Stone, Camahort and Des Jardins have BlogHer.
Calacanis and Arrington have TechCrunch 50.
Steve Gillmor has The Gillmor Gang.
Loic has Le Web.
Klaus Schwab has Davos.
Tim O'Reilly has FOO Camp.
Tom Rielly has TED.
There are a hundred tech, political and entertainment conferences each year, and people who speak every year at one or two of them (or more). It's good because you can hear what's on a person's mind, in their own words, with a chance to interact, once a year, like clockwork. Do that for five or ten years and you get somewhere, you hope.
These days I don't get many invites to speak. (Actually come to think of it I've never gotten a lot of invites to speak, I usually have to work at it. Basically I stopped working at it.) When I go to conferences I go as press, and I listen. I don't like talking from the audience. It may work for others, but it doesn't work for me. What works even better is watching on video, where the temptation to speak out loud is diminished (and harmless, expressing my opinion at a computer screen is like a tree falling in the woods with no one there).
I think I could do my part to draw people to a conference. But I wouldn't want to take on the responsibility for the whole show. I know what that entails, I've done it four times. When you take it on, it consumes most of your time for a quarter of a year. I just don't think that's a good use of my time, though it might be for others.
What I'm looking for is seven or eight people who have a blog or podcast following, who might want to partner on such an event. It would be an annual thing. There would be seven or eight slots, and they would be the same every year. We might recruit journalists or bloggers to lead the discussions, but the topics for each session would be driven by the seven or eight people. You could bring other people on stage with you. Demos. Videos. It's up to each person. The audience would be encouraged to participate, something like a BloggerCon, but not exactly. Each session would very much be driven and designed by the person whose name is on the session.
Berkman does something like this -- almost every conference has a group of repeat speakers. If you want to get an update on what they're thinking about, sign up for the conference. They're good speakers, intelligent thoughtful people. Teachers mostly, so they're good at presenting their ideas verbally. It works. I'd like to do the same thing, but with people from technology, politics and entertainment. I think there's going to be enough happening at the intersection of those areas over the next decade to make a series of annual events interesting. Of course there would be ample opportunity for schmoozing, which is why people really come to conferences, as we all know.
I'm not interested in doing this to make a lot of money, rather as a way to start a thread into the future, and to partner with people whose ideas I find interesting.
I watched Saturday Night Live from its inception in the 70s, but over the years my attention went elsewhere. I have to admit that Dana Carvey and Eddie Murphy still seem like the new guys on SNL. So Tina Fey is absolutely foreign territory, and a bit intimidating. How dare the world move on! I was just getting used to Akroyd, Belushi, Newman, Radner, Chase, Murray and Curtin.
But like everyone else, I fell in love with Tina Fey for helping us laugh at the tragic comedy the election had turned into. We needed someone to help us deal with the possibility that the idiot woman would become the new vice-president. Someday we'll tell each other that there was a real possibility that we'd elect Palin, remember her? (One can hope.)
Then I listened to the FreshAir interview with Fey, and found out a lot, including that she isn't an impersonator, and that she had a show, 30 Rock, that was struggling -- but many people thought it was the best thing on TV. That's something I'm interested in, because Fey as Palin was riveting. I wanted more of that. Dave Davies, the FreshAir TV critic said he hoped that would happen, so I watched an episode from (the current) Season 3, and found it fairly uninteresting. Even so, I decided to try Season 1, at the beginning, and that's the nugget! It really is great TV.
It's not often that you laugh out loud at a sitcom. So much so that I can't remember the last time I watched a 1/2 hour sitcom (except for Entourage, which I think is actually the best show on TV right now, and I don't think of it as a sitcom, but I'm not sure exactly what category it would fit in). But 30 Rock is everything a great sitcom is supposed to be. It's like Mary Tyler Moore. We love the heroine, Liz Lemon and come to love the grumpy boss Donaghy (played by Alec Baldwin), and the show is studded with celebrity guests from Seinfeld as himself, Paul Rubens as an Austrian prince, Robin Williams as a NY street bum and Carrie Fisher as a washed-up vision of the future Liz Lemon. You almost get the idea that all the great comics and actors love 30 Rock so much that they want to pitch in to help give it a future.
Now I gotta say that Season 1 is much better than Season 2. The show really had a spark in its first year, and it faded in the second year, which I'm not yet finished with. I hope it gets back on track, but it's still worth watching. And that its a struggling show says more about the state of broadcast TV these days than the quality of the writing and acting, which is as good as it gets.
Now that the election was almost two weeks ago, we're winding down newsjunk.com. It was an interesting experiment, but it didn't achieve the biggest goal I had for it, not very many people used it. Not enough to justify continuing to do it.
