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This blog is in the process of moving to Markw.us, just take note.

Sunday, October 09, 2005
Converge South
 
Temporary Edit: To anyone coming here because of the Mount Airy News column, and is interested in learning more about Converge South or about blogs in general, please see this post.

Converge was a great experience, so I'm extremely glad I decided to go. I had put off registration (which is why you probably find any mention of me on the converge site) until it was full, but when I saw that I could still go to sessions I literally ran out the door and made the trip to Greensboro a bit faster than I probably should have. One I was there everything was well marked and easy to find, which is a big improvement over Chappel Hill last spring. I arrived later than the official start time, but fortunately (for me) someone got lost and I ended up being right on time.

Political Activism and Blogging
Wikis and Mass Collaboration
Mmmmm... Lunch
Tools and the Future of Blogging
Podcasting
Post Conference
Wrap Up

Political Activism and Blogging


Most of the sessions were great. I tend to sit back and listen so I was quite during all of the sessions. The first two, Blogging and Political Activism (discussion led by Ruby Sinreich) and Wikipedia/Mass Collaboration (Talk by Jimmy Wales) went well together. Political Activism seemed to push towards just go out and do it. I find I can be political here, but maybe not so active. What I, and probably a lot of other bloggers, need to do is rather than rant go out and find more constructive things to say. Venting just adds to the echo chamber. If we want the current and next few crops of congress critters to pay attention to blogs in the same way they do to the small town papers - which can have similar readerships - the echo is exactly what we need to cut down on. On a similar note, one thing Ruby brought up that I wasn't really familiar with was the memo that led to the rathergate thing. When bloggers first figured it out, the first thought wasn't "lets nail them" it was "how do we correct them". I guess the final tone I got from the session was activism dose not mean radicalism.

Wikis and Mass Collaboration



Wikipedia Session
Originally uploaded by mark_w.
The wikipedia session was OK. As a lot of people have pointed out it was more of a lecture than it was a discussion. I prefer the discussions, but I found that I was fine with the talk. Wales brought up a lot of things I wasn't fully aware of in the wikipedia community. I'm sure I could have found it if I wanted, but there was one thing at the very end of his talk that really interested me. I think most people missed it but he said that he wanted to see a news/politics blog fused with elements of a wiki. Possibly like the LA wikitorial disaster, but rather than trying to create better editorials (which I think was the goal of wikitorials) the idea is to take editorials and boil them down to news articles. Journalism has this idea that a single person can be unbiased - which can be a nice line of BS, but I think that we're seeing those "unbiased" stories hit the web, and all of a sudden millions of people find bias. If we take several people with vastly different social, political and economic views and have they focus on news items we can get them to produce a compilation that becomes unbiased though a massive collection of biases. Like the idea of an open encyclopedia, its going to need new tools supplementing the right people in the right atmosphere.

Mmmmm... Lunch



Lunch
Originally uploaded by mark_w.
Lunch was good. Thats actually the first time during the day I met up with Dave Slusher. He was talking to someone about the video blogging session and some podcasting when he noticed the Evil Genius shirt I was wearing. I had been eavesdropping on the conversation and eventually joined in. The great thing about these conferences is how informal everyone is. Just listen to a conversation for a while and then just jump in. But back to the conversation each of these new media arenas (text, audio, or video blogging) the technical know how is second to figuring out which content best fits the media. I can read a rant on a text blog much easier and with a greater tolerance than the same content on a podcast or blog. There are going to be exceptions to those rules, but they're all interesting fields. After the third person broke off Dave interviewed me with his hacked CVS one time use camcorder.


Group Session
Originally uploaded by NCBrian.
Lunch kept up for a while but I also joined a group of some well known blogger sitting outside talking about the conference, some others that are in the works, and things like O'Riley Media.

Tools and the Future of Blogging


The sessions started up again and I think just about everyone was in Dave Winer's session on Tools and the future of blogging. I'm not sure where that needs to go but everyone seemed to be focusing on what text blogging needs in terms of tools. I'm not sure if thats what it really needs. It seems to me that there is a much greater need to increase peoples awareness of blogs, both the writing and the reading. Some people in the room were begging for video tutorials on how to blog, or suggesting that it takes so much time they can't do it. I think both are false. If you just look at tools like blogger, which I'll come back to in a minute, they pretty much explain themselves. One text box, one text area, connect a bunch of words and press submit. If you can deal with hotmail, you're more than qualified for blogger.

