The Mediamorphosis conference flashblog started on February 26th, then a few more posts dribbled, until the conference was just beginning, and then it exploded. Lots of other bloggers and readers outside the conference started paying attention to the blog, which had posts from some invited bloggers as well as lots of audience members. At the end of the Conference, Susan Mernit noted that she wished she’d fought more to just get everyone on the blog in advance, instead of waiting for those in the room to ask for a login.
People who hadn’t seen blog conversations before got to see it happen in front of them. Some walked up late in the conference and noted that they were surprised by what was happening around them, online, on the screen. Disconcerting, but they saw it. It’s something I’ve been watching and participating in for a while, sometimes around an event like this, but often just day to day, as people converse online, each on their own blogs, in each other’s comments, in email and with IM, in real time, about a topic or news event. These conversations are alive, but hard to see if you aren’t in them (tools are in the works to see them, as demoed by Feedster and Technorati at the conference), though you can follow them somewhat because many blog posts link to other posts in the conversation. But not always, and of course, comments can’t be linked or verified, but they are part of this discussion too and so there is more evaluating of trust with them, but still, they are considered. Sometimes, you can go to a site like Technorati to look up a URL of say, an article to see who is talking about it, to find the common conversation, though comments aren’t linked to there either.
Anyway, the great thing about the Mediamorphosis conference was that it was an opportunity to show these conversations, show how and who and where people are in the middle of them. The room was set up UN style, and the vast majority had laptops, occasionally reading the blog, which was commenting often on the panel in front, the moderator walking in the middle, and what was on screen. As these posts went out on the blog, other bloggers not at the conference would take quotes and comment, riff, either on their blogs or the conference blog. At the conference, we would see them, and post them up on the screen behind the speakers, and at one point, Dale Peskin stopped the discussion to note JD Lasica’s comments (he was not there but was reading our posts hot off the grill) about a current panelist’s remarks. While this may be steered the conference into the blog or no blog discussion even further, it did make the point (and certainly seemed to take things further than the ONA conference last November). Other times, the blog was put up on screen by the AV guys (who by the way, did an outstanding job of juggling all that hardware, and coordinating lots of interesting stuff, though the hotel wifi left a lot to be desired…) and panelists would turn around to look at comments about what was happening in the room.
It was a demonstration of these conversations, of multiple channels of dialog, all on the same topic, more orderly in the sense that not everyone was talking at once. Except in a way, the conversations were happening all around rapidly, we were engulfed in lots of silent talking, while one actual speaker at a time spoke up front. It may sound confusing, but it was a reflection of what happens on the internet everyday, across blogs, about a million different topics and news articles, people and events. It’s live and it’s happening, and it is apart of the media business, whether big media wants it or not, is offended or embraces it. There is no squelching it.
Instead of talking about citizen media, we showed it, no matter how crude the tools for tracking and making this media. A lot of those attending are busy people; they may not have time to spend finding these blog conversations, though as tools evolve, they will be able to find them faster and more explicitly, but the key is, it was shown (not told) for those who had little or no experience with it. And the fact that a flashblog got the job done, that people outside the conference dove in was great. It may have been unstructured, messy, in need of editing, disagreeable, not always understandable if you weren’t in the room, occasionally wrong though iterated to correction, but it was authentic, it reflected what people thought, it was a discussion with opposing views and ideas, and was reflective of this new kind of bottom up media.