April 19, 2004

Bloggercon Notes

I wrote this up Sunday morning after Bloggercon, but then had trouble finding wifi in Cambridge (wifinder only showed Starbucks which requires a TMobile account which I don't have) and forgot my cable for using pdanet (d'oh) and no Cingular www access for some reason on my phone, so I'm posting this upon returning.

Like a lot of conferences, there are interesting talks, but I go for the people, a certain subset of the communities I'm in, and Bloggercon was this way too. I loved meeting a bunch of bloggers I hadn't known in person before, and reconnecting with the ones I do know. Betsy DeVine waxed sweetly about Kevin Mark's helpfulness at the last Bloggercon and lamented his absence, and Micah Sifry, Dave Winer (our host) among others.

Dinner Friday night was a lot of fun. Sitting near to Jeff Jarvis and Jay Rosen, Henry Copeland walked past near the end, looked at me and said, "Oh, you're part of the blogging journalism mafia." I had no idea. But I guess so. I have sort of been actively keeping my picture off the internet for a while, at least associated with my name, but Dan Gillmor posted it, so here it is, kind of cinema verite. I actually kind of like it (I usually don't like photos of myself). I was thoroughly enjoying talking with Halley Suitt and Werner Vogels there.

Saturday morning, lots and lots of bloggers in the rooms. So many, it's hot hot hot. We are wondering about whether they have the weekend settings for airconditioning on, because so little air is coming out. But Wendy and Dave and others have done a nice job of putting on a (free!) conference on a limited budget so you really can't complain, can you. Spend much of the day IM-ing with people who couldn't get on the IRC, but were listening though the audio webcast which was dropping people regularly. Just ended up typing the dialog in the room to them. Later as the IRC was on the wall in sessions, Loic LeMuir got on, sending me a "hello mary" to hoder, who responded that he was not me (two d's in my name verses hoder's one d) and this flashed behind the speaker and sat there on the wall for a while. Then someone in the room put the IRC on notice that they were projected on the wall of the room, for the benefit of those outsides the room (Loic was in Spain yesterday). Lot's of smiles on the IRC.

So Jay Rosen's session was my first, followed his essay Friday where he said it was his most misunderstood post ever; that everyone fixated on one line, "Blogging is not journalism, but bloggers now filter and edit journalists, and journalists read blogs.
". He turned those thoughts right around positively as the basis of the most interesting discussion of what happens when blogs move toward journalism and journalism moves toward blogs without descending into the either/or problem. Great audience participation discussing these issues, with journalists, bloggers and heavy readers there giving perspectives, and Jay channeling us toward more constructive thoughts on this than many recent conferences. We talked later and agreed that with an audience that spends so much time online and on blogs, maybe a critical mass has witnessed and discussed and hashed enough previously online that we could quickly move right to the good stuff in discussion. Jay is so masterful. If I could ever lead and speak half as well I would be happy.

David Weinberger's session was on the use of blogs in business settings, and blog ROI, both the internal knowledge management kind and the external sorts including marketing, pr, conversing with your customers, Scobelizer-transparency as well as the Raging Cow debacle and Rick Bunner suggesting that like media training there should be blog training. My thought on the internal sort of blogs is that the same problems that hit knowledge management systems in the 90's may affect internal blogs. (link to examples) where people in various sorts of businesses would reject them because they were afraid of losing control over their biz contacts as well as their most important business information and the context it is associated with, refused to use them, especially in partnership types of businesses, or where competition amongst the staff was part of the culture. Most useful was a thought at the end of the session that if any of the external business blogs are to work, people in companies have to stop thinking of their communications as one-way, and start sniffing around the internet for the cultures and conversations that matter to their business and marketplace. And then, their blogs may turn out to be little conversations, with 25 people at a time, as specific issues and perspectives are addressed. Microclimate markets.

Nice lunch at Casablanca, which I recommend for the Salade Nicoise, which turns out to be really terrific, with Vin Crosby and the always lovely Susan Crawford, who is working hard on mapping legal issues to the practical and social interactions we engage in online, for the purpose of finding ways to self-regulate things like spam. She's iterated further since she presented her work-in-progress at the Yale talk two months ago.

Rebecca MacKinnon talked about international blogging communities and communications. Great discussion. Ethan Zuckerman talked about his visualization of blogger coverage vs. Google news coverage of different places.


