I stole the idea of having everyone sing (like so many ideas for ConvergeSouth) from Dave Winer.
Hoggard led us in a (mercifully truncated) version of Nothing Could Be Finer Than To Be In Carolina In the Morning, which happens to be true. Xark: "[I]t confirmed Ed's theory that group humiliation is a bonding experience."
Something important from the last session: William Wingo said ConvergeSouth was the best bit of branding Greensboro could have hoped for today.
Below, Hoggard and Wingo, center and right on the second row.
TheScobles came a long damn way. Elizabeth Edwards gave up some of her very limited downtime in the midst of a book tour. People sacrificed their weekends to make it to Greensboro. Everyone invested their time or money in something that we gave away for free.
Above, Robert and Maryam Scoble during their session.
Indie Rock Mayhem podcast with Mr Sun and me, yapping about web creativity and ConvergeSouth and all kinds of stuff we sort of think we know something about...Josh was generous with his time and gently steered us in interesting directions and still got some good music into the mix...Sol and I come in around minute 33, but check out the rest of the show, too. Or just skip us and listen to the music.
We have so many podcasters and vid-bloggers coming to ConvergeSouth that I'm wondering if we should make rooms available for breakout sessions on those topics...or maybe such will just spontaneously generate in the hallways and the atrium...Kind of like going to the Fiddler's Convention in Galax, where the best music is often found far from the stages, amidst the campers and trailers and trucks in the parking lots and fields.
And for a lot more. I was talking last night with Paul Jones about our first GSO blog conference -- what may well have been the first local/regional event of its kind, and certainly a seminal moment in the emergence of Greensboro as a blogging hotbed -- and I found myself crediting Dave with a lot of its success. Not just because he pioneered the blogging unconference, and allowed me to grow into the role of session leader on the job, but in GSO-specific ways -- he stopped in and encouraged us to stretch and trust our attendees and do it right...and it worked really well.
And of course ConvergeSouth is a direct descendant of the BloggerCons and of the Piedmont '04 event.
Happy to see that MikeKrempasky is signed up to attend ConvergeSouth. His work at Red State should make him an asset in the community session, as should his work at Edelman. Plus, it's always interesting to meet in person folks you've only known online.
Having both the city's big papers up for sale helped focus a lot of smart folks in that area on the future of journalism, and the role of the web in that future. An email discussion group evolved around the idea of norgs, or news organizations that could thrive in this new hybridized world of print and electronic media. Some local folks, including Lex and me, joined in, along with bigthinkers around the country...
...and we are fortunate to have the opportunity to share in some of the accrued wisdom in Greensboro.
JR gives some detail and background in his column about ConvergeSouth: "The unconference will be followed by live music at Solaris and the Flying Anvil.
"The Joseph M. Bryan Foundation and the Tannenbaum-Sternberger
Foundation are the two major sponsors again. (And special recognition
to PayPerPost.com and Edelman for asking -- without any arm-twisting --
to be sponsors.)"
One obvious point is that we need to brand ourselves on our actual strengths and attributes, not rely on some one-size-fits-all catchphrase (e.g. Greensboro Connects) that says very little about us. People won't move here or move their companies here because we have a slogan, they'll come because we are green, comfortable, well-situated, and have excellent schools.
Well, we're green, comfortable, and well-located, that's a start.
A big part of the branding job is explaining ourselves to ourselves, and coordinating efforts to become our best selves. Action Greensboro did a great job last weekend of bringing thousands of college students together downtown (an event grievously undercovered by the N&R...) We need to understand ourselves as a college town, not just a town with colleges in it. Saturday night was a good step in that direction.
Sometimes, though, I feel that Action Greensboro and the powers that be don't really get some of the things right in front of them. ConvergeSouth, for one, a homegrown event that's all about the web and creativity, draws attention of the most positive sort to the city, but is unknown to much of the city. The big plan is for ConvergeSouth to grow into something similar to SXSW. Colleges, creativity and the web, a real music scene...we could be branding ourselves in some very good ways that the branders may grasp only tangentially.
A clean, green city that values its homegrown creative culture and educates its kids as well as anyone in the land would be easy to brand. And it's within our reach, if not our grasp.
