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Friday, July 25, 2003

Resistance is Futile

Liz Lawley made a great post on in-class and in-conference back-channels over at Many-to-Many.

A key takeaway is that the back-channel will always exist.  You can resist or incorporate it into your activities to focus the channel.

3:52:06 PM    comment []

The Other Buzz

Buzz narrowly escapes his 15 minutes of fame. Today's NY Times story on back channels at conferences has provoked lots of interesting commentary around the web today. One tidbit to pass along. The story includes the archetypal conference blogging story of the impact of Doc Searls and Dan Gillmor sharing a link from Both "forwarded by a reader in Florida." If you want the story behind the story, go check out Buzz Bruggeman's blog buzzmodo. Buzz was that "reader in Florida" and he describes his near 15 minutes of fame. [via McGee's Musings]

Im posting this to help Buzz get a little more fame, as he deserves.  The role of a remote participant has grown because of his role. 

With all the attention on heckling, good to note remote participation can also be a positive contributor to an event.  Arguably in a position to provide greater focus, they can cull revelvant resources and affirm points made by a speaker.

3:44:52 PM    comment []

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Trade Winds

The community that was fostered at AO2003 is now providing more pensive analysis.  This is a great time to reflect on how social software is changing the events business and the "trades" in general. 

An excerpt from Conferenza, which provides a tad more traditional paid research coverage of trade shows, contains this golden nugget of controversy:

Still, there were interesting insights, some intended and some not...

·   As a demonstration of the power of interconnection, a panel on Web services featuring CEO Mark Benioff provoked the most talked-about moment of the conference – at Benioff’s expense. Asserting that the largest e-commerce software supplier is, Benioff pointed toward co-panelists from IBM and Sun Microsystems and said, “None of these companies has any position in [that] market at all. Even Apple’s iTunes music store was built on Amazon,” and asserted that Amazon has 300 people working on its proprietary software.

We thought this was news, until Ross Mayfield, CEO of one of the Web’s leading blogging software providers, Socialtext, led an online chat charge showing that most of this was apparently untrue: Amazon uses standard XML out-of-the-box stuff, and Apple’s iTunes doesn’t use Amazon’s software at all, the chatters charged. As Benioff continued, the audience watched as a group of online contributors disputed fact after fact, input Benioff apparently did not see. “It was sort of like a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit,” said one attendee. “As Mark spoke, we could see his nose growing longer, like Pinocchio.”

How it played out in the Chat (Archive) was Kevin Marks did the fact checking, which was simultaneously projected on to the big screen:

[11:51] KevinMarks: no he didn't
[11:51] adina: bthey /are/ mentioning public web serivces

[11:51] KevinMarks: he licensed the patent
[11:51] KevinMarks: iTunes backend is not Amazon
[11:51] toughcrowd: this panel is showing lots of promise - but I love that cynical suspicion "lovefest"
[11:51] Ross: Amazon's real smart move was an API for developers
[11:52] adina: tross /greencard/
[11:52] Ross: but they dont get decentralization. witness
[11:52] adina: ross /greencard/ again
[11:52] Ross: Kevin, did he say it was?
[11:52] KevinMarks: Apple had ahuge online store already selling Macs
[11:52] KevinMarks: they built on that for iTunes
[11:53] Ross: real-time fact checking Kevin, I love it
[11:54] DariusD: Do you know that the Apple onnline store was not built on Amazon technology?
[11:54] KevinMarks: It is built on Webobjects

Here's Apple's story of how iTunes was built and how they licensed the one-click form from Amazon.  Before we get carried away with the event of a fact check, rather than dynamic itself, its important to understand the context.  I doubt Marc had negative intent, he had little to gain if so, and he was just plain conversing.

This parallel channel, a second superpower on a finite scale, first emerged at PC Forum 2002 when Dan Gillmor blogged a fact check on Joe Nacchio.  Clay fostered the first experiments with social software as an in-room chat tool.  Supernova I was the first to formalize a group weblog.  PC Forum 2003 was the first to incorporate a conference wiki.  The O'Rielly Emerging Technology conference renewed interest in IRC and Hydra in parallel to the wiki.  Supernova II was the first to incorporate chat and wiki.  AlwaysOn was the first to add video streaming (Archive), creating a richer remote participation experience.

For some, the choice of modes is overwhelming at first, something we are tuning.  But Social Software and its practices for events has a reached a level of maturity where it is solving fundamental tensions of event structure. 

Take Bob Frankston's experience with remote participation after in-person attendance the first day:

While it's not the same as being their in person, I was surprised how well the combination of the video and Wiki worked. Over my standard home Internet connection I had very good audio and video quality in looking at the panel.