I felt there was a vacuum in the flow of political news, one site whose mission was to be a "briefing book" on a single topic for people who wanted to be more or less completely informed. I feel we accomplished that much for the election, and as one of the editors of the site (there were three others) -- just reading all the news also had tremendous value for me. On this one topic, I was pretty close to fully informed, or as fully informed as you could be through news and blogging.
We tried doing a tech version of NewsJunk for a while, but my heart wasn't in it. I just don't care that much these days about tech news. It could just be a phase, but it's impossible to put in the time it takes to do a "junk" site right if you're not totally interested in the topic.
So for now we're going to post new items to the political NewsJunk feed only when they pertain to the 2008 election. There are still a few outstanding issues, the Senatorial races in Alaska, Minnesota and Georgia. There probably are still a few "think pieces" in the pipe with insights into the events of 2008. But news of the incoming administration, the economic crisis, world politics are not on-topic for NewsJunk, and we're not going to broaden its purview to include them.
However, I will probably write a few more pieces about NJ, including a list of who my favorite sources were. There are some great writers out there, and quite a few (who I won't name) who aren't doing very much for the big reputations they have.
There's not enough great blogging, so when it happens, it's worth pointing out.
First what do I mean by great blogging?
1. People talking about things they know about, not just expressing opinions about things they are not experts in (nothing wrong with that, of course).
2. Asking hard questions that powerful people might not want to be asked.
3. Saying things that few people have the courage to say.
Most blogging, like most journalism is pretty easy-going as you'll see in some of the responses to the three examples below. That makes it harder for people to do the right thing.
So here are the three examples.
1. Allen Stern asks if others are uncomfortable that the President-elect is posting his videos to a commercial website, thereby favoring one company over another. (Most people answered no, some people put him down for asking the question. I said I support his concern.)
Update: Dan Farber addresses the issue head-on. As any reporter will tell you, the appearance of impropriety is every bit as bad as the impropriety. The incoming President can be forgiven (briefly) for favoring one company's product over another, but the dominance of that product is, imho, the opposite of an excuse. The President-elect should help create competition. I think competition is so important it should be written into the Constitution (it's not there unfortunately). The fact that the CEO of the company is on his board of economic advisers is a problem in its own right, and is compounded by Obama's favoring his product over competition. Yes, it matters. It really does.
2. Duncan Riley says, despite my kind words for Gabe Rivera, his algorithms are hidden and not clonable, and that there's a difference between sharing the feeds of the most-quoted sites and the sources he scans. He's absolutely right about that, and it's a question that should be dealt with, one way or the other. Either Rivera should disclose his algorithm and sources, and keep it current, or people should stop considering his sites anything other than his personal opinion about what's important. And even if it were just his personal opinion, its disrespectful of his readers to not say what his criteria are. People are scared to question Rivera because the algorithm is hidden, so they fear that if they're critical they'll stop getting pointers from TechMeme or Memeorandum, and because of his close relationship with Mike Arrington, whose site has always dominated TechMeme. These are things that would never be tolerated in the MSM, and shouldn't be in blogging. Riley has the courage to say so and that's appreciated.
3. Marc Canter expresses disappointment in the people who are being appointed to the Obama transition team related to tech policy. His points are all valid, I've had the same concerns. It makes it easier to express those concerns because Marc went first.
We owe these people more than the gratitude for having the courage to say what's obvious. So many others would rather look away from because powerful people don't want their secrets revealed and have ways of punishing people they don't like. Once one person sticks their neck out, it's easier for the second person to. To me, that's what blogging is about. Saying what needs to be said.
Update: Already getting pushback about the MSM line. I was thinking how most newspapers endorsed a Presidential candidate. They didn't just say "You should vote for Obama" -- they explained why they were saying that. This helps the reader understand the bias of the organization behind the newspaper, and their reasoning process. If the editorial board supports one candidate, it might be hard for them to tell you bad news about that person, or good news about his or her opponent. People have a right to know how you arrived at your decision, and if you're not saying why, that should also be explained. As far as I know, Rivera has never said one way or the other. Even so, I find value in his sites.
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.
"The protoblogger." - NY Times.
"The father of modern-day content distribution." - PC World.
One of BusinessWeek's 25 Most Influential People on the Web.
"Helped popularize blogging, podcasting and RSS." - Time.
"The father of blogging and RSS." - BBC.
"RSS was born in 1997 out of the confluence of Dave Winer's 'Really Simple Syndication' technology, used to push out blog updates, and Netscape's 'Rich Site Summary', which allowed users to create custom Netscape home pages with regularly updated data flows." - Tim O'Reilly.
My most recent trivia on Twitter.
© Copyright 1997-2008 Dave Winer.
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