Dave Johnson on open web technologies, social software and Java
I'm in Greensboro today, a couple of hours away from home, attending ConvergeSouth 2007 -- "the annual tech users' conference in Greensboro, North Carolina. A combination of a blogger-con and a creativity center." Here's a summary of notes and quotes I scribbled in my notebook on day #1.
Keynote: Jason Calacanis and Ed Cone. Billed as a fire-side chat, the keynote turned out to be a pretty straight-forward interview of Jason Calacanis by Ed Cone. Ed started with some biographical questions, then moved to questions about Jason's businesses Weblogs.com and Mahalo. Along the way Jason dispensed business advice like "it takes the same time investment to build a small business as to build a big one" so "think big, but take small steps." Ed urged Jason to connect the dots between his psychology degree and his business success, which led to the observation that "most people are motivated not by money but by recognition and affiliation." I guess that's the motivation Jason harnessed with weblogs.com and the same one he hopes will lead to great human-authored search results for Mahalo.
Moving from old to new media: Dan Conover, Will Bunch and Joe Killian. In this panel-session, three newspaper writers discussed the difficulties that local papers are having making the move to the new world of blogs, wikis and social media. Some of the complaints were that newspaper hosted blog-authors do not reach out to other bloggers, don't connect to community and are rarely given enough time to run a successful blog. Newspapers are so far behind because "the culture of innovation is so alien to newspapers." That explains why "Google, the ultimate non-local entity is kicking local paper's butts."
We agree to disagree: Dan Conover, Ruby Sinreich, Chris Rabb. Despite the title, this panel was about how community and non-traditional news sites are changing the way folks relate to news. Ruby talked about Orange Politics, the site she started to help Orange County folks understand and get active in local politics. Chris talked about his site Afro-Netizen and the motivations behind it. Then the panel ranted a bit about progressive politics, the insular white-maleness of Daily Kos, the pros and cons of media "objectivity" and a variety of other topics. All good stuff; I could listen to these guys ramble on for hours.
Affiliate marketing and Web 2.0. This was an overview of affiliate marketing programs by Sam Harrelson. It seemed to cover all of the affiliate bases, but I didn't really understand the Web 2.0 tie-in. I guess I'm only marginally interested in the topic and probably should have chosen a different session.
Sociable web as a social force. This session led by Anton Zuiker and Jason Calacanis discussed how blogs and social networks can quickly bring folks together around issues, get your opinions indexed in Google right next to the evil corporation that just screwed you over and other scenarios familiar to anybody who has read the Cluetrain Manifesto. Brian Russell also talked about his efforts to use the sociable web to jump start his Carborro Coworking business. To demonstrate the power of social networks, Jason twittered his phone number, asked folks to call and we spent the rest of the session listening to his cell phone ring. Despite that, good session.
All and all, an interesting and thought provoking day -- though it did cover a lot of familiar ground for me. It's not over yet. I'm getting reading to head out to the BBQ now.
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