I don't know how to capture the screen picture that included the video so I simply used my digital camera to take a picture. That's Tony Perkins summing up the conference discussion log is in the lower left. There was a lively discussion with people in the room and others outside such as Joi Itcho in Japan and me at home. Joi mentioned that he was attending in his underwear and people wanted to get a video of him. He obliged though only above the waist...

...I judge events by the attendees more than by the panelists and, by that measure, the event has gotten off to a good start. The concept of being always-on or always connected is a good one though, in my opinion, it is important to distinguish between the transport issues that enable connectivity and the question of what one does with connectivity and the implications. This confusion is reflected in some of the panels.

As I write this I'm still attending remotely. I can view the conference over the Internet with very good audio and video quality. Socialtext is provided a live commenting facility using their Wiki software. This is wonderful for those like me who want to jump up and say "that's stupid" or maybe even be positive. There were problems with 802.11 connectivity the first day so I had only a few opportunities for such commentary though I did make good use of it. Today, from home, it appears to be working better and I've been able to add my own comments on the side.

Participating from afar is interesting. The audio/video works very well but I miss the ability to kibitz with others. A side-chat facility would help. Still, this is my first time trying such remote participation. Having been there for the first day I have some sense of the context and it works very well. Of course this is early stage and I can think of a lot of improvements but it is mundanely useful rather than being a novelty.

David Weinberger recently wrote a great piece in Darwin on the Death of Panels:

...Panelists and audiences do not share the same goals. Audiences want to learn and be entertained. Panelists want to impress and sometimes want to sell. Conversations work against the panelists' natural inclination to manage their speech; conversations develop their own gravitational fields that fling panelists together in ways they can't control.

If you're organizing a conference, as an audience member I implore you to cast aside the spurious safety of panels. If you're a moderator, you'll do everyone a favor if you rearrange the chairs, eliminate the opening statements, confiscate the bulb in the projector and get your participants to just talk. Don't "leave time" for audience participation; open it up from the beginning. Hell, screw the bulb back in and project the online chat where the real life of the conference is probably happening anyway...

Mike from Techdirt yearns for conferences with semi-structured small group interaction.

...An ideal conference, then, would be more like a day full of these lunches - that forced people to think in different ways. Thus, I'd love to see a conference where people are either randomly (or carefully planned by the organizers) split into small groups, and given a task or a challenge. Let them do some scenario planning that forces them to think creatively. Get people thinking, get them involved with the ideas, get them interacting with others and force them to think outside of their own viewpoint. Maybe challenge them. Have different groups "competing" in some way to get people to really pay attention, and really try to get their minds around very difficult issues. ..

Trade Winds

Social Software and Social Networking Models provide the greatest threat and opportunity for the trade industry (trade magazines & shows) -- because they change the notion of audience into participants.  The rise of weblogs and participatory media allow domain experts to contribute without making contribution their full time job.  Networking models allow people to connect regardless of space or time as is the case with LinkedIn, or in space and time with Meetup.  Because these tools work so well in virtuality, it is natural for them to be extended to reality (whatever that means).

Trade shows will fundamentally change their structure to become more participatory -- and the result is more connective, constructive and conversational.  Remote and in-room participants will moderate panels, there will be greater use of working groups and communities will persist between events.  We used to come to trade shows for the people in the place.   As Dr. Weinberger says in Small Pieces Loosely Joined, the web is a set of places itself.  Now we have places upon places, where the network is the conversation.

This isn't the place for me to talk about commercial value for event organizers, but let me say this.  There is no such thing as a closed system.  Bloggers are coming to your conference.  You can't throw up Walls.  The energy can dissipate or enjoin with the event.  Do what Tony did and give out blogger passes.  Augment experiences.  Create a greater and more open context for your event and the wind will blow at your back.

11:51:45 AM    comment []

Friday, July 18, 2003

AO Reflections

Settling in after some very intense days at the Always On Innovation Summit.  It was a great experience, excellent networking and a different use of Social Software for events.  Socialtext provided an integrated video/chat/wiki conference support system. 

During the first day, wifi was frustratingly spotty, so the bulk of its use was from remote participants.  High quality video streaming allowed people to listen, the BackChat allowed people to interact and the wiki to annotate.  Unfortunately the lack of in-room connectivity led to less wiki collaboration and public blog posting right at the time when it usually engenders wider participation.

