I meant to post all these yesterday, but the built up fatigue finally wore me down.
Lunch involved talking to a number of folks, and then seeing Mark from Mount Airy wearing an EGC t-shirt! That was on oddly cool moment. I actually went outside with him and we filmed a video interview about his experience with new media, as a listener to podcasts. Really nice guy. After that, I sat in a circle with Dave, Dan and Janet, Ed and many others whom my weary mind is blanking on. It was brought up at that time something I had been thinking, how nice it was to actually have black people at a tech conference. I can’t remember if there were more than five or so black people at the entirety of the Stanford Bloggercon. The A&T students I talked to were smart and interested and really raring to engage. I hope to see them really knocking socks off soon. I subscribed to my first new blog by an A&T student yesterday. Cobb (who I met while riding in the shuttle van) discusses that he didn’t see any Asian people but that wasn’t such a problem in Stanford, for example. Even if it wasn’t as diverse as the Billy Jack movies told us our future would be, it still felt like a great step to me. My only thing was that not enough students started conversations with me. I did talk to some, but I almost always had to approach them. Was I intimidating or something? I’m a chubby gregarious teddy bear, come chat with me! Chat with everybody, pick our brains for what we already know and tell us what you think we should know. It’s why we all came to you.
After lunch was the Dave Winer led session about tools. There was some interesting discussion. I threw out how much I liked WordPress as an ongoing tool even if the setup isn’t necessarily something a novice can do. Some people said the hosted WordPress solution wasn’t even as good as a default WordPress install on your own system. Some fascinating talk was raised about having a wizard-like interrogation process as the setup on whatever blog system as a new blog is being created, which would do a lot of automatic configuring based on the needs of the blog. Is it multiperson, do you want comments/trackbacks, do you need sidebars, etc? One of the professors of a nearby school (I talked to her but have forgotten her details, my brain was full by then) wants to write grant proposals and get some of this stuff built to lower barriers to entry. I’m all for that, and I’d love to see NC colleges take the lead in those projects. She’s got my card, I hope she writes. Key moment of that panel was the 20-ish young lady student that says she runs three blogs, two on WordPress and one with a tool she wrote herself. I don’t remember if she was an A&T student or a different school but that was so cool to hear.
After that was the podcasting session, led by Herb Everett. I met and talked to Herb a little (and had even listened to episodes of the Beat on the way up) and he is a great guy. However, this session was probably the biggest disappointment of the weekend. Here’s one where you could feel the culture clash of the collaborative and interactive style of the rest of the conference clashing with a centralized college lecture style. The room was buzzing at the beginning and there seemed to be a lot of energy there but it just dissipated quickly. In retrospect, part of the problem was that there were too many constituencies to please them all – introduction of the concepts for interested beginners, discussion of the concepts and issues for current podcasters, details of how to do it across a dizzying variety of platforms and systems. Mostly though, the audience spoke too little and it was funneled into the lecture model, where people would throw out a question and Herb would answer it. Personally, I would have liked it better if Herb had done his 15 minute intro and then mostly served as a traffic cop to allow the audience to talk to each other. There was a lot of knowledge in the room and a lot of interest in the room, and most of that never got out. Next year, we’ll have a better idea how to do it. I suggest having a workshop, much like the hands on thing in the computer lab where they had folks setting up their first blogs. Have a room where people bring their stuff and we make it work, and then remove all that talk from the actual session because there are too many details that aren’t portable to be of interest to more than a handful of the 200 people there. Sorry Herb. If you do it again next year, give me a call and I’d be happy to talk about these ideas.
To be continued