EGC Clambake for November 3, 2007 – “ConvergeSouth 2007 Wrapup”

Here is the Bittorrent link and direct MP3 download for the EGC clambake for November 3, 2007.

This is my wrapup of my experiences at ConvergeSouth 2007. I play a song from the Wigg Report and mention how I have already done this show but was screwed by a faulty flash card. I talk about my experience at the conference, forgetting lots of names along the way. I talk about our proposal for a Myrtle Beach conference, and then play a song by Thacker Dairy Road and ride into the sunset.

The guy’s name I could not remember was Ajit Anthony Prem and the film is “Dear Stranger”. The link below is to where you can watch it online, and I highly recommend it. I think it should have won the fiction, and I voted it as highly as I voted anything but alas, it did not win.

You can subscribe to this podcast feed via RSS.

To sponsor the show, contact BackBeat Media. Don’t forget, you can fly your EGC flag by buying the stuff package. This show as a whole is Creative Commons licensed Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5.

Links mentioned in this episode:

Heading Home

I’m packed up and about to vacate the Hampton Inn for the pleasant confines of home. I’ve got to get back to my dog and take him to the Bark Park, and there is a game 7 in the ALCS and all the normal things I would do in your average weekend. This time driving in I figured out where I made the wrong turn in Rockingham NC last time that left me confused and lost but also took me to John Coltrane’s birthplace in Hamlet. So, there is yin and there is yang. I’m tired and happy and glad I came.

If anything, I have maybe less of the giddy holy fire than I did two years ago, but more of a solid and less flashy but perhaps longer lasting resoluteness. I can do these things. If I want to make a movie next summer, I can do that. If I want to finally come out with Super Secret Project X, I can do that. If we want to have a tech conference in South Carolina, we can do that. My feeling now is less “Boy howdy are we special and wonderful for being interested in this stuff.” It is “Let’s roll up the sleeves because there is an enormous amount of work left undone and it ain’t going to do itself.” That might even be a better and more sustainable take away from ConvergeSouth. “Damn son, let’s get to work.” Amen.

Converge South, Day 2, Evening

Late afternoon, and it was back to downtown Greensboro from the hotel in the suburbs. Through some freak of parking karma, I got the parking spot right in front of the film festival venue. I would later betray myself as unworthy of this. Our hosted dinner was right across the street, so it really couldn’t have worked out better. I was at Table 16 a few minutes early, and tried to call my brother just to confirm an inaudible voice mail from last night. I hung out with Don Moore and then when Amber Rhea and Rusty Tanton showed up we went inside.

Table 16 is a nice restaurant, the servers were good and they were accommodating, but from the moment I walked in the door I felt like I was in a parallel universe where everything was slightly off. Some were little things to not being able to tell how to walk down the hall to the bathroom – one path was through the server station and the other looked to me like a dead end. I sort of vacillated like an idiot until I was able to make it through. The worst thing was that we weren’t all seated at one table, so Don, Amber, Rusty, Mark Welker and I were at one table while titular host Jason McHugh was at the other. I had wanted to talk some technical filmmaking procedures with Farrah Hoffmire and Mitchell Davis, and they were at the other table with Kerri Glover and the host. That part was really a drag. Nothing against my table, which was 4 people I really like and enjoy but having segregated conversations really boned up the value of the whole deal to me.

Around dessert time for our table, the other table was already done. At this point, Jason realized that he was also hosting us and apologetically sat with us for a while. It was a nice gesture and I think he is a genuinely nice guy and I appreciated it. I’m not sure it was necessary because I think the main idea of the hosted dinners as I understand them is to have someone there to keep the conversation rolling and to take the hit of social awkwardness should conversation flag. At that point, we’d been talking for almost two hours so that ship had sailed. Because the getting out of there process was slower for our table, we missed the first four or five things at the film festival.

