That's right, friends, I was "liveblogging" analog-style! Kicking it old skool with my lo-tech palm pilot at the Triangle Bloggers Conference this morning with ~150 like-minded souls.
I'm a little late getting this on the blog, obviously, and not going to win any awards for immediate impressions. Diehards did, ahem, actually liveblog the conference. The running tally can be found here. Wanna see what it looked like, too?
Anton Zuiker started us off with mention of the "tam tam," a hollow totem pole outside of the chief's residence that the chief strikes to call a meeting of the village on the island of Vanuatu. Workers nearby then take up the call with a whistle call of their own, and thus the message is spread. Fitting metaphor for our meeting today, news of which spread like a benevolent virus from friend to friend.
Brief notes: Ben MacNeill spoke about an anthropological approach to cataloging his daughter's life. His is an incredibly unique and interesting take on the usual "bringing up baby" chronicles. I am sans bebe, but I had much fun (and much wow factor) poking around his site. Plus, I'm a sucker for the alliteration of "Trixie Telemetry." Sid Stafford gave us a lesson on the Long Tail via a discussion of biodiversity. Ed Cone, who should really have his own show, outlined the need for the most straightforward blog philosophy one could muster: what are you trying to do? What kind of community are you trying to reach/build? He suggests linking and commenting, which sound cliche mostly because they're true, I imagine. I'm a newbie; can't say I know otherwise. He quotes Jim Rose: Have a take, and don't suck. Okay, then. Take? Check. Suck? Umm... The question of what kind of blog and, thus, what kind of traffic one wants is an interesting one. Me, I'm not overly concerned that anyone read this nonsense. It serves as a daily record of sorts (provided I can get to it daily) and as an outlet to be shrill and write bad haiku about dumbyass if I want to. Someone wants to listen in? Great, come sit a spell, take a load off. Welcome.
On the topic of the Long Tail, Paul Jones, who co-moderated the 3rd portion of the conference with leading light Dan Gillmor, drew us a charming graph, which I replicated in my now-patented Analog-Style™! The "loneliness" bit was just one of Paul's many charming bon mots today. This reminds me that this conference was among the most convivial* that I've attended (of any kind; this is my first blog-related meeting). I thought folks were thoughtful in their remarks, supportive of one another, and generally invested. Not a lot of rolled eyeballs and yawns from my vantage point in the back of the room. I know I was interested in every moment, and I have no reason to think everyone else wasn't too. Credit goes to the moderators who kept going back to the audience, and we had as fluid a "conversation" as could be had in a small auditorium space. Kudos, facilitators.
[*There was a snarky moment (and I wonder if it didn't go off harsher than intended) when Mr. Snark (don't know his name) responded to Will R.'s challenge to some right-wing twit who was waffling on enabling comments on his site while simultaneously waxing self-congratulatory about there being a real community and a real "conversation" on his blog. Will R., who does not have his own blog and instead comments on others' blogs, noted that he could not engage in a "conversation" with said right-wing twit, and asked, "Can you have a fully-realized community without comments?" to which Mr. Snark (not the right-wing twit, another guy) asked, rather sharply, "Can you be a fully-realized human being without a blog?" In a room filled with self-referential blog fanciers, it was a funny-haha moment. It would have been a much more clever line had it been delivered kindly and divorced from the feelings of a person who'd posed a valid challenge to a sort of top-down monlogue idea of so-called "community building." It was the only moment that I recall that I felt that the less thoughtful, LCD idea prevailed. And sadly, that put Will R.'s important point dead in the water. And while I'm noting the snark, might I add the uncharitable observation that the right-wing twits are always so pinched and smug and just infuriatingly small in their world view, and I really have no patience. Let's evolve, please.]
[Further aside on this aside: Mr. Snark did later make the point that he thought it most ironic that corporate media's criticism of the grassroots blogosphere concerns their lack of "credibility," observing that he "trusts human beings not corporate entities." Well said.]
One of my favorite notes from the day was about the role of blogs as media watchdogs. This is how I came to blogs; the majority of blogs I read on a daily basis provide this function at least in part. My own feeble attempts to yell into the abyss sometimes, accidentally, inadvertently, and quasi-coherently touch on this function. Ahem. IF I had more (read: any) time to devote to blogging seriously, I would be delighted -- you couldn't stop me -- from fulfilling this function somewhere somehow. The MSM Steno Pool can kiss my poetical arse. As Dan Gillmor asked, are we going to have to rely on foundations like the very fine Center for Public Integrity to do for us what journalists used to do? Sad. Maybe so though, because Dave Winer noted that he now looks to blogs for the world of expertise formerly available only to professional journalists. Building on this, Will R. then chimed in with the phrase of the day, at least as noted in my Analog-Style Palm Pilot™, "iterative refinement," wherein he noted that blogs, as opposed to registration-protected archives (e.g. NYT), continue to be updated and fact-checked and accessible, thus making them more trustworthy (my Freudian slippin' self spelled that 'truthworthy' at first; fitting still), relevant, and reliable. Will R. should have his own blog.
I was happy to run into Eric and Jeff, and we had a nice chat, if too brief. We spoke about maintaining some cover or anonymity with one's blog in a large connected environment like a university where "intellectual freedom" seems much touted and little honored when the cacaphony of right-wing twit screeching hits its crescendo (whew!). Okay, maybe that last part was in my head; not sure Jeff heard me say that. Many conversations of late serve to remind me that we live in an increasingly monitored society in which one's personal opinions can be used as "evidence," say, of one's "liberal bias," to pull just a completely random example out of the air. Simply put: f*ck the witchhunt. That said, one must be careful. Grrrr.
I was especially glad to have met Pam, Sally, and Jen, seeing as there was a 5:1 male-to-female blogger ratio in effect. Pam let me in on a little secret: she reads Free Republic so we don't have to. Bless her, she must have an iron constitution. Ruby had lots to say and received nice mentions re: OrangePolitics.org from many folks, and Karen Mann asked the pertinent and timely question if folks feel safe talking about work on one's blog in a time when people are being fired for such things. Debra responded that she doesn't say Word One about her job on her blog, and that she's already pushing the envelope by blogging at work, which is prohibited. Lucky gal. I have no time at work for the fun stuff.
Suggested reading: The Vanishing Newspaper, We the Media, and A Fire Upon the Deep. Hope someone reads and reviews this last one, because I seriously doubt I'll have a chance to get to it. Not a big sci-fi geek anyhoo. And, yes, that is putting me at a significant disadvantage in the digital world. Evidence my Analog-Style™! Oh, there's more to say, but I'm at my limit, and certain analog dingos are giving me Bambi eyes...
One last thing: I was really glad to see and hear anonymoses today. His work I've really enjoyed. Plus, he had a great hat on.