A nice blurb on Elizabeth Edwards and ConvergeSouth in this morning's N&R (unposted). I guess I'd quibble over describing it as a "tech conference," because it's really a user conference for a largely non-techie group of people and journalists who want to do stuff on the web...a distinction without a difference? Maybe. But the whole point of this stuff is that it's so easy yahoos like me can do it, and I don't want to scare anyone off...
Speaking of EE's session on successful online communities, here's an example of not managing a community so well, as discussed by another of our session leaders, Robert Scoble.
And here are some thoughts on what it means for a person known best in a political context to lead an "apolitical" conversation.
A previous conversation about political diversity at web conferences. We did, of course, end up having a Nashville blog conference, which saw more political hackles raised than others I've attended...
Elizabeth is a
veteran of the John Edwards '04 and Kerry/Edwards campaigns, a key
participant in the One America Committee community, and an author who is
immersed in another kind of coummunity built around her story of
illness and recovery.
This is not a political session, although of course
Elizabeth is involved in politics, and it's not a book-tour event,
although her experiences in that realm are relevant. This is an
unconference session with Elizabeth as the leader and all conference
attendees as potential participants.
Welcome, Elizabeth, we're happy to have you on
Official Greensboro makes a lot of noise about our need for a "creative culture" while ignoring examples of Greensboro's actual creative culture.
This week, mayor Keith Holliday dissed the ConvergeSouth conference, a homegrown event that brings bigtime talent and attention to Greensboro, spotlights a local university, and builds on the creative energy and leadership of people from this city.
Last year, the conference included Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, ultimate blogfather Dave Winer, and Jay Rosen, one of the most respected thinkers about journalism and the web, along with hundreds of other people of the type Greensboro is so eager to attract. Even the theme was on-point: Creativity on the web for all people.
This year looks like another winner, a locally-conceived, locally-funded conference by and for the people of a creative culture. Once again our participants will stay downtown, enjoy our nightlife, and if all goes well, evangelize Greensboro as a hotbed of creativity and forward thinking.
It's free, even for City Council members. Drop on by, Keith, we'd love to see you.
That's an exaggeration: Sue had already done some legwork.
But we sat down at M'Coul's and she asked me what I thought and I said I thought I was too busy and tired to even consider helping to throw another one of these things together for next fall and she said, Great, here's what I need you to do...
Her vision is for a Saturday conference in October, very hands on, almost Uplifterish in places.
I'm supposed to come up with ideas and people for programs.
Already this morning Ross Myers called and we discussed using the milblogging stuff he's been working on as the core of a social networking session. Not a military blogging session per se, but a broader look at creating and participating in social networks that would capitalize on the experience of milbloggers. This stuff is huge, and it was a good conversation, and without making any firm plans I said the social networking idea was at the top of my list of possibilities (and at this moment the sum total of that list).
So I'm interested in ideas for programs.
Update: It occurs to me (duh) that there is the buzziest of buzzprases out there for all the cool stuff we want to help people do and that of course is Web 2.0, so I guess branding this thing as Web 2.0 in some way would be a smart move, because even though the term is semi-annoying it covers a lot of ground we want covered. And anyway, we were country when country wasn't cool, or 2.0 before it was cool, or something, so we might as well ride that buzz.
Dave Winer on increasing diversity at conferences: "The Greensboro blogging conference earlier this month was more interesting because there were far more black people there than I've ever seen at a tech industry conference. How did this happen? They chose North Carolina A&T, a state college that's largely black, to host the event. The professors and students were all black [ed. note: not all, but predominantly], as were many participants of the community. There's a big lesson in that. If you want change, like Dorothy, you have to leave Kansas, you can't expect change to come to you, you have to go there."
A charming presence at ConvergeSouth was Antonella Napolitano, who came to us from Italy via Vassar, and captioned her Flickr photos in (mostly) Italian that even this North Carolinian can translate with a little help from context and French cognates. "Il keg" was an easy one...
Ross Myers has an interesting post about Greensboro's blog community, and the fact that it has yet to have a real economic impact on the city.
No doubt, whatever leadership we have shown around here is as a user community. That's something Chris Nolan nailed in her eWeek column about Greensboro.
As users, we've shown time and again that we're ahead of the curve -- from the original Piedmont Blog Conference, to Greensboro 101 and our blogging elected officials and our bloggy newspaper to ConvergeSouth.
But are there business opportunities that we've missed? Should we be creating progamming jobs and other high-tech employment? Are there VC dollars that need to be flowing our way?
