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« PDFing | Main | Disney dream denied »

May 18, 2007


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No linky for Converge Southy?

Ed Cone

There's a ConvergeSouth badge at the bottom of the lefthand column at this page -- links to the conference site.

About time to move it up...

Caren Rabbino

Although there were some very worthwhile moments, I wonder why I feel more depleted than inspired by the PDF conference. Two things come to mind: the insidious exchange of marketing for politics-- because speakers were all charged up about 2.0 and social networks, the focus was on swaying mass opinion not about any significant or hoped for outcome. Why did we hear more about "technique" than purpose? Which brings me to my second point: the whole notion of "flattening" is about how individuals can overcome their own perceived lack of agency in the politcal process. Bloggers are a special class of opinion-makers within the sprawling public discourse, the outlaws meant to break the constraints of traditional media, right? Well, not a single moment of social or political transgression in 10 hours of conferencing with 600 people or so. Remember the Guerilla Girls? These political wonks could take a page from the feminists, the Dada artists, and the other social outliers who strain against normativity. Seemed to me that panelists and audience members alike were about as self-regulating a group as I have seen in a long time. If you're right, and this was pitched to the NY media establishment, then appearing like moderate, very rational brand managers for P&G is not the way to engender respect.


I agree re: it felt like watching tv. Friedmen was the low point for me. But in his defense. We weren't his audience -- his job is to interpret these things for the laymen. And if it had been an audience of laymen, his talk might have been recieved much better.

But for the people who were there. He wasn't particularly thrilling.

Yochai Benkler on the other hand blew my mind. (still looking for the pieces).

It was also nice to meet you cousin Ed.
Thank you for the feedback re: My idea for networked journalism covering edcuation.

Ed Cone

Ideas and feedback were much more plentiful at the unconference -- shame the bigwigs didn't stick around. I think your idea has a lot of promise, keep me posted as you move along, I've got some ideas about building the network and maybe even funding.


Ed: "About time to move it up..."

About time for you to choose which panel, how-to or workshop you'd like to participate in, no?

Go right here to send in your idea and it's open to anyone, everyone, and you can pick a panel team (two people make a panel). It's a wide open invitation.

Ball. Court. Yours. C'mon, Ed. Play nicely with others and bring your friends.


Um, let's have our funding meeting again, eh? Coffee? Wednesday morning? Same place as last year? 9 a.m.? With or without dogs?

Ed Cone

I am coming home with a lot of ideas, and some great contacts...Need to check my calendar re Weds when I get back to my office, but yep it's time to get together. Thnx.

Micah Sifry


I'm sorry if the morning sessions at PdF were too remedial or lecture-like for your taste--though I take issue with that blanket judgement since I've heard from lots of people who said that Lessig, Benkler, boyd and Godin all blew their minds. I regret that there is probably nothing we could have done to present something that Fred Stutzman doesn't already know; but that's a tribute to Fred's intelligence and leadership in this space.

I take issue with your saying we had "limited interactivity" however. For goodness sake, we had wifi in the room with an active chat with something like 20-30 people in it, and we also had set up a "pdf2007" Twitter account that ultimately had about 70 people using it to share updates. Plus where we had time speakers took questions from the audience. And, as you note, the conference pulled together a rich assortment of people who seemed to have a grand time seeing each other, meeting new folks and making "great contacts."

Was it too packed? Probably. But our struggle every year we put this conference together is to figure out how to draw together not just the politechnorati, but also the movers and shakers from the political arena who have so much to gain from this conversation. And those folks just don't have a culture of going to 2- or 3-day conferences where everything is done in a more leisurely fashion, let alone paying for them. If you have any suggestions on how to better program the day, I'm all ears.

Micah Sifry

Ed Cone

Micah, thanks for the comment, and thanks for your hard work in putting together the conference (which I'm very happy to have attended) and for the valuable contribution you are making with TechPresident.

I, too, regret the fact that much of the morning was "too remedial or lecture-like," as did many of your attendees with whom I spoke.

The morning was far from a total loss. As I said in my post, Lessig rocked, and several others (including Boyd and Benkler) left me wanting more. One person told me she'd have taken a whole morning of Benkler, and I think many others felt the same way.

Even Schmidt delivered some value, as the CEO of Google would probably do even by accident. But the whole practice of selling a time-slot to a corporate sponsor seems antithetical to "personal democracy," and the softballs lobbed by Friedman were a disappointment. You can define interactivity as electronic chatter and a sharply limited set of questions from the crowd, but for Schmidt to leave something called the "Personal Democracy Forum" without facing any serious questions about Google's growing power as an information broker and owner -- especially after describing his own personalization service as "creepy" -- shows how shallow the claim of interactivity was.

As for Friedman's solo slot, it was not up to the standards of the event in form and content. Farouk Olu Aregbe is a much more important voice in this context; his minimal slot was cut short.

Suggestions? More is not always more. Too many people saying not enough is not good. True in the morning, true in the afternoon; the five-person panel is a dinosaur. It's funny you would think I want a "leisurely" conference -- I thought this was a leisurely conference. I want an intense conference.

I have plenty of ideas, and I'm sure other attendees, do as well. I will happily share them with you in the days and weeks ahead.

In the meantime, I hope you have a beer and relax after putting on a notable event, and then to listen to the praise and the criticism and make next year even better.


I've participated in a writing group every week for nearly six years now. We have only one rule: If you care at all about the person you're critiquing, say nice things first. I believe that wisdom might apply here.

Mr. Cone's review of the conference was balanced, constructive and thoughtful. I especially appreciated his reliance on details, which grounded the more general comments in specifics I could related to. It would have been helpful if he had written first about the considerable value he got from the conference, rather than focus on the lack of interactivity.

Of course, if you don't give a durn about the group or person you're commenting on, it's fine to come out with guns blazing.


Ed Cone

Next time, skip the "writing group" and look for a journalism workshop.

I was there on a press pass to cover the event.

No news that such an assemblage of talent should create value; news that it was a conference about "personal democracy" and the internets that was formatted in a completely conventional way and included stretches (e.g., Friedman solo, presidential staff panel) that were as stale and full of empty calories as a box of week-old Krispy Kremes.


Workshop? Maybe those three years I spent getting a masters degree here would qualify. Or perhaps you're confusing journalism with editorial writing? In classes with Walter Spearman, I came to appreciate the bright line between the two, though that line has clearly faded in today's grave new world.

I'm not saying the conference didn't suck. I didn't expect much from it, which is why I didn't go.

I was simply saying this:

If you care at all about the person you're critiquing, say nice things first.

It seemed, from your down-thread comments, that you care about the feelings of the conference organizer. That's not something I've ever expected from journalists.

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