Even if the marathon of presentations for two days was very tiring, it was very much worth it, sitting through them.
The quality of presentations varied widely (oh how I hate it when somebody just reads a text without adding intonation of even with facial expressions acknowledging that what is read aloud is interpreted and understood by the reader, I want the presenter to add depth to the text. Not regurgitate what I could read for myself in less than a quarter of the time.)
as did the quality of the stories. Loads of interesting thoughts and observations to take home though.
I will not go into depth in describing what others have transcribed very well elsewhere. I’m just highlighting the things that stuck with me. (for transcriptions see the Joi Ito Wikipages, the fine result from collective SubEthaEditing of Apple-owners present)
The Social Scientists
On the first day of the conference I think the panel with Lisbeth Klastrup, Therese ?-rnberg, Stephanie Hendrick and Elmine Wijnia worked out very well, also in combination with the key note by Torrill Mortensen.
The key words here were immersion, dialogue, conversation in slow motion, and immediacy.
Additionally the panel I chaired on the second day in which Markus Glötzel took part added to the perspectives given the first day. I’ve written about it in German already, but Markus very nicely used Helmut Willkes sociological theories about context and micro-articles, to see if blogging indeed can be used to make personal knowledge available to organisations through blogs.
He let a group of 15 people blog, and then handed over a printed out stack of all the separate blogposts to an outsider and have him try and figure out the context of the blogs. This worked remarkably well, suggesting that having blog stories around in your organisation about past and present projects enables other colleagues to acquire a real context-filled picture of what transpired and take part in a shared set of values and concepts. How’s that compared to project status sheets. I look forward to reading his entire thesis, which I asked for by e-mail. The link in the program seems to be dead.
Mikel Maron (abstract, blog) opened up interesting vistas by wondering aloud what geotagging could mean for human communication, and how it would inspire new applications. He also did an interesting experiment by providing a map of Vienna, annotated through a weblog by the users of the map themselves. This is stuff I like!
Jon Hoem (abstract, blog) from Norway talked about possibilities of using video in blogformats and thus make collective documentaries. This connected nicely to J�rg Kantels view of blogs as bottom up media and thus fit for use as activists platforms, like the underground pamphlets and illegal radio stations of old.
The guys from Zoomblox (abstract, ppt slides)presented the bloggingtool they made for kids. Though I don’t understand why you would want to excessively use flash, I did like some of the features they build into it, like simply dragging and dropping images where you want them, or altering your colourscheme by simply clicking the colour. I don’t see why only 10 year olds would get to play like that and we grown ups have to put up with hacking img-tag attributes and editing hexadecimal codes in css files to get the pictures where we want them, and get the pretty colours we like. We want that to be kidsplay too!
Phil Wolff, not in one of the panels himself, repeatedly asked the panelists a valuable question: how would the tools we use have to be adapted to realise the potential the panelists sketched. Even if this triggered me being outed as a geek by Elmine who said “Tools should be much easier to use. I use Moveable Type but only because my boyfriend is a geek”, I am glad he put the question forward. I hope the toolmakers listened carefully.
Anjo Anjewierden demonstrated his tool to map the concepts used in a weblog, and compare them to other weblogs to see the shared conceptualizations between them. I already saw this tool last March at the Telematica Institute, but it was great to see it again and used in this way. I would like to see my own weblog analysed like that, to see if the map provides me with new insight into the conceptual landscape I inhabit. Sadly Anjo seems to have trouble in getting my blog analysed. First it was because I use different subdomains in my URL’s, and now that is solved some other problem seems to cause trouble. I sure hope Anjo got more than the 10 mails he requested, to help him decide bringing this tool out under a GPL.
In the audience Matt Mower and Paolo Valdemarin were busily taking notes, so I am curious what that will turn into in the near future. Matt also organised an interesting conference on social tools, STES, also with Phil Wolff attending, alongside other interesting people. Hopefully bridges and links were build between the information discussed at both events.
Several providers were presenting. Stefan Glänzer of 20six discussed some statistics (likelyness to quit etc.), stating that the number of bloggers in the Netherlands was quite significant. Although he couldn’t point me to professionally themed blogs, it rekindled my wish to find more professionally interesting bloggers in my own country. (for which I have now set up a wiki-page). Funny tidbit: blogs that start with a post like “test, test” are most likely to be abandoned within 3 months. The second post then being something like “hello, is somebody reading this?”, and the third and last “I think I will drop by later again”. Indeed, blogging is unlike chatting 🙂
Nico Lumma of Orangemedia (abstract) presented figures and facts about the German blogosphere (as did Fernando Tricas and JJ Merelo on the Spanish language blogosphere, and Denisa Kera about the Czech blogosphere) and in general concluded that there could and should be a lot more German bloggers. This message somehow in the German press got twisted into the suggestion that the German language bloggers were lamenting the fact that there are too little German blogs, and that they don’t know how to remedy that. Which is far off from what was actually said: that uptake of blogging seems to be behind uptake elsewhere, but that the numbers are still steadily growing.
Barbara Ganley had a very passionate account about her use of blogging in her literature courses. She’s certainly not one who’s afraid of change and see the world settle into new patterns around her, even though it seems to have gotten some of her colleagues running away screaming.
Our southern neighbour Tom de Bruyne gave us a view of how he uses blogs in his teaching in Belgium. Funny to see how he adapted Hubert Roth’s of Retecool.com usually rancid FotoFuckFriday into a teaching format (as the more moderately named Photoshop Tuesday)
The KM angle
In a sense it was a pity that I chaired the panel that had a clear KM angle, so instead of asking the panel a barrage of questions, I had to moderate the discussion and strictly keep to the timetable. But then again it was an honour to be able to introduce both Lee Bryant and Martin Roell to the audience. Both people whom I met through blogging, and for whom I have a large amount of respect. Where Martin presented a more theoretical approach, Lee gave a great account of his work for the Mental Health Service in the UK, empowering people to really share their expertise and passion bridging many different organisations, professions, and geographical distances. The combination of the two, theory and practice, worked out nicely. It’s the type of combination I like to see more.
In the end I think the call of Mark Bernstein, in the opening key-note, for more (and more varied types of) research is what sums up best the need for another BlogTalk conference. Especially where the researchers themselves are prepared to immerse themselves into their subject. It seems that without experiencing this medium it is very hard to get a feeling for what makes the medium attractive. This goes against the grain of the idea of the researcher as objective outsider. But of course we know since quantum physics that we will have to learn to include the observer in certain circumstances. The often derided action research (and often justly derided because of the way it was applied in the 70’s) looks like a useful approach here. But that is already discussed elsewhere.