So even though I'm on dialup because <http://www.speakeasy.net>, <http://www.covad.com>, and <http://www.verizon.com> can't seem to get their collective acts together to save their lives, I want to comment on having attended Live From the Blogosphere.
First of all, I have to say that I'm happy that such an event even took place in Los Angeles, a sentiment that one of the event's prime movers, Susannah Breslin of The Reverse Cowgirl's Blog, commented on. You'd think that a media town like Los Angeles would be far more interested than seems to be the case, although when you consider that this is the same town that is home to the RIAA and MPAA perhaps it becomes more clear why there may be a disconnect.
I'm a tech guy, not a creative guy, and the panel discussion was really about blogs as a medium despite the presence of Evan Williams of Pyra Labs. Evan talked a bit about Blogger and Pyra and came across as quite humble. He also did a demo of a voice-via-cel-phone-to-audio-blog tool that drew applause. I dunno. My take on most voice technology is that it's a solution looking for a problem, and this didn't seem like an exception to me.
People probably expect Susannah to be striking, and she is—for one thing, she's very nearly as tall as I am. More importantly, I got the sense that she's got a good head on her shoulders. She had interesting things to say about her writing process, particularly when the question of dealing with unkind comments came up. For a while she apparently went proseless, posting only images. I thought this was clever because it then forces the visitor to come up with their own interpretation of the image and to grapple with their own feelings about it—not that prose can't also do this, but rather that I think the subjective nature of interpreting images is more obvious, accepted, and understood.
Mark Frauenfelder talked a bit about the evolution of BoingBoing from being a print zine to a blog. I don't really have a lot of thoughts about this because I wasn't familiar with the print zine, but I think that BoingBoing as a "directory of wonderful things" is incredible, just because it really does manage to catalog things that I don't find anywhere else, and so many of them are wonderful in the literal sense of the term. It's kind of a post-modern "Ripley's Believe It Or Not." I like that.
Heather Havrilesky turned out, upon reflection, to be the panelist I most wish I could've spoken with afterwards: she had a number of observations to make regarding her online cartoon-character persona, and how that persona is perceived differently than she is now that she's open with her identity. As I'm keenly interested in issues surrounding identity online and off—more about that in a moment—to have had the opportunity to learn more about how Heather thought/felt about this would be welcome.
Tony Pierce came across as the most ordinary guy of the lot. By his own admission neither a writer nor a tech guy, his anecdotes had a fun just-fooling-around feel to them: frankly wanting more traffic and posting alleged nudes of Anna Kournikova, which led to three million hits over three days. There's something appealing about the straightforwardness of that, and there's something important about the fact that now an ordinary guy can not only put his thoughts/feeings online, but have a sense as to how many people are paying attention. Nielsen can't do that.
Finally, Doc Searls was the reason I was there: I've been wanting to meet Doc ever since his move to Santa Barbara and this seemed like a perfect opportunity. Unfortunately I had to leave with my friends before the afterparty, so it will have to wait for another time. But Doc has written eloquently about the issues online that are most important to me: identity, reputation, relationship—the humanity of it, but with an insistence that this will also be the underpinnings of any successful implementation of business and contract and all of that online as well. I was surprised that Doc didn't even mention <http://www.pingid.com> when a few questions surrounding identity did come up.
The back-and-forth among such a disparate group of people was great fun. Questions of self-censorship were popular; the importance of traffic, questions about how to make money (unfortunately, I thought there was a real lack of imagination shown here—as I commented to my friends afterwards, it would be quite odd if blogs turned out to be the first literary form in history that couldn't make money); Clay Shirky's essay Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality got what I thought was some self-servingly dismissive treatment. The issue of exhibitionism and/or self-exploitation got perhaps the best treatment. Heather floated a funny idea about offering a fuzzy picture of her posterior that gets progressively clearer as the tip jar fills up; Tony kindly pointed out that Heather is quite a lot prettier than half the "cam girls" that make (in?)decent money for similar antics. Is it exploitation if you do it to yourself? What is your motivation for blogging anyway? Susannah: "I do it because it gets me off." Interesting to note that the most overtly sexual blogging, both among the panelists and the audience, seems to be being done by women. But maybe that's just me.
That's about it from me on the subject, but I'd be remiss if I didn't observe that I attended the event with old friends Darin Adler and Diane Patterson. You can read Diane's transcription of our somewhat-cynical post-event conversation on her blog.
Finally, perhaps I should speak with Xeni about setting up a different event, one specifically about identity, trust, and transaction. I'd love to have panelists who can discuss Friedrich Hayek's definition of "capital" and how "reputation capital" might reflect it; or how Clay Shirky's observation about Power Laws might relate to the Granovetter Diagram and whether that's a good, bad, or indifferent thing; or how blog "supernodes" might fill the role of "trust hubs" in the sense of Hernando De Soto's "The Mystery of Capital." Let's invite Doc to that one, too.
Meanwhile, I look forward to reading the blogs from the panelists with their take on the evening's events.