There was no way I could pass up attending the Northern Voices blogging conference given that it was only a ferry ride away, and for the most part I came away glad to have made the effort. Here are some reflections, in no particular order.
The High Points
– Stephen’s presentation, nominally titled ‘Community Blogging‘ (in essence the notion that communities are defined by semantic affinity, not network proximity, and that we need to develop systems which help us derive meaning that emerges out of collective/aggregated contexts) was for me the highlight of the conference from the perspective of presentations given. It deserves a post of its own and for me was the most concise synthesis of what Stephen’s been driving at for the last few years I’ve seen.
– UPDATED: I forgot to mention the other highpoint of the conference, a 2 minute description on the use of RSS feeds and wikis for sharing and collaborating on the research at the Michael Smith Genome Sciences Centre. The fellow making the point sat patiently with his hand up throughout almost all of the question and answers in the ‘Blogging in Academia’ session, and then in the space of about 2 minutes simply blew most of our minds away with the description of the collaborative knowledge sharing ecosystem they had assembled using syndication technologies and wikis. Worth far more than the price of admission itsself.
– Realizing one’s blogosphere ‘bozo filters’ are incredibly accurate when you finally hear the bozos f2f. The downside – not having f2f bozo filters.
The Low Points
– Its probably an unfair criticism, but the format of the presentations/conference (sages on the stage, plebes in the audience gazing longingly) basically replicates a lot of hierarchical structure that seems antithetical to what’s interesting about the blogosphere. Undoubtedly there exist power laws, ‘a-list bloggers’ and the like, but for the vast majority of us, what’s interesting is not a quest to be listened to by everyone else, but to participate in ‘elocutions’ with as few as 2 people (even 1 in ‘blogs as soliloquy’ mode) and can grow as large as the net. So, suggestions for improvement: more coffee breaks/networking time (there are never enough), and less formal presentations. Instead, look to ‘workshops’ or other participatory models as a way to engage everyone and create useful outputs, not just speeches. (To be fair, Tim Bray’s did make some fun efforts at including the audience and seemed quite well received). And sheesh, with that much technology in the room, formally engage with it, not just accidentally through flickr tags and the like.
– Nametags: I guess I must be getting old, but my eyesight can’t handle 8 point type from more than a few feet now. Any really, a blogging conference without the name (not just the URL) of people’s blogs in bold print on their name tags?
Still, much fun was had by this attendee, and the organizers are to be thoroughly lauded for their efforts. Bravo. For any shortcomings, it was still one of the more fun gatherings I’ve been to of late. – SWL