As I said in a comment at Ross's site, I've been thinking about that a lot recently.
I'm a user. I'm a writer. I'm not a businessman or an economic developer. But it would be a shame for Greensboro to miss an opportunity...if the opportunity is really there.
I am pretty well plugged-in to the business and finance establishment around here. I'm listening.
Definitely worth discussing.
(link via GiT -- good comment discussion there, too.)
...lots more, including poetry, from Billy Jones, henceforth known as The Perfesser -- he made some wise comments in a session, preceded by "I'm not a journalist but...," and another participant then referred to him as "the professor"...maybe it's the beard?
A video interview from Saturday night with RTP TV, in which I divulge my just-invented plans for next year's ConvergeSouth, while looking every bit like someone who co-hosted a two-day conference, had a flat tire in the rain after the last session, and was served wine at dinner by a heavy-handed host...
Fun moment in the Biltmore Hotel lobby -- as Randall Gregg was shooting this on his teeny lil vidcam, Dave Slusher was across the room finishing an audio spot with Amanda Congdon and Mario Librandi, while Dan Conover snapped it all on his digital camera.
Contrary to my statement below about making it to every session at ConvergeSouth '05, I did of course miss the ones opposite the one I co-hosted with Sue. And that meant I missed the military blogging discussion, which got rave reviews, and introduced me to this blog. I heard Michael Moran rocked, too.
Well, that was fun. I think it worked well as a user's conference, for students and bloggers and journalists, and I think it succeeded in being "for all people" as we intended from the start.
At every blog con I find a hidden gem, not in the biggest room or hosted by the most famous name, just superb conversation and a sense of something learned -- Eugene Volokh's Sunday session at the first BloggerCon comes to mind, as does La Shawn Barber's faith-blogging session in Nashville. This time around, I thought Tiffany Brown stole the show with Outsider Blogging.
Also, if you want to liven up your conference, invite George Curry.
That said, there were too many other highlights to, well, highlight. I'd single out the ethics session run by Jay Rosen and Lex Alexander on the first day -- not to mention Jay's remark during another discussion, in which it was asked if blogs were up to the standards set by the pros, and he responded that the pros need to ask as well if they are up to some of the standards set by bloggers (including corrections and transparency).
Ahead of the curve: AmandaCongdon's vid-blogging session. It felt to me that many in the room were a little intimidated by video -- not just tech issues in putting on blogs, but a sense that moving pictures are to be delivered unto us by studios and corporations, not stuff we can manipulate as easily as we do words and pics and sound. I think that was why this session was so important -- a year from now, we'll look back at it and see how far we've come.
A moment of satisfaction: sitting in a room with 50 or so blissed-out geeks as JimboWales talked a little wiki-lore, and realizing, wow, this is happening here, one of the more important folks in this whole revolution is preaching in Greensboro.
I hated that I was unable to stay for all of any session, because as host I had to hit them all; I loved that I was able to see at least part of every session.
Regret: Hoder being held up by US immigration. The guy is a genuine freedom fighter, but our government has trouble seeing past the fact he's from Iran. Our loss.
I also regret that I didn't get to spend more time with our visiting session leaders. I think Mike Bowen and I could have talked for hours. As always, the conversations are the thing. I enjoyed catching up on Bryn Mawr with Duncan Black, kids' birthday parties with Jay Rosen, and eating lunch outdoors with Uncle Dave, Dan Conover, Janet Edens, and The Evil Genius himself.
Choice moment: Dave Slusher sees a guy wearing an Evil Genius t-shirt. Didn't know him. A fan. Cool.
I hear the music portion went really well, too -- looking forward to blogged accounts of it, I was so tired from being nice for too days that I just went to bed after hosting my dinner last night. Which was great, too.
Too many people to thank, but let me start with all of you who came to participate in the event. Your questions and comments, your conversations during the breaks, and the energy and ideas you take away from the weekend -- that's what this was all about.
Thanks also to our session leaders and panelists, those who traveled from as far away as California and those who could walk to A&T from their houses.
And thanks many times over to Dr. Teresa Styles, Val Nieman, Sheila Whitley and everyone at A&T; Shaka Singleton, Sue Polinsky, Jay Ovittore, Ben Hwang, and the N&R folks; to our great barbecue hosts, the families Hoggard and Wharton and Gross; to our generous sponsors; and to eveyone who volunteered time and energy and money and ideas.