I just watched the live webcast of two friends, Jay Rosen and Jeff Jarvis, give talks at TEDxNYED. They both did well. At the end of Jeff's talk he told a story about about a big moment in our friendship. Of course he tells it from his point of view. I'm sure they'll release a video of the talk so you can hear it. This is the story from my point of view.
I am an evangelist. I think I see how things are going, then I want to show other people, so we can get there faster. Sometimes if I have to, to get the idea going, I write some software, or create a format. That was my role in blogging, RSS and podcasting. And the unconference format that Jeff was describing in his talk.
I wrote that format up here a few days ago, because we're doing it again at NYU, but that piece was just an edit of a document that I wrote before the first BloggerCon. I sent links to all the discussion leaders. I talked with each of them before the conference. I knew the idea would be hard to get, because we all had a lifetime of training that said that conferences were mostly one-way affairs. I wanted to try something different, a conference where there were no speakers, no panels, no audience. I wanted the good stuff, the hallway conversations, to be drawn back into the formal conference.
Even though we prepared, and knew the format worked (we were running the Berkman Thursday meetings with it) most of the discussion leaders didn't get it at first. When I walked into the room where Jarvis was preparing to lead a discussion at BloggerCon, I saw that he had put a set of chairs in front of the room, and people were sitting in the chairs. It was an awkward fit, there wasn't enough room in front, but despite all the preparation, there was the old format trying to boot up!
So I asked the people sitting in the chairs to rejoin the rest of the people in the classroom. Then I said to Jarvis, "This is your panel..." -- and I opened my arms to embrace the whole room. From this point our stories are in total agreement. God you could almost see the light bulb go on over Jarvis's head. Immediately he started leading the discussion, and to this day he is one of the best practitioners of BloggerCon format, and is evangelizing it too.
This blog post is an instance of the philosophy that says that everyone's point of view is valid and should be heard. In the old world, the speaker's version would be the only one to get out there. Or the professor's or the reporter's. But in the new world, each of us have a platform to tell our story. That same principle can be applied to conferences, and if it's done well, and Jarvis does it well, with spectacular results.