Lessons Learned: Convention Blogging
What we learn from the Convention blogging, is an account by Dan Bricklin, reflecting on the presence of bloggers at the Democratic Convention in Boston, USA, this week. He follows it up with a second post
It reminds me of the conversations we had at BlogTalk about blogging from the venue. Myself, I'm more in the listen now, reflect later camp, but I do appreciate those who are able to report, point to relevant other sources etc, share atmosphere and emotions in real time. It's just not something I am good at. I enjoy reading it though, as it reinforces my presence when I am at the event, and it helps me feel connected to the group on the ground when I'm not. It builds and reinforces community in that way.
Dan follows it up with a second post, on how the press reflected on the bloggers. The journalist he cites seems to be as self-referential as what he accuses the bloggers of.
Apparantly the question if blogging is journalism played a central role again. A question to which the answer is "no, but it can be sometimes" (when the blogger is a journalist) and it's a discussion I think was closed at BlogTalk. David Weinberger already wrote about what journalists don't get about bloggers, and this seems to be supporting that theory. They see those blogs and those aspects of blogging that resemble the traditional role of reporting media the most, and think that that must be what blogging is about.
Thanks to Danah Boyd for the pointer.0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
New Type of Comment Spam
Last night I was hit by several dozen spam comments that exhibited a new type of behaviour. The comments were praising the usual stuff you don't want to buy, but the links were to real blogs!
I'm not sure how this would help the spammers, I can only imagine that this is a way to get us to start blocking eachothers url's. Is this an attempt to aim vandalism at what makes blogging worthwile: the networks we form?
Ah, wait no it isn't: the blogentries linked to, are blogentries that contain the original spam comments we know. So this is an attempt to googlebomb. Spam site A with hollow compliments and linking to your gambling outfit or whatever. Then spam site B, linking to Site A with your gambling outfit as a link description. As Google takes into account how links are described this might give you an edge in Google. So now, the google-weight of site A is deployed to boost the spam term used in site B's comments. And since site A links to the spammers home base it gets associated with it. Or something like that.
2 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
[Update] Jay Allen of MT Blacklist writes about this too.
Back to Using Pens
Via Collin Brooke, I came across this new way of looking at computer design, that will certainly get a place on my wannahave list as it gets to market.
The 5-pen computer by NEC:
One pen with the CPU, one with projecting a virtual keyboard, one projecting the output, one with a camera, and one for communications. This with a base containing a battery charger and a mass storage device. Prototype will be around 30k$, or 24kE. Cool!
Realisation on the CPU pen and the Base is open at the moment, but the display, communication, keyboard and camera pen are either near completion, or almost near completion. As to the keyboard, projecting a virtual keyboard is already available on the market. The remaining two pens don't sound as the most difficult, so I think this will see the light of day relatively soon.
I am curious when we will hear more about this, and be able to get rid of the white humming towers under the desk.5 Comments and 1 Trackbacks | Permalink
What the Media Don't Understand About Blogging
David Weinberger, blogging at Boston.com, the blog covering the Democratic National Convention, in Boston's Fleet Center, searches for a good short answer to the question "What don't the media understand about blogging?".
To him it is their tendency to focus on the A-listers to understand the blogging phenomenon, because that is what resembles themselves closest. To David, as to me, the important part of blogging is the social dimension, and that is mostly found outside of the A-list.
At BlogTalk there was some discussion about the power-law and the A-listers. I never have thought this a very useful discussion, as in my eyes the power-law becomes irrelevant the moment you stop looking at your weblog as broadcasting. Then exactly where you are in the A-Z-list spectrum doesn't matter, as starting dialogues, building networks and creating communities isn't influenced by power-law factors like the first one in wins. It's authenticity and consistency that determine that, and other factors influencing group-size are then much more important.
Once you see the power-law is of no particular relevance to your blog, then the whole discussion whether blogging is journalism becomes obsolete in the same way. That again seems to be a hot topic mainly because the media project themselves on blogging. At BlogTalk Horst Prillinger put that discussion to rest with a resounding NO to the question whether blogging is journalism. Jane Perrone of the Guardian did as well.
So, blogging is not broadcasting, it's not journalism, it's merely that some blogs are. But those are not the blogs that show the most interesting aspects of blogging, those are the visible ones because they resemble existing media the most.