They had $1 PBR at the gallery, so I bought Dan and myself one and settled in for the haul. By the end of the evening I would have metal folding chair ass fatigue. I found the films a mixed bag, exactly as one would expect. Some of the material began as films, some were vlog type material. I liked a few of the vlogs but in general most of it wasn’t my thing. That’s not a big surprise, because statistically 90% of everything will fall outside my taste range unless Andy Coon arranged a film festival focussed specifically on my tastes. I will make sure, though, that every vlogger in that film festival is listed in AmigoFish. I had never heard of any of them other than Alive in Baghdad which really pushes the edge of the definition (but like I said I couldn’t care less about the definitions anymore.) The films I had a slightly better success rate although the ones that were the most traditionally “arty” types were some of the ones I cared least about. I found that the silly ones were also mostly pleasant enough viewing but also completely ephemeral. It was fun, I voted my heart and really did cover most of the numerical range. I tried to avoid the trap of our current threat alert chart where there can only be two real choices for where to set the number. I gave no 10s, and no 1s, but I did rate some 3s and some 9s. I had a really bad reaction to one film, and found a few that really inspired me.

The downside of something structured like that is that it was kind of long (see previous ass comment) and it also meant I was in a room full of people I like but that I couldn’t talk to. At the intermission I called my wife and then said my goodbyes to some of the people like Donna Fryer and her husband. I met Ed Cone’s wife for the first time, but really didn’t have an opportunity to talk to her at any length. That part was a little frustrating. I think if all the people with multiple entries in the festival were limited to one, it would have been the perfect length and then we could have had more schmooze time.

After it was over there was a weird moment. Janet suggested we go out somewhere, there are bars all over the place within a block or two walk including the one we were at last night. I agreed (my quote was “We’re already dressed up, let’s make something of that.”) and somehow that all dissipated within a few minutes. I truly didn’t understand that. I was in the market for about 30-60 minutes more shenanigan, and getting one drink around the corner would have been perfect. After the Charleston contingent left, I said goodbye to Mark and then executed my dick-like maneuver of the evening. Jason plus Saskia and Brandon (from Current TV) were going somewhere and I asked if I could tag along. They said yes and then I found out they weren’t going to a bar called Andy’s but Andy Coon’s house. I’m sure hanging at Andy’s house would have been fun but it would have a lot of overhead getting there, and then there is a different level of awkwardness leaving someone’s living room than a bar. So, having just weaseled myself into their plans, I turned around and bailed on them. If it is any consolation, I acknowledge that I’m a scumbag. I would have actually bought the Current TV folks drinks and then told them what left me a little creeped out by the enterprise had we gone to the bar, but that is off to the same parallel universe that Table 16 resides in.

So, instead I jumped in my car right in front of the venue and made a getaway like some kind of furtive fool. I managed to complete the trifecta box of never once getting out of Greensboro and onto I-40 the same way twice all weekend. I wasn’t aiming for that, I was trying to do the same thing every time but the crazy access roads and weird signage led me a different way every time. At least I did better this time than when I turned the wrong way on Lee Street and drove west all the way across town before catching the interstate. That was not my gold star navigational moment.

This concludes my coverage of my weekend. As always, it was fun and full of interesting people and good times. I thank all the organizers and everyone that hangs out with me, talks to me as if I’m sensible enough to deserve your time, and generally makes my weekend worth the carbon footprint of a 180 mile drive. I may get pissy now and then but I’m full to the brim with love – if y’all don’t soak some of it up it’s just going to spill.

ConvergeSouth Day 2, Lunch and Afternoon

Lunch was good. I sat outside with Bora Zivkovic and Ed Cone and Dan Conover and we talked more about blogging (of course) and hands on portion of these conferences vs. talkety talkety talk. I made a point of introduction myself to Soni Pitts by telling her “I like the cut of your jib.” Apparently, that’s not a common way for people to introduce themselves to her. I talked with her and Thomas Pitts for a while, and then back inside.

Now I’m in the Why Most Web Videos Stink, but Yours Doesn’t Have To session. Now Ruby and I are in somewhat agreement that it began from the standpoint of “Web Video: Threat or Menace.” They used a video shot by Dave Winer as the poster video for a bad web video. Ruby didn’t think it was that bad, and I didn’t either. Ruby didn’t like the panel all the way through, I thought it picked up steam later on when we got into specfics. Ed Cone thought it was the best session he’s been to in 3 years of ConvergeSouth. That seems like it pretty much covers the waterfront on the range of opinions. One guy asked for books, and I suggested Robert Rodriguez’ Rebel without a Crew: Or How a 23-Year-Old Filmmaker With $7,000 Became a Hollywood Player. I think that’s not only a great book for the philosophy of Just Creating Something, but also is full of tips for how to make your film (or web video) better for almost no money.