But the real dynamic took hold on the second day, wifi enabled, where it became part of the program.  The Remote Posse and the people Blogging Always On really had an impact.  The BackChat was particularly vibrant, with in-room and remote participants (from as far away as Tokyo and the Netherlands) exchanging commentary.  A big font version of the chat program was projected on to the big screen, the feedback loop was complete: 

  • BackChat participants kept the discussion relatively high brow.  They fact checked, posed questions, had side discussions that were pertainent and in general participate without denegrating into vulgarities or
  • Moderators fielded questions from the chat, particularly with the open source panel
  • Panel members interjected requests to respond to things on the chat and in general were kept in check from being to commercial, not revealing bias or ducking questions.
  • One member of a panel noticed that people were paying more attention to the BackChat screen than the panel itself.

The golden moment was at the end of the show, when I had them project JoiTV.  We caught Joi in his underwear and the heckler became the hecklee.  Joi waved, we all waved back.  Some folks told me that was when something clicked with them about how large the room really was.  And many of the remote posse enjoyed a richer participation experience than they have had before.

You have to hand it to Tony for having the vision to run with an untested mix of video with our conference system.  You also have to hand it to him for having the grace to extend blogging passes.  I hope he has set a precedent for other events.

A bit on some of the folks there.   Chris took great photos.  Scott posted beyond the limits of connectivity. Jason had his camera phone (took a nice snapshot of me, Pete & Adina).  Ev wore a blogger shirtDave left shortly to do other things.  Adina kept it real.  Esther is community.   Ramana gets information flow.  Richard gets biology.  Zack was fully on.  Edward is still settling in.  Keith is into real-time people.  Eric, Larry & Sergey still don't have a blog but that's okay.  Dan is our hero.


Chat with Google Founders (photo by Chris Gulker)

And remote posse awards go to Greg, Ed, Kevin & Joi.

3:45:56 PM    comment []

Sunday, July 06, 2003

About Blogs empowered their 400 Guides with blogs last week.  Blogger and former SVP of Content Howard Sherman makes a case for significance:

  • It's probably the single largest addition of content to the blogosphere to date.
  • All of these sites are advertiser supported so it should help give credence to blogs as a viable business model.
  • The sites are using Moveable Type software which is a vote of confidence in Moveable Type's technology.
  • Another large media company -- in this case Primedia which owns -- has adopted blogs as a publishing and communications tool.

The quasi-independence of Guides and structure of their site made this move easier than other traditional media outlets could do with editors.  You have to hand it to them for doing it right, selecting a best-in-class tool and turning their people loose.  How clueful.

The question is if Primedia will learn from this experience as the relevancy of their core business, trade magazines, is under the greatest threat from blogging.

2:19:56 PM    comment []

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Blog Roll-up

This could be the first roll-up strategy of independent blogs (much like the ISP roll-ups of the days of yore).   Differs from the more organic approaches of Nick Denton and Corante or umbrella approach of Always On.  Could bode well for the industry.  Content rides again. Andy Bourland Buys MarketingFix, Adventive; Launches Up2Speed. PaidContent: ClickZ Founder Buys Adventive, MarketingFix; Launches Media Company Yes, I Have a Comment...Yes, It's True

Andy Bourland, co-founder of ClickZ, who has been taking it easy and figuring out what he wants to do next since selling that industry-leading publication to in 2000 for $16 million, is at last getting back into the Internet marketing media game by buying MarketingFix and Adventive.

4:08:59 PM    comment []

Monday, June 16, 2003

Hiawatha Bray on Blogs

The Globe on Blogs. The Boston Globe today runs an article by Hiawatha Bray in the Business Section on the Weblogs Business Strategy conference last week:

Consider: Every business needs to know what its employees know. Companies are crammed with experts on various topics whose knowledge goes to waste -- because nobody knows what they know. Now give these workers an internal corporate blog, and encourage them to use it. Let them natter away on every topic that intrigues them. Harvest and index the results. You've mapped your workers' brains. With a few keystrokes, a manager can find out who's been blogging about skiing or bowling or restoring classic cars -- just the thing when you're trying to sell something to an avid collector of '64 Mustangs. The company's hidden experts will cheerfully reveal themselves, and the firm's institutional memory gets an upgrade.

[via Joho the Blog]

8:13:33 AM    comment []

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Every now and again you get into the good kind of busy.  So your blogging drops off.  Sorry about that, gradually re-emerging.  Have been reading, of course, and here are some gems I would have picked up on:

Virtual economies and how Blogshares Traders are exchanging virtual for real money.

Capitalizing links and the sensitivities of sponsorship

The Always On Debate which greatly concerns me.  Our capacity to be open to new particiapants, adaptations of weblogs and business models is a measure of the health of our culture.

11:38:01 AM    comment []

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