(btw, as I found this in Weinbergers blog about the DNC, here's an aggregation of bloggers at the DNC.)0 Comments and 3 Trackbacks | Permalink
Dutch Bloggers Overview
On several occasions I have complained about the fact that it seemd hard to find Dutch blogs with a professional orientation. Most Dutch blogs seem to be lifelogs or linkdumps. But over time I did come across several of course, and now I have put them all together in a list.
I hope some of you will be able to add more!
Go over to my Wiki, to see or add more professionally oriented bloggers (in Dutch, or by Dutch or written in the Netherlands) to the list.0 Comments and 2 Trackbacks | Permalink
BlogTalk Impressions IV: The Presentations
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.
Lisbeth Klastrup, abstract, blog
Stephanie Hendrick, abstract, blog
Therese ?-rnberg, abstract, blog
Elmine Wijnia, abstract, blog, presentation (ppt)
Torrill Mortensen, abstract, blog
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 seperate blogposts to an outsider and have him try and figure out the context of the blogs. This worked remarkably well, suggesting that having blogstories 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 projectstatus-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 Jörg 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.
Interesting stories were given by a panel of edubloggers. Sebastian I heard before on his views and actions regarding education and blogging. 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.
BlogTalk Impressions III: About the congress format
BlogTalk is unique
First BlogTalk is the only place in the world where weblogs and more importantly their use and effects are discussed in any depth. North Americans present at this conference as well as Bloggercon found the latter severely lacking in substance and more hype oriented than anything else. At BlogTalk people complained about too much academic depth, whereas I and others would say that BlogTalk is not by far academically enough. (And I'm not an academic, I'm not pursuing a personal agenda in that sense. But real, intense bridges between Academia and practice are badly needed!)
BlogTalk has matured
BlogTalk 2.0 was a different event from last year. Last year was a first get-together of enthousiasts and that geeky atmosphere was somewhat tangible throughout. This time around much more time was spent on exploring how different disciplines can benefit from the use of this tool and how it does and might change our way of going about things. Less discussion on what a blog is, less mention of revolution, more down to earth application, and more fruitful attempts to understand the impact of the tool from different perspectives. But we could still take further steps down that road.
Also the use of tools matured as compared to last year. Where we were all experimenting with backchanneling and WLAN the last time, now this stuff was all prepared in advance. The irc channel was announced beforehand, there were Wiki-pages at hand, WLAN was explicitly provided (and anticipated: we crashed the system by overdemand during the first few hours already). And the experimenting continued: an interactive map of Vienna, annotated by us all
through an MT-blog, collective notetaking with SubEthaEdit as the % of Apple-users was high (When do these cool tools become available platform independent?) and live-streaming from the venue. I bet all of these will be prerequisites for the next time, and I think they should be much more incorporated into the event as well.
BlogTalk should be in a different format
There is a lot about BlogTalk that can be improved I think. This is certainly no sign of disrespect to Thomas Burg and his team. I enthusiastically and wholeheartedly applaud them for pulling this event off for the second time and I respect them a lot for doing it. So this certainly is constructive criticism. First of all, two days of listening to presentations back to back is simply too much to get your head around. It also flies in the face of the notion that a lot of the most productive things that happen at a conference take place in the face to face conversations during breaks and in the evenings. So cutting down on breaks because presenters overstretch their time e.g. is a total no-no to me. (I was happy I could keep strictly to scheduled (coffee)breaks during the part I chaired).
We have to find a way around that, without however doing away with the presentations in general. They provide a valuable platform, and a necessary one for some of the more complicated stuff, to be able to present ideas more rigorously so that the ensuing conversations become deeper and richer. Point is that a number of the presentations during the conference could have done without that platform. The same goes for the publication of proceedings afterwards.
Where could BlogTalk go next?
There are several things to consider. Certainly, if you want to be heard and also want to be able to allow attendants to get their expenses (partly) funded, you will have to keep the conference with one leg in the formal academic travelling conference circus. The same applies if we want to see Thomas Burg and his New Media team at the Danube University Krems be able to continue organising BlogTalk, or conferences like it. The conference needs its place in the often intransparent hierarchy of Academia, to be able to offer itself as a
But we can think of variations on the format to improve on the overall effect of the conference. Why not bring the conversational part into the conference? Make the key-notes real key-notes, not merely presentations by speakers of note. Condense the presentations into 1 day, or better two half-days. And then continue with real discussions and conversations as opposed to the ritualised two-and-a-half questions after each panel before we run out of time. For the latter, Open Space formatted sessions could well be a good idea. We could condense the programme by turning part of the presentations into posters for instance.
