Glenn Fleishman says that you can't judge all blogs under the same breath. I'd go even further than that. You can't even judge +my+ blog with one brush. Occassionally I perform real journalism here. Most of the time, though, I'm just giving you my opinion. Often, the lines between the two are blurred here. I act and write quite differently here than I would if I were writing an article for the San Jose Mercury News, though.
I think the whole "are blogs journalism" question is silly. I'm not trying to replace the professionals here (although occassionally I'll scoop the professionals because I hang around interesting people doing interesting things).
For me, blogs are more about conversation than about "reporting." Newspapers are almost never about conversation (except in the letters-to-the-editors page, or maybe Ann Landers kind of things).
Vincent Flanders, author of the very popular weblog "Web Pages that Suck" says "I guess I'm naive, but I never realized the reason people went to conferences was to behave like groupies and "hang with the band.""
"I thought they went to see new trends and learn. On the other hand, I've never attended a computer conference where I wasn't speaking and I've never felt the need to meet people to feel important. Fascinating."
"Since I don't have a clue about this phenomenon, I'd like more details -- this would make a really good story: "Why people really attend trade shows.""
Here's my thoughts:
I've been to computer conferences in Europe, China, and all over the United States. One thing I can say is "yes, you're naive Vincent but I didn't tell the whole story." :-)
People visit trade shows for a whole bunch of reasons (and the reasons vary. People who attend a VSConnections will do so for mostly educational purposes, while people who go to a Comdex due so to meet press, VIPs, and folks they do business with.
I used to go to Comdex because that's the one place I could go where I knew I'd meet nearly every dealer, every distributor, every manufacturer, every VIP, and every press person that was important to me selling computers (when I worked for Winnov) or writing about (when I was a journalist at a major computer programming magazine).
Let me put on my journalist hat first. VIPs are very important to the journalism business. Getting access to Bill Gates is nearly impossible on an average day, but little old me spent 20 minutes alone with him at Comdex 1994 in Atlanta and I got tons of insight into Visual Basic that helped me do my job (and keep my job).
At every conference I have easy access to VIPs. I once met the CEO of Borland just walking the hall. Experiences like this are commonplace. Oh, not to mention, that if you write about a certain technology, you'll get invited to the press conferences and parties, both of which are important to learn about stuff that's coming out. Heck, just go look at Google News and see how many more news stories were released the week of Comdex about new things coming out than were released, say, last week.
Now, Alan Meckler, if he wants to get journalists to his show, instead of across town at Comdex, will need to make sure he has the biggest news released at his show exclusively. For instance, if Meckler is able to get Bill Gates to exclusively give a keynote, that'd be a major major win for CDExpo. If Meckler could get Ellison, McNeally, Jobs, and Gates to agree to only giving speeches at his show, then he'd win the "event lottery" and would be able to build a show that could make him hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
Yes, VIPs are the reason the press goes to Comdex. If anyone tries to tell you otherwise, they haven't watched a troupe of press follow a VIP around.
Putting on my computer manufacturer hat: I wanna see tons of press and big-name customers at my booth. At Comdex, my booth was right on the main aisle. I would watch for "red badges" and pull them into my booth. Red badges were press folks. I met a lot of "big name" types this way and that turned into decent press for our product. Ever see Walt Mossberg walking the floor? I have, and I'd immediately try to get him to check out our product. He's there to write about cool new stuff. I had cool new stuff to show him. It was a good match and my company paid dearly to be on the floor.
I also watched for people from big companies. Anyone go by from Boeing, GM, Coca Cola, US Government, etc, I paid big attention to them. Particularly if they were the CTO or higher. You knew that everyone of these "big fish" were able to buy a huge amount of your product, so you did everything you could to pitch to them -- and take care of them after you got home.
Contrast this with a "tech conference" like VSConnections, or what O'Reilly is doing, and here you'll meet people who are trying to learn. But, wait, what gets them in the door here? I can tell you that a "big name" speaker will get more attendance than someone you never heard of before, even in these smaller venues.
Maybe Vincent doesn't understand this, since he's one of those "names" that everyone wants to hear from but I think Vincent just has a different point of view. He thinks I'm saying that they just want to touch a big name. Nah, that's way too shallow. We want to hear from a big name because they've changed the world in some way, and we want to see if they can do it again (and/or we want to learn from them since they've been a pioneer).
For instance, when I say I want to listen to Steve Wozniak or Bill Gates or Dave Winer, why do I say that? Because these people have done interesting things that are relevant to my life and experience tells me that people who've done interesting things in the past are highly likely to do interesting things in the future. Wozniak, for instance, wrote the Atari game Breakout and then went on to start Apple Computer (I think you all have heard of that) and now he has a new company (and will probably give sneak peaks at one of these "Comdex" events -- or maybe MacWorld next year). Winer just got to be a fellow at Harvard and is helping Harvard make use of weblogs. Gates, well, could change lives just by spitting on the sidewalk.
Anyway, if Meckler can get the 100 most interesting people in the technology business into a single room, yes, I'd love to be there.
Anil Dash, in my comments, says that I should cut Alan Meckler a break.
Well, wait a second here. I +did+ cut him a break. I linked to him and sent him several hundred visitors. I just ask that he do the same to the rest of us.
OK, to be fair, yes, he's only been doing this a few days now and yes, he is talking in a human voice (if calling your competitor an idiot automatically wins you the Cluetrain Manifesto's "site of the week" award -- yes, that's tongue in cheek).
Seriously, why is he starting a weblog? I'm pretty sure it is to get attention for his conference (which will compete with Comdex). Personally, if I were him, I'd be overthrilled right now that people were starting to link to him and were starting a conversation.
A major event should all be about conversations, and last I saw conversations were two way, not just one way. I can't wait to see where Alan leads his weblog and his event.
Joshua Hoover steps up to the plate and tells us what he'd like to see Microsoft do to improve its standing in his eyes. That's a great list. Anyone else want to come to the plate?