Dave Johnson on open web technologies, social software and Java
I spent Friday and Saturday in Greensboro, NC at the ConvergeSouth 2005 conference. I had a great time meeting fellow NC bloggers and attending talks on community building, blogging and journalism, collaboration, blog tools and podcasting. The next couple of posts will be my trip report, based on my notes and recollections. This is final installment #3 of 3.
Saturday, the focus of the ConvergeSouth conference was new media and "creativity on the web for all people" and the format was Dave Winer blogcon style "un-conference." That means there's a moderator with no prepared talk or slides who briefly introduces a topic and then the audience engages in a blog-like conversation on the topic. Interesting idea and it can work well, but I still like the old tried-and-true "expert gives engaging, insightful and interesting talk" format of conference and fortunately some of the speakers at Converge did too.
Policing the Media, Duncan Black
The first talk I attended was Policing the Media led by Duncan Black. After a fairly long introduction, he went into the blogcon format. In his introduction Duncan explained that he wants to improve the media. We deserve better. He had a litany of complaints and didn't try to capture them all. Traditional (and I'm assuming he means print) journalists ignore the rest of the media: talk radio, cable news networks, and partisan news outlets. Journalists won't admit mistakes. They don't do proper fact checking.
After his intro, Duncan didn't really get any objections from the audience and in fact the first question was from a newspaper guy who asked how papers can collaborate with bloggers. Some suggestions were to use bloggers as stringers, to use hyperlinks, and to look at what The Raleigh News and Observer is doing with its blogs and specifically Tarheel Blogwatch. From there the conversation moved to stories of policing the media, the most memorable one involved the issue of hot topic voting machines. I must say, the blogcon format worked pretty well for this talk.
Collaboration, Jimmy Wales
The next talk was on collaboration by Jimmy Wikipedia Wales. It was a traditional presentation, not blogcon format, a complete history and status report on Wikipedia and closely related projects like WikiNews and Wiktionary.
I was most interested in the discussion of real time peer review and the techniques used to keep the wiki vandals and spammers at bay. The Wikipedia folks are able to correct damage and ban the attacker within a minute of an attack. That's great, but is pretty depressing how many people they have working on "recent changes patrol." That's why I keep the Roller wiki locked down and only give username/password access to people I know. Jimmy mentioned the need for a global blacklist of spammers and vandals and that Wikipedia is the logical place to maintain such a blacklist. Roller really needs a good blacklist (for comment/trackback spam), especially now that Jay Allen has stopped maintaining MT-Blacklist.
Tools & the Future, Dave Winer
This was an open blogcon style session centered on the question what do you want from the tools. Much of the discussion was dominated by a couple of complete newbies who just wanted things to be easier, but didn't have any concrete suggestions. That's fine I guess. It confirms what I think most folks working on blogging tools already know: ease of use and simplification are the top-priority (well, ok, maybe they come second to spam-prevention). Here are the most useful suggestions that I heard during the session.
I don't think the blogcon format worked very well in this session. We would all have benefitted from a little better preparation and a little more steering. See also: Kevin Howarth's notes from this session.
Podcasting, Herb Everett
This session was a basic overview of podcasting. While it was interesting to hear Herb's experiences, I really didn't learn anything that I didn't already know about podcasting. Talking to some podcasters after the session I learned that the Apple iTunes tags are pretty important nowadays (but have the bugs been worked out?). I'm wondering if Roller's podcast support should include them in addition to the standard <enclosure> tag. See also: Kevin Howarth's notes from this session.
Dinner and conclusion
Saturday night, I attended one of the hosted dinners and finally got to meet Ed Cone, Greensboro blogger and one of the conference organizers. I've been reading Ed's blog ever since I discovered his Jerry Garcia interviews a couple of years back. Ed interviewed Jonathan Schwartz and Tim Bray just the other week, but didn't realize that blogs.sun.com is driven by homegrown North Carolina software.
That's it for my trip report. All and all a great experience. If you want to read more about the conference, check out conference organizer Sue Polinsky's list of posts on the topic and the Technorati tag ConvergeSouth.