One could also imagine two or three parallel streams, but only if it does not break down the multidisciplinary character, which is one of the absolute plusses of BlogTalk. Participants who stick to their own seperate discipline in the scientific ecosystem of specialisms is not what this conference should aim for. Knowledge is created in social interaction and especially when systems borders are crossed and different approaches meet. Create ambitions in this sense, and aim for results.
BlogTalk can be an experimental playground
BlogTalk is organised by the New Media team of the Danube University. Why not align the practice of the conference with the subject of their work? Deliberately create experiments with new tools to run alongside the conference, explicitely provide infrastructure and use it actively as integral part of the event. Why not include the IRC backchannel in the reports and proceedings? Why not display live blogged reports on screens in the venue? Invite tool-makers to propose interesting ways of augmenting the conference experience, and let them try it out.
Streaming video and audio resulted in a thousand people on-line as extra audience for the conference, part of them participated in the IRC channel, and commented on the live blogged posts thus joining in the conversational space. Can we provide better structures for that?
Blogging isn't per definition journalism, but journalism can have a blogging format. Have the conference blogged by people specifically invited to do so. Use those reports, display them, interview attendees etc. Also put more effort into pre-conference and post-conference interaction.
The possibilities here are large. Phil Wolff and I, in another context, came up with quite an extensive list of those as related to blogging and new media, and I think it would be rather easy to mobilise a group of people that are willing to help Thomas's team make use of those possibilities. At least as it is true, as I can imagine, that their energy is already being stretched by putting this conference together as it is.
A third BlogTalk? Yes please, but not in this form.
In essence it is strange to organise a conference around a tool. There are no congresses around using a hammer, or using the wheel. A conference like this is needed if we haven't come to grips yet with what a tool is, when it's use is still emerging, and pro-actively want to think about how we might use it to shape our world, and how in turn it will shape us. We do have conferences about technology development and philosophy of science and technology. In those aspects, that do not have to be abstract at all as they deal with real
impacts on our very real lives, lies the interest and value of BlogTalk for me. That is why I was glad to see this blogging tool we use discussed in knowledge sharing, sociological, liguistical, media and communications contexts last week.
BlogTalk can stay an academically recognized and valuable event if the event is able to evolve in that direction, to create new meaning by changing its shape and form. I am quite willing to help bring that about. But even if it doesn't I am bound to attend the next one anyway: the people are way to interesting to miss out on.
And of course all I previously wrote about what a good conference is applies as well.3 Comments and 3 Trackbacks | Permalink
Blogtalk Impressions II: About Vienna
Vienna is a friendly city. Great atmosphere, and even though our apartment turned out to be in a somewhat seedy neighbourhood just of the Prater, with hookers on the corner and all, even there it felt safe, clean and friendly. Thomas told us that because of the extension of the U2 underground line the area is getting more gentrified slowly. Tomorrow morning at 7 am we will say goodbye to Vienna, and turn our car north towards the Netherlands again, with a lunch scheduled in Neuremberg with Sebastian Fiedler.
What I liked about Vienna, and what we in the Netherlands could learn from, is the large number of very reasonable priced places to eat. A large Wiener Schnitzel and a large beer for around 10 Euro's is something I would like to be available at home. Somehow due to zoning laws perhaps restaurants always end up in the city center, which makes them expensive by default. Also we have no eating-out culture, either for lunch of dinner.
However seeing nothing but 18th and 19th century buildings in the city gets tiring. Especially as the whole Romantic era and the height of the K.u.K. power in the Austro-Hungarian double monarchy is not the most interesting period to me. A feeling I have for the 18th and 19th century in general I must say. The frivolous ornamentations on even the simplest of buildings gets irritating after a view days. Apparantly I like a more varied architectural diet for my eyes. Friedensreich Hundertwasser catered for some of that much needed variation, and my compliments go to the city fathers who commissioned him to design a social housing project, against general criticism at the time.
We did some of the usual touristy stuff, saw the Schönbrunn Palace, the Hofburg, the Prater, Mozarts house and Stephans Dom. Enjoyed Sachertorte at Oberlaar, and like last year the gigantic ice coups at Café de l'Europe, on the Graben. Browsed for books at Morawa (look forward to reading 'Expelled from Hell' by Austrian author Menasse), and slept in the Burggarten.
We also visited the Albertina museum, which is well worth your time. Last year I saw a great Edvard Munch exhibition there , now they were in between major exhibitions alas. The photographs of Seiichi Furuya were very interesting though. I especially liked the way he chronicled the Iron Curtain, and his hommage to his wife that died very young.