Now I’m in the panel for Blog to Book. Stewart Pittman is talking about how they are compiling a book from his blog and Soni Pitts is editing it. It’s not a bad panel and Soni is a new favorite person of mine. It’s not great at this point, though. There aren’t really any surprises or hearing much that I didn’t already know. I’m about to speak up and see what happens.

The last half of this panel I like better than the front half. I asked if knowing that he was compiling a book out of his blog makes him blog differently. I liked his response, which was basically “Yes” but at greater length and insight. I brought up my current frustration with my own current state of blogging. Hell, I’ve posted more in the last two days than any two weeks since early summer. Is the logjam broken? Will I be going back over the history of this blog and trying to cull my own book from it? Who knows what the future holds? The answer to all this stuff, as to most questions in this life is, “….. mmmm Maybe.”

Now I’m back at the hotel. There was a wrapup session where people provided feedback about the conference. My big point – 15 minute breaks are too short because I spent two days in a constant state of starting a conversation and then getting herded into a room. Overall I like it. For those who wanted some kind of a Myrtle Beach blogger/podcaster/film maker/whatever conference, things might be afoot. Watch the skies.

I’m going to change from jeans to slacks and nice shoes for our (literally) fancy pants dinner, and then off to the film festival. I’ll post an evening wrapup, but it probably won’t happen until I get home. I have a hard 1 PM deadline to get my dog from the kennel or else wait a day, so getting him is the first priority Sunday AM. Should I miraculously be full of energy tonight, I’ll start on that. Thanks to everyone who talked to me and informed and entertained and hugged me. It’s been a great time, exactly what I needed and I still have an evening of it left. Thank you.

ConvergeSouth Day 2, Morning

Up at 8 AM, an hour behind schedule. I still made it out of the hotel and to the conference by 8:50 AM. I love being a guy!

I’m in the Elisa Camahort keynote now. She asked if anyone had heard of Millie Garfield, and I didn’t recognize the name off the bat but when she pulled up her page I recognized her face from Steve Garfield’s vlog. Having sat at Elisa’s table at the BBQ for a while last night, I hope I’m not now a datum of some misogynist prick that defines women in terms of men. I just know Steve’s work, and I wouldn’t know his mom except through him. I’d be happy to define more men in terms of the women in their life.

I have officially grown bone weary of definitional struggles. “What is a blogger”, “What is a podcaster?”, etc. These are question that do not in any way interest me anymore. I don’t care what you call yourself, take whatever you got and knock me out with it and let the definitions sort themselves out.

Ben Hwang is sitting in the front row, wearing a “The Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves” Myrtle Beach pirate shirt.

Now is the social networking panel. Anil Dash had to cancel because his plane didn’t leave Toronto, so the lineup is Soni Pitts, Elisa Camahort and Ruby Sinreich. Ruby’s introduction lasted over 15 minutes. She warned that she can use up all the oxygen in the room and then set about proving it. I know she is cool and her heart is in the right place, the moderator should have been less polite and a little more ruthless and all would have been better there.

Soni Pitts: “I only found out I’d be on this panel about 8:30 last night and I’m not really that prepared. But I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.” I’ve never met Soni but I like her attitude and wit. I’ll make a point of meeting her later. She seems like a hard edged pragmatist chick that Gets It Done – my favorite type of woman. I love women and want to see them strong and empowered and I’ll say that one effective productive woman that Just Does It helps the cause more than any dozen hand wringers. Be like Heather Gold and “play out”.

Now I’m in the Moving Pictures- Images and Video on the Web panel. I’m underwhelmed. Jason McHugh seems interesting enough and I’m going to be at his hosted dinner tonight. I’ve got to say the Brendan Gross and Saskia Wilson-Brown are not doing a good job of selling me on the value of Current TV. Says Brendan “Unlike YouTube, you won’t get videos of cats on the toilet. We present a level of quality.” I’ve hit the point where I’d like to think that anyone that presents a blatant straw man argument to me will not only not sway me but the opposite. I haven’t stood up and pushed back on that, but honestly what value does it bring to my work to be associated with the “Current TV brand.” Is there anyone out there impressed by the Current TV brand? Five minutes into the panel someone asked “What is Current TV?” which says all you need to on that subject. They seem well meaning enough but have a vibe like Nixon era FBI agents infiltrating communes. They are saying the hip things but it doesn’t seem natural to them. Brandon’s message seems to be “Our value comes from the top level control we put on things, and from the unbridled creativity of the viewers that submit to us.” Those seem like ideas at loggerheads to me.

