, wi-fi). Give them a chat channel and wiki so they can share comments and resources.

2. Display that back-channel to all, including the panel (and don’t be bothered by a little good-natured heckling).

3. Allow the audience to post questions from the first moment and allow the audience to prioritize those questions. (A wiki could do that.)

4. Put on the panel an advocate of the back-channel who acts as another moderator and brings up the good questions and arguments and refererences from the audience, including those not in the room.

5. Whenever possible, webcast the panel and the back-channel to get more expert input from the world.

6. Create a simple ap that allows the audience to vote on topics of interest for the panel: discuss this first, then that, then that.

7. That ap should also allow the audience to vote on whether they want more or less on a topic: keep talking about this or move on, please (or, yes, every panelist should answer the same question or, no, don’t bother).

8. If the panel has guts, it could allow the audience to vote on favorite panelists (from whom do we want to hear more?).

9. With or without technology, as soon as possible, open the discussion to all.

Somebody clever could take open-source functionality and package it for conference givers. I’ll take a cut.

Old vs. news: I

Old vs. news: I
: Yesterday, by fate — or kismet — I attended two panel discussions at NYU that tried to see what’s next for media from two perspectives: the past and the future.

As I mentioned below, I was on a panel for MBA students from across the country called “Beyond the Printed Page.” Some heavyweights — Kelly Conlin, president of Primedia; Bruce Hallett, president of Sports Ilustrated, Paul Rossi, publisher of; Thomas Carley, president of NYTimes News Services — shared their valuable experience with extending their products, brands, and revenue in the internet, TV, and such.

At the end, Eric Garland, the moderator, asked the obligatory question about the fate of print. We’d all been joking that the students — faced with a choice of sexier panels about music, TV, and children’s entertainment — wouldn’t show up for dusty old print (many did). So Garland cued the whither-print discussion. Hallett said that these are not mature businesses and are still developing and growing; the rest nodded.

I’d said earlier that we are in for a fundamental restructuring — with an endless supply of content that could be viewed as competition or, better, as a new source of diverse viewpoints and deeper relationships; I did my citizens’-media boogie (you’ve watched that dance before so I’ll spare you).

And as I left, I got email from Jay Rosen saying that he and Anil Dash would be speaking to a group at the NYU Law School on how weblogs are changing the world (I blogged it, below). Jay talked eloquently, as always, on the fundamental restructuring of content. There was a lot of excitement about the Iranian and Iraqi bloggers. The place buzzed.

When I got home, I told my wife about it over dinner and said it was a rather stark contrast: old v. new, big v. small, drone v. buzz. She nodded but also chuckled and said it’s too bad there’s no money in this blog thing. She’s right (she always is).

And so now it hits me that the big boys aren’t going to take this phenomenon seriously until they see its economic power. They’ll think it’s cute that citizens’ media powered Howard Dean or will power revolution in Iran. But what they care about is money.

They will notice when a Denton steals an advertiser from them or shows up in market research as a better competitor or sells his company to one of them for a few mil.

It’s about money. If we want this new medium to be taken seriously and if we want it to get the resources it needs to develop with more tools and talent, then we do need to get serious about money (which means, among many other things, creating standards for measuring the size of the medium).

I don’t want to see the buzz of the second panel turn into the drone of the first (that will come in a generation or two). I just want to see the buzz grow.

Old v. news: II

Old v. news: II
: A few days ago, I posted excerpts from and arguments against Eli Noam’s Financial Times article arguing that we are in the midst of a market failure in the information and entertainment ecomies. The comments here had some great refutations from wiser economic minds than mine. Om Malik, Ross Mayfield, Kevin Werbach, Steve MacLaughlin, Jennifer Rice, and others joined in.

(What I like about all this is that I knew Noam’s piece was bull but I don’t have the econ-class chops sufficient to argue — but my fellow bloggers do. You make my arguments for me. You fight my fights for me.)

Now Fred Wilson, who really has the econ chops to argue — having helped build this economy — adds another citation to the argument:

I don’t know what world Eli is living in, but its not in the trenches. There is opportunity every where I look in the information economy right now. Maybe I should go up to Columbia and offer Eli a tour of it.

What is happening, as so brilliantly described by another economist, Carlota Perez, in her book “Technological Revolutions and Financial Capital” is that we are at the end of the “installation” period where building infrastructure was the recipe for making money and at the start of the “golden age of IT” where using it in innovative ways will be the key to making money.

Apple isn’t making a lot of money on iMacs anymore, but they are making a ton of money right now selling iPods and Airport Extremes. Soon, those cash cows will pave the way for new Apple businesses built around Garage Band and iTunes. As Jeff Jarvis said in his post, “There’s somebody using Apple’s Garageband in a garage right now creating a future hit that will surely be sold at Apple’s iTunes store.”

Eli should come down from his ivory tower and hit the streets and see what crafty entrepreneurs are doing with commoditized infrastructure. They are building the “golden age” of IT before our very eyes.

I like the idea of taking Noam on a tour; I’m emailing him.

: Om puts together excerpts of many of the bloggers’ comments linked above.


: Technorati is trying to clean up its user interface (at ETech, Dave Sifry was quite self-deprecating about it). So instead of unclear words like “cosmos” to get you to a site’s report of inbound links, there’s now an unclear blue, oval icon (but at least it’s cleaner). But here’s the odd thing: Instead of saying that you have so many inbound blogs, you now have so many “fans” and instead of so many inbound links, you now have “inbound references.”

But they’re not fans. Some of the people who link to me (and vice versa) are, instead enemies. And what’s wrong with the word “link?” It’s clear and short.

Cleaning up is a good thing. But sometimes you can try too hard.

: UPDATE: Nevermind. I caught them playing. Now it’s all back to normal. Life is a work in progress and I love watching it.

Good-bye, Iraq

Good-bye, Iraq
: Adam Curry finishes his week on the air in Iraq and takes in local customs:

Lots of customs and traditions to follow during this high-level meeting.We all sat with our legs folded and never ever made the mistake of pointing our feet toward anyone in the room, a major insult. We were served tea in small shot glasses filled halfway with sugar, followed by tiny cups of coffee goop. Unless you politely tipped your cup from left to right the brew would keep on comin. I was able to stomach two cups. Hardcore stuff.