What I enjoyed most of all was that I could share it all with my partner. Not just the sight-seeing stuff but also the BlogWalk and BlogTalk meetings. It was great to both take part with our own agenda, but to be able to enjoy it all together.0 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
BlogTalk Impressions I
Two days packed with presentations cannot but wear you down. Two days packed with interesting people cannot but energize and inspire you. Put them together and you've got my current state for the last couple of days. Mind buzzing with thoughts, soundbites, ideas intermitted frequently with "I should write that down now", and body exhausted, fingers cannot be bothered to write stuff down.
So the next postings only form a first attempt to get some things down in writing. I've broken it up in pieces to make your reading easier.
BlogWalk 3.0 Aftermath
The third blogwalk meeting, about weblog networks, went well. It was different from the last two times: more people, less overlap in who knew eachother before. A number of people signed up for the meeting at the last moment, but that worked out nicely too. The meeting was sort of a warm-up for BlogTalk the two-day conference. This had the effect that the group was more international, with some North Americans attending as well.
We took more time getting to know each other, and thus the first part the day was less focussed than I had expected. Nevertheless the group seemd to need it so I tried not to interfere much in my moderating/facilitating role, and just go with the flow. Lunch, the afternoon walk (for both of which Siegfried joined us) was good after which we continued at the venue again. We rounded off with a group discussion which helped a lot in making the earlier conversations more concrete and create more explicit questions and answers.
Several things I took away from this meeting are:
Getting from ideas to action in bloggers-networks might be difficult in part because it is a phase-transition of sorts from emergent pattern forming towards planned and controlled execution of steps. Blogs certainly aren't made for the latter, and although we integrate multiple channels of communication in our blogs already we aren't quite used to make that switch, at least not seemless. That is can be done of course is proven by BlogWalk itself.
Also network forming might benefit from being able to determine in a more nuanced way what is public and what is more private/closed. This now to a large extent is a binary thing. It's all in the open, or shielded behind the firewall. Being able to define different levels of publicness or privacy might be a step towards helping facilitate the phase-shift mentioned above.
One action also came out of this blognetwork-get-together. Piers Young (thanks for coming Piers!), Lilia Efimova and I decided to start a little work on personal knowledge management. I am looking forward to get going with that.
Blogwalkers on the balcony. Photo by JJ Merelo
Martin Roell and I at the end of the meeting had a little chat on the balcony and found that we were somewhat disappointed by the (lack of) outcome. I think we were expecting a bit too much, and also spoilt by the previous meetings, especially the first one in Enschede where we got into very deep discussions from the get-go. Also we, illogically, expected to be able to continue and build upon earlier BlogWalk conversations and results. That of course was impossible, as this was a different group altogehter. During a pleasant conversation with Lee Bryant the next day over beers, he proposed that if you want to create that effect it might be a good idea to do some pre- and post-discussion and also try and capture more of the results from the discussions. Create artefacts as it were, so that we leave trails of our efforts. I will certainly spend some time thinking about that in the coming weeks, as this is also important to the question how we want to continue on as a series. Not all meetings can be arranged like this by Lilia, Sebastian and me.
All in all a great day. We had positive feedback of a lot of the participants, and Markus Breuer made my day, as Eric Ras did in Nuremberg, by saying that it was an extremely informal day that however took very intense concentration all the time. That is precisely what I like these BlogWalks to be. Informal, but very much challenging and inspiring.
Special thanks go to Thomas Burg for arranging the venue, even though he was organising a conference himself, and to Tom Fürstner for providing the venue and at the same time joining in our conversations. Thanks also to all that were present:
A slew of people to add to the feed reader!1 Comments and 0 Trackbacks | Permalink
Dreamfeed: You know it's been intense....
......when you dream about blogging the BlogTalk conference.........when you wake up realising you forgot what you were blogging in your dream.........and then think, ah well, I'll check the RSS feed of it later, and copy it from there. ;D
It's been great the past three days! Thanks to everyone who made that possible.
BlogWalking the BlogTalking
Well, in Vienna now. Arrived here Friday, and rented an apartment. Yesterday saw the third edition of BlogWalk, which was good fun. A lot of people this time, and a lot of interesting conversations resulted from that. The morning was less focussed than it could have been, and I have some reflection to do on the way I moderated it. But still it was a day very well spent, thanks to all those who participated, especially the ones who travelled to Vienna for BlogWalk only!
Now back to listening.1 Comments and 1 Trackbacks | Permalink