On the upside, at one point I got so bored I opened Full Tilt Poker and got into a $0.05/$0.10 Omaha Hi/Low cash game and more than doubled my money when I had two hands in a row with A2 and in both hands won or chopped the low pot and won the high pot outright – with a straight in one and a nut flush in the other. Yay me and my m@d p0k3r skillz. I lost a few bucks later on, but left up a cool 100%.

This panel is highlighting why we want to have conferences with smaller breakout groups of hands on, highly technical discussion. This panel has two modes – broad uninteresting generalities and specific technical questions that might well be too specific for a big room.

Now Ruby has left a comment and I had a conversation with her. I think with her session it was a moderation issue. She was trying to put structure on the fairly broad topic, and she did do that. When she asked if the moderator wanted her to continue or do the rest of the intros, he should have said “No, let’s finish the intros please and then we’ll come back to that.” Ruby doesn’t think I’m a dick for my comment, so that’s good.

Update: Here’s Amber Rhea’s post live blogging Elisa’s keynote. That’s true live blogging which made mine seem pretty half-assed, maybe one-quarter-assed. It was an experiment but I don’t really seem to have the stomach for how much work and sustained effort and attention live bloggging takes. Plus, it would have cut into my poker game in the session after that.

ConvergeSouth, Day 1, Evening and Late Night

Running late. In at 1 AM + phone call from work at 5 AM = sleepy boy not getting up on schedule. Still trying to make the conference before the breakfast is over. Shower like the wind, Forest!

Aycock Barbecue

I did take the nap and then headed out to the BBQ at the Hoggard’s house in the Aycock neighborhood. I was surprised how easily I found the place. I was standing next to Ed Cone as he gave directions to another of the locals. How can I be ahead of the Greensboro geography curve? I got myself two loads of pig and coleslaw and beans and then went on to have a big old cup of banana pudding. I talked with Donna Fryer and Don Moore and Ed Cone and a lot of people whose names elude me now. I wear my nametag to everything just for that reason because it makes it easier on the strained and bulging memories. I talked to Jay Ovittore who is running for Congress in 2008. He’s got the political thing down, because I met him for 5 minutes two years ago but he remembered me, what I do and where I live. Jay in ’08! We need more rock and roll Congressmen with tattoos. Maybe Jay can be our Vaclav Havel.

I talked with Jinni Hoggard, who again I only met briefly years ago. Her main concern was making sure I knew how to get back to my hotel from her house, from the music venue. What a lovely woman. I spent a lot of time talking music and South Carolina with Mitchell Davis, with whom I’m also going to have dinner with tonight. Meeting him and Farrah Hoffmire was one of my big desires for the weekend, and getting to hang out with him last night was mission accomplished.

I left the BBQ around the time as Dan Conover and Janet Edens et al. I phoned home and checked in while I drove from Aycock to downtown Greensboro. Around the time I got down to south Elm Street I realized I wasn’t exactly sure where I was going. I pulled onto a side street to finish my phone call. About the time I hung up, Dan pulled up next to me. I rolled down the window and said “Dear god, I hope you weren’t following me. I have no idea where I am!” I looked at the map and we couldn’t have been far. We went out the other side of the street to Greene Street and realized we were one block from the venue. That’s the best lost I’ve ever been.