The red areas are places that blogs talk about more than traditional news, the blue areas are places they speak less about and the white areas are places with equal frequency of discussion (Ethan admitted in the session that he has a visualization problem with the colors he chose and the way they represent the information and so will work on this problem further"). But the discussion nicely outlined the issues where often the focus of blogs is American or Western, and international issues are left out. Jeff Jarvis pointed out the idea of adopting a country, and conversing with and highlighting bloggers is a start. And thoughts about blog software available in other languages (why isn't Google making a localized Blogger?), when we focus on the international (Jay Rosen notes the compelling nature of traditional media coverage of international events and how the bloggosphere often follows that lead, as well as his desire to be a more international blogger but for the translation hurdles), and Jeff noting how in the bloggosphere, its still an American-centric situation where things become important when American bloggers talk about it. We agreed that better tools for translation, connection, seeing conversations and more attention to this issue are key. Finally, it was noted that "international" was a word he heard once come up once at Bloggercon I, and so having this session, getting this issue out explicitly, was really a great leap. But then again, there is so much to improve still.

Last session was with Jeff Jarvis on business models for blogs. Jeff is hilarious, starting us off a little like a real estate seminar, asking who wants to make money, and yet he's very serious about making blogging more sustainable for bloggers. He's working of his wiki, and going through ad models and interaction models and uses of blogs to get other work. In the end, we voted on 7 or 8 different things, choosing what was most important to address in the bloggosphere. It came down to a vote between two things: stats on blogs and traffic, and a trade association for blogs. Doc (in Santa Barbara) voted for stats, as did I, and the final count was for good reporting and stats. Then Tristan Louis asked Oliver Willis what he would do if the Kerry campaign offered him $100k to place ads on his site, with the condition that he not criticize or embarrass the campaign. Oliver thought a bit, smiled, said he might consider it, but quickly decided that he would lose readers and cred if he did that. So it wouldn't be worth it. Debra Galant noted in the end that things are transparent online, that eventually disingenuous behavior is found out, and people don't trust it, so there is incentive to stay honest or no one will interact with you, link to you, read you. And so it's self-policing.

This session had so many people pouring in, I was on the floor (and damned lucky to get a step to sit on) and still more came, and it was so hot, eventually my trackpad froze. Then, there was a power surge on my side of the room and about 15 of us crashed, though I didn't completely. But my system froze more still, unable to save after the surge, I lost IM and all my session notes in the last 5 minutes, so I might as well of crashed.

The last event was Dave's Fat Man Sings, but approaching the door, the room was totally packed, a wall of heat, so I sat down on the window seat outside, an airvent under my feet, next to Betsy DeVine, who was watching a webcast of Dave, and recommended restaurants and very kindly offered me a ride back to the house where I'm staying. Scott Johnson was there as well, and Kerry Campaign rep. And Hylton Jolliffe of Corante fame, Seth Finkelstein whom I've been wanting to meet for the longest time who is very interesting, and Jay McCarthy. And Chris Lydon, Tom Biro, Renee Blodgett. And Rick Heller who is making an open source novel.

Had a lovely dinner at Legal Seafood, and one of the best lobster bisques (better than the lobster cappuccino at Le Bernardin, more lobster and nicer flavor). But now it's back to work. I have a month to go of school and getting to a certain stage in my projects, CFP next week, another blogging and China conference the following week at the JSchool at UCB, and so much work to get done. However, it was completely worth coming to Boston for the weekend. I came for the people, and they did not disappoint. Reminds me a little of the end of Lily Tomlin's one woman show "Search for Signs..." where the aliens are talking with the homeless lady, whom she has been schooling in human behavior and culture, and she asks how their trip to the theater was, and they say they spent the whole time watching the audience. She is surprised, and asks why, and they tell her that like the comparison of a soup can to Andy Warhol "Soup Can", the play was soup, the audience was art. In this case there was less play, some very good moderating, with mostly audience participation, so really I'm not discounting the sessions. Just that I really enjoyed the participatory nature of the discussions and the wide range of comments from lots of different very interesting people with the desire to figure out the best possibilities for moving forward with blogging.

Tara has a great list of blog posts on Bloggercon II.

Wired reports on Bloggercon. Jeff Jarvis corrects.
The Register.

On Sunday afternoon, I was walking with my friend in Cambridge, and surprise! bumped into Werner Vogels, who most helpfully told me about the MIT Hotel two blocks away with wifi. The MIT Hotel is really cool inside with displays of interesting art/sci projects (what else). Alas, it was only for guests....

Posted by Mary Hodder at April 19, 2004 12:03 PM | TrackBack

Salad Nicoise and Lobster Bisque, plus a bunch of nice people. Not a bad summary. Thanks for including me in your post, and it was really great meeting you. (If you read my post, you'll see that your comments were my personal high water mark at bloggercon.)

Posted by: Debbie Galant at April 20, 2004 05:58 PM