BloggerCon notes

I hope to be adding to this post throughout the day. We’ll see.

Lots of audio feeds and session notes can be found at the BloggerCon Website.

BloggerCon IV is underway. We opened with a couple of songs, but the hit was doin’ the Hokey Pokey. As host Dave Winer noted afterwards, “Well, we’re all friends now.”

At last, Doc and I actually meetDoc Searls is the “technographer” for the event, which means his note-taking is visible for all to see. This would be intimidating for most, because it’s the equivalent of letting people watch you think. It takes a thick skin or someone who’s reached the status of self-actualization, and that’s Doc.

The discussion on tools (what do you use, etc.) drifted for a moment into the knowledge level of “the masses.” This is important for me, because I understand the problems broadcasters, for example, have in getting into this stuff, when most people don’t have a clue about the technologies or how to use them. This is an opportunity, I noted, for the people in the room, because there is, I sense, a growing demand for this kind of information. Chris Pirillo — one of the people would could actually communicate this stuff to non-geeks — disagreed with me by saying he doesn’t think “the media” gives a crap about knowing any of this stuff.

I’m not saying that the demand is loud and clear; I’m saying there are rumblings that one of the obligations mass media companies are going to have if they can bring themselves to walk the Media 2.0 line is to help everyday people understand and use the technologies. That, it seems to me, is a business opportunity for the folks attending events like BloggerCon.

UPDATE: Jay Rosen’s session on “Users know more than we do journalism” was both esoteric and practical, with Jay wanting more of the latter and often getting more of the former. There was so much good information in the session that it’s hard to fairly summarize it. I recommend you give a listen to the mp3.

Jay opened by saying, “We’re talking about defining “users know more than we do journalism (open source).” How do you tap that wellspring of knowledge to break news and do kick-ass reporting?”

Good question, and one that better minds than mine are grappling with these days. I think we’re in a period of great transition in our culture and that journalism is one of the core components.

Tom Maddox at lunchTom Maddox of Opinity noted that calling this “open-source journalism” is a bit like calling cars “horseless carriages.” This is a new thing and very different from advertiser-supported journalism. It’s like massive parallel processing. It needs a new name, and I think it would help get us away from the fruitless bickering between mainstream media and us.”

I think this is right on the money, because what this session was attempting to define or quantify is largely unidentifiable or unquantifiable, at least in modern terms. This session was really about defining postmodern news, and that’s extremely difficult when you use terms like “story,” as in “how do we all collaborate on a story?” I’m one of those people who thinks we need new terms and new structures that are both open and flexible.

It was either Doc or Dave who used the term “river” to describe it, always open, always flowing. That’s postmodern “news.”

UPDATE: Chris Pirillo’s session on “Users in charge” turned into a refreshing bitch session about software companies or applications that are really not user-friendly. I added my pet peeves: FAQs that are written for morons, companies that don’t give you a way to contact them, and information stored in such a way that it cannot be accessed with plain English.

Jory Des Jardins had a colorful phrase, “Why do I have to go through the whole friggin store schema, starting at the top, just to find a spoon?”

A lot of people bitched about iTunes, and that devolved into griping about liking or disliking the application. 75 percent of users like the service, but that wasn’t the case in this room. Somebody noted that if you don’t like it, there are other options. Well, yeah, but why not listen to the superusers just the same?

The inimitable Jay RosenJay Rosen told of his experience when he first used Firefox and discovered the “tabs” feature. He was so upset with Microsoft’s Internet Explorer (still is) that he hasn’t gone back and he won’t. “It was a total loss of confidence for me,” he told the group, “so I told Microsoft to “forget it — it’s too late. You have totally violated my trust. Every time I use tabs, I think ‘those fucks,’ they could have done this and they didn’t.”

UPDATE: The session on emotional life was the best of the day, because we spent the time talking about real life and how it enters into blogging. In my case, of course, there have been many entries about the loss of my wife on April 25th. Others in the room had similar experiences, but the other side of the coin was also brought out.

“We all lead very public lives,” noted Chris Pirillo. He was always very open. People knew everything about his life, but when he went through a divorce, it was very difficult. He got lots of backlash, because readers had come to know her and couldn’t believe it. “It was tough,” added Chris, “because people don’t necessarily know you, even though they think they do.”

Ponzi, Chris’s fiancée, said she completely opened up about an unhappy vacation she took with Chris on her blog. She didn’t think about how ugly it got afterwards and decided it wasn’t really good to open up so much. “Since then,” she said, “I haven’t blogged that way.”

Martin McKeay keeps his personal life out of his blog; it’s all about business. He feels he can’t let his family get exposed to things like that and bring them out into the public.

Doc Searls told the group that 9/11 changed his blogging, “I started out blogging everything,” he said, but when 9/11 happened and I came out as a pacifist, I got hate mail.” People would stop in their cars in front of the house, he said, and when he and his wife would come out, they’d leave. “It freaked my wife out,” he said. So he changed his blogging style and doesn’t say anything personal. He added however, that he doesn’t think his blog is as good because of it.

Bob Cox of the Media Bloggers Association took the discussion in a different direction, reminding people that people are really beginning to get sued for things they say on their blogs. “It would be wise,” he said, “for people to incorporate their blogs, so that people don’t lose their house if they get sued.”

My dear friend, Susan MernitJory Des Jardins said she tempers what she says, but being open has really opened lines of communication in her family. Other family members started blogging, and it has brought transparency to her family life.

Jay Rosen: “I never tell you anything about my personal life in my blog, but blogging is still a very emotional thing for me. Most of us blog for reasons of freedom, and that is a powerful and emotional thing. Secondly, my career as a press critic went pretty well before blogging, and I was reasonably satisfied, but in order to become a published writer, I had to give editors what they wanted, and it was very frustrating. They didn’t understand what I wanted to say about journalism, so a lot of anger built up in me. So my blog is filled with 15 years of pent up anger in dealing with editors. Part of the attraction is limitless creation. Finally, it was very dangerous in Nazi Germany to lose the ability to think politically. If you can’t see the undercurrents and understand the news, you could lose a lot, even your life, and that’s a very emotional reason to blog.”


  1. Terry:

    These are great reports. Please keep them coming.

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