Thacker Road Diary

I saw three bands – The Wigg Report, Little Mascara and Thacker Dairy Road. [Update: I must have been tired or hungover over both because both here and on Flickr I consistently called them “Thacker Road Diary>” That ain’t right.] I liked all three bands and wish I could have seen more of The Wigg Report. They played about 3 songs after I got there, power trio with a stand up girl drummer kind of Stray Cats rockabilly style and a keyboardist/saxophonist instead of a bassist. Second band Little Mascara was a 5 piece punkish band. I found them to have a very X like vibe (and Dan Conover independently verified my opinion). They had a percussionist that looked exactly like Al Jourgenson of Ministry who was almost exclusively a cowbell player. Friends, this band HAS MORE COWBELL! Sadly, they are the only one of the three from whom I did not get a CD but I hope to get songs to play on the show from MySpace. Last band was Thacker Dairy Road, more of a hippy positive vibe jam band feel. I’m pretty sure that the lead singer was sitting at the back of the room during the conference on Friday. I liked them and liked their original songs but they also had impeccable taste in covers. They played “The Harder They Come” and “As Long As I Can See The Light”, two songs I love very much. Afterwards I asked Molly the singer if I can use their songs in my podcast, and of course the answer was yes. When I bought the Wigg Report CDs from the band, they actually asked if I would podcast their music before I even asked. I love this new world of upside down control!

After all that, I hauled my ass back to the hotel without really getting lost despite the crazy patchwork of access roads. Back to the hotel at 1 AM, tired ass in bed and it ends where it began.

ConvergeSouth, Day 1, Lunch and Afternoon

Lunch was fun. I chatted with Ben Hwang for a long time, and saw my friend from Virginia Robert Harvey. I sat with Don Moore and talked for a while. Don is the guy who made the t-shirt order that pushed me over the edge of needing to reprint.

After lunch, I wanted to go to the Affiliate Marketing presentation to see if there is something I can use with AmigoFish. The program guide said C-215 so I looked around until I could find the room. When I got there, I found out that the program was wrong and that my room was actually A-209, right by where I had come from. Oh well.

This presentation is pretty decent. I sort of feel like a dunce that I haven’t pursued any of this stuff before. I had no idea there were so many ad things. I’m almost certainly going to sign up a bunch of these things and put them in rotation on AF.

I have achieved power outlet. For years, I always think I should throw a $0.99 cube tap in my backpack for those cases when I’m travelling and only have one outlet for my many power needs. I never have, sure wish I had one now. I’m having to ration time between my laptop and my cell phone, both of which are hurting. I feel like a scuba diver going buddy system after a tank has run out.

Interestingly enough, a number of the pro journalists and media makers are in this room. I think people are looking for ways to make themselves a revenue stream even if their newspaper lays them off or goes under. Probably not the worst idea in the world, if you work for a newspaper.

Now I’m in the session with Anton Zuiker and Jason Calacanis – “Social Web as a Social Force.” JC is telling the story about how his blog post about cellphone insurer Asurion sucking is the #5 Google hit for the company. Now he’s telling the story about using to go to find a bulldog meetup near his house. “You’ve never seen something so wonderful as 60 bulldogs playing in a park.”

OK, this session is really not holding my interest. No fault to anyone involved, but I’m kind of tired and not into it. Wait, Calacanis just did an experiment of putting his cell phone on Twitter. Within a minute or three Robert Scoble called in. He put him on speaker phone and mentioned that he has a job offer to Scoble just for his social network, saying that the value of having him blog about Mahalo all day would be worthwhile. He made the statement “The size of his social network makes him employable even though he is unmanageable.”

Now I’m at the hotel in Mcleansville. It was a little tricky figuring out how to get from the campus to I-40 East since it was a weird patchwork of access roads that let to other access roads. I’m here now, hanging at the Hampton Inn. I’ve got to say, they are moving up my list of preferred hotel providers. No fuss, clean rooms, decent breakfast and free wifi. What else can a nerd on the road want? This room has a fridge and a desk with the Ethernet and power connectors at desk level – no crawling required. There is a fridge and microwave and couch. I can hang.

The big decision now is … nap or no nap? The BBQ starts in an hour and a half, I’m about a 15 minute drive away, so a quick 30 minute snooze might really do the trick. I love conferences like this and this one in particular, but even two days can be a grind. If I go to the BBQ and then stay out for all the bands, I won’t be back at the hotel until after 1 AM. If I want to make it to the first session tomorrow, I need to leave the hotel between 8:15 and 8:30 AM. Add in some showering and getting ready, and there isn’t a lot of sleep time in the middle. This is the part of getting old that is a drag. Most parts I don’t mind, but I wish I could just do stuff like this for days or years on end and not feel it. Sadly, I squandered that when I was young (as we all do.) I’ll do my best to limp this wreck back to the pits before I need a tow.

