Scripting News for 6/15/2006

I was flying from SF to NY today, and missed Microsoft’s big announcement. 1. Steve Gillmor gets a big I Told You So, when he was saying that Ray Ozzie is taking over for Bill Gates. 2. Just when you thought Scoble was the biggest story to ever come out of Microsoft. Seriously, congrats to Ray, I have always enjoyed working with him, and maybe there’s something to be optimistic about on behalf of Microsoft. It’s probably time for a podcast on this subject, but it may have to wait until next week when I’m cooped up in a studio at CNET with Steve G for hours on end.  

This Music Gremlin is an interesting idea, but it’s totally a DRM thing, therefore totally a disappointment. I want a Wifi-enabled MP3 player that uses RSS 2.0 with enclosures as its infrastructure. That would be a killer product. To hell with the DRM. I want podcast nirvana. Such a product is part of that. Ray Ozzie, now that you’re in charge at Microsoft, how about it? Want to turn the ship in a fantastic new direction? Did they give you the power to do some audacious stuff? I have a few more ideas. Let me know.  

The BloggerCon unconference format 

BloggerCon is an unusual conference. We don’t have speakers, panels or an audience. We do have discussions and sessions, and each session has a discussion leader.

The discussion leader 

Think of the discussion leader as a reporter who is creating a story with quotes from the people in the room. So, instead of having a panel with an audience we just have people. We feel this more accurately reflects what’s going on. It’s not uncommon for the audience at a conference to have more expertise than the people who are speaking.

The discussion leader is also the editor, so if he or she feels that a point has been made they must move on to the next point quickly. No droning, no filibusters, no repeating an idea over and over.

The discussion leader can also call on people, so stay awake, you might be the next person to speak! :-)

Think of it as a weblog 

Think of the conference as if it were a weblog. At the beginning of each session, the leader talks between five and fifteen minutes to introduce the idea and some of the people in the room. Then she’ll point to someone else. She may ask a couple of questions to get them going, then she’ll point to someone else, then someone else, then make a comment, ask a question, etc. Each person talks for two to three minutes. Long enough to make a point. About the time someone would take if they called into a radio talk show.

We have a limited amount of time, and a group of participants whose time is valuable. The leader’s job is to make sure the show stays interesting, even captivating. If it gets boring people will go out in the hall and schmooze, or focus their attention on the IRC channel, or read their email, or whatever. So the leader’s job is to keep it moving. Sometimes this means cutting people off.

How to prepare 

Since every person in a session is considered an equal participant, everyone should prepare at least a little. Think about the subject, read the comments on the BloggerCon site. Follow weblogs from other people who are paticipating. Think about what you want to get out of the session, and what questions you wish to raise, and what information or points of view you’d like to get from the session.

Everyone is a journalist 

BloggerCon is an unusual conference in that almost everyone participating writes publicly. So we assume that everyone present is a journalist. Every badge is a press badge.

On the record 

All conversations, whether to the entire room or one-to-one, unless otherwise stated, clearly and up front, are on the record and for attribution. You do not need to ask permission to quote something you hear at BloggerCon. Of course you may ask for permission to quote, and you may choose not to quote things you hear.

It’s a user’s conference 

Where I come from, the technology world, most conferences are centered around the vendors.

This is not like those conferences. Here, vendors are welcome, and we hope they will help by sponsoring a party, dinner or brunch, but they participate mainly by listening.

Most of the people who are talking are users. In my opinion, these are the revolutionaries. Vendors make a living by creating tools that these people use to change the world. So much attention is focused on technology, too much imho. At this conference we turn it around and focus on what people are doing with the technology. So if you hear someone say it’s about the technology, expect me to challenge if I’m present. If not, stand up and say “That’s not correct.”

Further, if they say the technology is too complicated for a user to understand, ask them why, and if they could simplify it so we can understand. And if not, why should we use it? Perhaps a new user-centered philosophy will emerge.

Things we assume 

Sometimes conferences bog down in meta-discussions, discussions about what it’s okay to discuss. I want to try to head some of that off in advance by stating some assumptions, and asking people who want to discuss these things to either discuss them here on the Web beforehand, or to find another venue to discuss them.

1. Weblogs are journalism. Not all weblogs, and not all the time. People have said weblogs aren’t journalism, and that seems foolish, as strange as saying telephones aren’t journalism. It’s kind of a moot question. Weblogs can be used for journalism, or not. When people say they’re not journalism, I think they haven’t thought it through well enough.

2. What is a weblog is an interesting question. At the Jupiter conference when the question of what a weblog is came up some people would say it’s not a good question. At BloggerCon if you have an idea that requires you to say or ask what a weblog is, please go ahead. It’s totally on-topic. I would consider the conference a success if that’s the only thing we figured out. (Chances are we won’t, btw.)

Groundrule: No commercials 

This is a user’s conference, it’s non-commercial, you may not promote products. If a discussion naturally turns to products, it’s okay to talk about them, but it’s probably not okay to talk about your product, unless the discussion leader asks you to. No matter what you must ask for permission, and don’t be surprised if the answer is no.

There are good reasons for this, if one person talks about his or her product, then their competitors will feel they are entitled to, and pretty soon the user’s needs are drowned out by the needs of the vendors. The point of this conference is to focus on users.

WiFi, webcast, IRC 

Wireless Internet access will be available.

With luck, each session will be webast, audio only. You are welcome to bring your own recording equipment, cameras are allowed, basically the rules allow Grateful Dead/Phish style recording. Bring your microphone or camera and recording device, and record it and broadcast it any way you like. Be innovative. Have fun. Share. Be cool. Still diggin. Etc. (But please don’t interfere with the sessions.)

There will be one IRC channel for the conference. Other people may start channels for topics. If so please send a pointer to a page describing how to get on.

Earlier posts 

Gizmodo: “Something so simple that we wish we’d have thought of it.” Me too!

Check out beta.netscape.com. Instead of buying Digg for $50 million, Jason Calacanis convinced AOL management to let him turn Netscape into a Digg-alike, with a small editorial staff that does unique reporting on the stories readers vote most interesting. I sat next to Jason at the dinner on Friday in SF and heard the story, among many others.

3 responses to this post.

  1. […] Correction – The site is being overwhelmed after covered on ValleyWag, Techcrunch and Scripting News. Will Digg cover it as well? […]

    Reply

  2. Read this excerpt from another blog – apparently those closest to Gates knew this was coming, there were obvious signs…

    richardbrandt.blogs.com/richard_brandt_on_google/2006/05/can_microsoft_s.html

    /////Microsoft insiders have told me that Gates seems much less involved with his company these days, preferring to spend time with his charitable foundation. He is middle-aged now. As impressive as Steve Ballmer and Ray Ozzie are, Gates has always been Microsoft’s biggest asset. Asked about his title of “chief software architect” at D4, Gates responded, “My title is a strange thing. People should think of me as chairman.”

    Reply

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