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New conference format: The unsummit

Sunday, November 09, 2008 by Dave Winer.

A picture named menwalk.jpgI've never liked the idea of conferences calling themselves "summits." Too often they are self-parodies. Too self-important. And often anything but summits, excluding people who would be at a summit if there ever were one.  Permalink to this paragraph

Even with nations it isn't always obvious who belongs at a summit. If you want to have a summit of the most powerful nations on earth, you'd have to include Russia, China, the US. But what about India? They have more people than either Russia or the US, and they have nukes now, and a fast-growing economy (at least before Sept). But if you have India don't you have to have Pakistan? You see where this is headed. Maybe they should just call them meetings and be done with summitry even at the world level. Permalink to this paragraph

If they call something a summit it probably isn't one. Permalink to this paragraph

It's esp ironic to have pseudo-summitry in the world of Web 2.0, where the whole point of the technology is to decentralize and distribute power.  Permalink to this paragraph

The other day at lunch a friend was talking about "the blogosphere" as if it were centered in San Francisco. I know other people who think it's centered in Washington. I wonder how many centers "the blogosphere" has. Permalink to this paragraph

I'm tempted, every time I hear a summit coming up, to have a parallel unsummit nearby. I thought I could reserve the domain, but someone else (smart!) had the same idea in a completely different industry.  Permalink to this paragraph

When people have a summit they're assuming for themselves the right to say whose opinion matters and whose doesn't. As my mother used to say, if they have to do that to feel good about themselves, it's probably not worth it to be part of their little group. Okay mom, you were right about that one. ;-> Permalink to this paragraph

I tend to mis-spell summits as submits, as if when saying it you had a cold. Submission, now there's something worth having an unsummit about! ;-> Permalink to this paragraph

There's actually a lot to say about submission. It's one of those cool things you don't think is cool at first. I wrote a piece about submission in 1999. Young people tend to struggle against submission, but you're born to submit. You submit to gravity from day one. It's possible, with enough energy, to escape it, but in normal times we're quite happy to submit to gravity and have all our friends and belongings submit to it as well.  Permalink to this paragraph

A picture named expired.jpgAnd of course that's just the beginning of submission. In the end we all submit to the grim reaper. That's just how it is. And I think the folk who have summits are fighting the inevitable as well, sooner or later no one cares what any of us thought, the world goes on. As a great French philosopher once said, "The graveyards are full of indispensable men." In much the same way, so are summits. Permalink to this paragraph

So the unsummit would begin with a word of thanks for the bounty of ideas and experience before us, and the doors would be open to all who wish to contribute.  Permalink to this paragraph


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A picture named dave.jpgDave 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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