Converge South, Day 1, Morning

I’m here. I meant to get up at 4 AM and on the road by 5:30 AM but I slept until 4:50 and didn’t leave until about 6 AM. Still, I managed to get to the NC A&T campus, parked, registered and in the Jason Calacanis talk by 9:30. Had I got up on schedule, I’d have had it just right.

Calacanis is talking about Mahalo right now. The main thing I know about Mahalo is that my buddy Ray Slakinski works there and tried to talk me into taking a job there. Had I not just started my current gig about 6 months earlier and if they let me work from Myrtle Beach, I might well could have done it and been Jason’s employee right now.

JC quote: “It takes the same amount of time to try to build a small business or a big business. If you are trying to build a $1 million or $100 million or $1 billion business, you’ll spend 12 hours a day 7 days a week no matter what so you might as well go for the big score.”

I see across the room Ruby Sinreich and Brian Russell and Dan Conover and Janet Edens. I wish I had made it here with more shmooze time because I’d like to have chatted with them and also, I’d love coffee and a danish right now. I’m hungry and under-caffeinated.

Sitting down in the front is Billy Jones. Out front of the building is a big “Billy for Mayor” sign with a biplane bicycle. I love that guy!

This live blogging thing might not fly for long. I don’t have that much battery life. I might soon be sitting in the very back just for a little juice. By this afternoon, the conference might look like an airport terminal, everyone clustered around the power outlets for with their laptops and cellphones plugged in.

Coffee break is over, back on our heads. Mmmm, cheese danish! Now I’m watching Joe Killian, Will Bunch and my buddy Dan Conover talk about old print media and new media and the clashes betwixt and between. I’m sitting with Dan’s lovely wife Janet Edens, so I’ve really got my Conover fix working.

Will Bunch really sounds smart. Amazing, an old school print journalist whose response to new media is not to have an (Andrew) Keen-ing hissy fit screaming “You kids get your blogs off my lawn” but is instead making his craft work between both media and finding ways to make each amplify the other. Right on! He has written a book about this new hybrid new model, coming out in February.

Dan on blogging: “You are a better blogger today than when you made your first post. People that get into it underestimate how much time it takes, how hard it is to do well and they give up too easily.”

Will Bunch: “The culture of innovation is completely foreign to newspapers. … Why don’t newspaper articles have hyperlinks? Background is so important, it would be awesome to link to that and it would be a simple thing.”

Joe Killian: “There are Greensboro bloggers who think that we are sellouts for being in this room, for being way too mainstream. It’s like being too punk for the Ramones.”

Another power chug of coffee and back in the room. Jason Calcanis is sitting half in front of the side door so that he can get some juice. The theme as we go along is “People have the power, but their computers need more.”

Jason Calcanis at Converge South

Now I’m hearing Dan Conover moderate a panel with Chris Rabb and Ruby Sinreich. This isn’t necessarily in my wheelhouse, so I’ve ended up farting around with Flickr much of the time. Chris Rabb is making a lot of good points about journalism and the black community. Sadly, this panel has fewer of the young black students in it compared to the previous two. That’s one thing I really like about this conference is that it isn’t so relentlessly Caucasian. Two years ago I really enjoyed talking with the A&T students. I wish more of them participated in the off campus things like the Friday barbecue. One of the common themes of this gig is “Don’t wait for permission, step up and do it.” Come on, kids, you are even invited to this so you should just show up.

Chris Rabb: “If I wanted to be rich tomorrow, I could do it. I could write a book about how black folk are lazy and Obama isn’t black enough. I would be paid ridiculously. The left just won’t do the same thing. The folks who are very progressive aren’t the best subjects for philanthropy.” … “I went to Yearly Kos and it was full of white people who suddenly realized how white it was. There are Republican conventions that have more people of color than this place.”

Others are also live blogging: Brian Russell (sitting right behind me) and Ben Hwang. More as I find them.

Ed Cone just stood up and challenged the panel on using the same “us and them horseshit as cable news” (in regards to entrenched media.) He wants to know how we can get beyond that and into something more useful. Says Mr. Rabb “I’m not about to change the mind of hardcore right-wingers, I’m still trying to get along with other progressives.”

Battery at 26%. Either I find an outlet soon or not much blogging between here and the hotel.