I was recently invited to keynote a prestigious conference in a European city. I agreed to speak but only on the condition that they cover my expenses. I didn't ask to be paid for my time, but after they said no, I realize I should have.
Here's why. I didn't have a product to pitch or have a company that could benefit from the PR. If I were in their shoes (and I have been) I would insist on covering expenses, otherwise the talks would just be advertisements. It seems analogous to asking a vendor to write an article in your publication, and somehow expecting that it wouldn't be an advertisement.
That's why most conferences aren't worth going to -- you're being pitched by people with a business model for being there. However if conferences were treated like journals, where you were required to only share your knowledge and not promote your products, they might be more interesting.
BTW, this came up once before -- with a conference about syndication in NYC. I agreed to speak but only if they covered expenses. They said no. They thought they were being generous by letting me speak for free! I thought they were being hypocritical, every other speaker there was promoting a product, I didn't have a product to promote.
So I thought -- why not offer my services to promote someone else's product. (When they found out they disinvited me. Ouch!)
How the world got this crazy I don't know, but it must be part of the bubble that's bursting now.
Bottom line -- if you're speaking at a conference and they're not at least covering expenses, it's probably all advertising.
During the Democratic primary, as the choice narrowed to Obama and Clinton, it was pretty common for people to say that no matter what we'd have a strong nominee and President. There was a lot of confidence that either candidate would win the election over the Republican alternative, and would go on to be a strong leader.
As the campaign went on, this feeling faded -- losing became unthinkable on both sides, and the campaign turned ugly -- but there was still something held in reserve, some places we did not go. I can't speak for anyone else as to why we didn't go for broke, but my own opinion is that we felt that after the primary we'd have to work together. And while there was some discussion before the DNC that the party was split, the convention unified the party.
What about after the general election, now less than a month away? The same logic applies. We'll all be Americans, and we must unite behind the President, no matter how unthinkable that might seem now. But there's a lot of concern, expressed openly, that there will be violence if Obama wins -- that somehow the Republicans will not feel that an African-American, even if he wins the Electoral College, is a legitimate President. If so, this is a prescription for nothing less than civil war.
I know what it feels like to be bewildered by the choice made by our country. I felt we were poised on a precipice of disaster in 2004 when we re-elected President Bush, but I accepted the result. I said at the time that we need to listen to the Americans who voted for him, because they must be trying to say something. Well, I spent four years listening and nothing came back. So we worked and patiently waited as our country continued to fumble and blunder and waste opportunity after opportunity. Now, facing a global economic collapse, and who knows what politically and militarily, our country will have to either unite, or fly apart.
I'm going to add my voice, as humble and unpowerful as it is, to the growing chorus asking the Republicans to take a step back, and think longer term, bigger picture. This is not going to end well if we can't agree that whoever wins this election is our leader for the next four years, at a time when we desperately need leadership. There's an awful spirit to this competition that says when it's over we will not unite, and that would be a disaster.
McCain must give a speech, like the one given by Obama when racial issues came to the front earlier this year, and say clearly that no matter who wins, we must unite behind the new President. I have no doubt that Obama would echo this. Then during the remaining weeks of the campaign we can rebuild the spirit that America is famous for, and prepare to face the huge challenges that are in front of (all of) us.
Update #1: Cross-posted at Huffington.
Update #2: He's going in the right direction, believe it or not, despite the certainty of some of the commenters here that it would be tantamount to conceding.
I've got the rest of the month reserved for travel, to see the election up front and close up, with camera, laptop, audio, video and EVDO. I'm trying to figure out if I should go, and where.
I want to be in a state that both campaigns see as critical, so I can drive from city to city and be in the crowds at rallies and talk to the people there. Not like this guy who baited them (they seemed like partisans, not the monsters he was making them out to be). Just want to know what they think. And not as a campaign worker for Obama, though I have given money to his campaign.
Part of the problem is that McCain isn't going to all the places he should be. He just spent two days in Wisconsin. I could park my kiester there, and be pretty sure at some point I'd see surrogates for both campaigns, but I want to go where the stars are going.
Florida may be the best bet. I know the state really well, spent a lot of time there over many years, all parts -- western, northern, east coast and west.
Any thoughts? I'd probably leave a week from tomorrow. Fly to a city, rent a car, and then go to the first campaign event.
Also I'm looking for pages on both Republican and Democratic sites that say where the candidates will be in the next 24-48 hours. I know they make the info available to the press, but as usual I can't get either campaign to respond to me as if I were press.
Maybe New Mexico? Not too hard to pick a spot there. And it's close to Colorado.
He says in this interview that no one has accused him of lacking courage. He must not be listening.
Everything about McCain these days is cowardice.
Dave Winer, 53, pioneered the development of weblogs, syndication (RSS), podcasting, outlining, and web content management software; former contributing editor at Wired Magazine, research fellow at Harvard Law School, entrepreneur, and investor in web media companies. A native New Yorker, he received a Master's in Computer Science from the University of Wisconsin, a Bachelor's in Mathematics from Tulane University and currently lives in Berkeley, California.
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