There was also some discussion on how to find blogs and podcasts, and how to make yourself known. Honestly I don't know much of anything about making myself known, otherwise I wouldn't be referred to as the "guy wearing an Evil Genius T-shirt, don't know him" (edcone.com) I haven't cared much in the past, but maybe I will. The buzz I got (personally) when I was macslashed was great, I wouldn't mind if that was the case a little more frequently than once. I think podcasting does need some tools to make it more searchable. The directories out there just aren't enough, but with text, and to some extent audio/video, the more people aware of it and feeding back to the environment the easier it will be to find things you agree with. Humans make a great filters, but in large enough numbers they can do great things not only well, but effectively.

Thats not to say there aren't some things that need to be changed. This is being hosted at blogspot, powered by blogger, but as a blogger I'm currently in the minority of users that has more than 500 post. For the new user I don't think you could have a better system than Blogger and the tools Google has lashed onto it, add feedburner and you have a mindless system than can do 90% of what the vast majority of users want. I think a number of power bloggers also have blogspot blogs, because there just isn't a better product for a short term, low content, high traffic blog. However when you get to 500 some posts, blogger just isn't build to support you. I know there have been several blogger outages that have only effected those of us with hundreds of posts. I think it was Anton Zuiker who actually hit on the idea of making it easy to take the posts from one system (blogger or livejournal) and making it easy to feed that into a more advanced system. I know there are ways that I can migrate to another system, but I'm a geek and well - I don't want to deal with migration issues. If I don't want to do that, what is Joe Public going to do.

Podcasting


Pulling back to my point on the Winer session, make people aware of the medium. In the following session on podcasting, someone said that "blog" isn't a term kids are using. They think of blogging as blogspot, xanga or livejournal, because most of them aren't aware of the terms, aren't aware of the uses, and aren't aware of the consequences of the tools. To go onto the next session, Podcasting, you just read most of it. Of all the sessions I was in podcasting had the worst execution. It wasn't on community like the leader said, and we didn't actually do one, which we very well could have, all he did was talk about what it takes to get involved with podcasting, in his book at least. $300 in hardware and software tools, expensive servers, and god knows what else. I don't blame the audience for 1) leaving or 2) being confused/bored as hell. It takes exactly $0 to get started with podcasting. Step one start a blogger account, sign in with audio blogger, make a phone call, talk, hang up, and then set up a feedburner feed for the blog. I could have done it in 10 minutes and circumvented 2 hours of dull bullet points. If you have some webspace, and you have a computer with a mic, you're set, as Cory Doctorow has done with his first few After the Siege Podcasts (he gave in and bought a real mic after 4 or 5 episodes)

Post Conference


After the mind-numbing podcasting session I floated around in the lounge. Several people were there, Paul Jones, Anton Zuiker, Will Raymond, Ryan Irelan and a few others. We talked in the lounge for a while before relocating to Natty Greeneā€™s downtown. It continued on blogging tools and the future. at different pointed people were rehashing what had been said in the sessions, but one thing that caught my attention was I'm not the only person thinking about a weighted RSS reader. Will Raymond is also playing with the idea, but in reverse of my ideas. In his concept, repeated stories, the memes and polls that get boring, sink to the bottom of the pile. In my idea, repeated items rise, with my preferred blogs coming up first, as well as the origin (most linked source) Its reassuring that a lot of smart people are think on very similar lines about what tools need to be developed. The question isn't is there a need, its whose going to get rich or famous for being the first one to do it right.

Rocketboom Dinner
Originally uploaded by mark_w.
The group broke up closer to 7 when the dinners were starting. I think most of them went to Winer's dinner, I opted to go to the Amanda Congdon/Rocketboom Vlogging dinner at Minj Grill. Met Chris Daniel there and ended up talking about a lot about what it was going to take for video blogging to take off, which I think is going to be broadband and system resources. We already had all the tools for audio, and people can handle those bandwidth requirements so its no wonder why its exploded in the last year. Video needs a lot more of those resources and tools, so we need to let Moore's Law run its course, but I think most of us there agreed that content isn't a problem. Some of the best stuff out there doesn't need to be highly produced by a major studio. Look at Monty Python or the fan films working their way into the media.

Wrap Up


Closer to 9 we moved to Solaris for the free concert. It didn't start until closer to 11, but there were some more great discussions. I think if it was mentioned during the sessions, it was rehashed and expanded on by the 10 or so bloggers who were still there. More on vlogging, podcasting, text blogging, tools, ideas, technology in general, sports, music, mass media, content distribution, and on and on and on until a while after 2am. Over all a great experience, by while I may have been dead tired when I got home, it was 22 very well spent hours. I've got some more blogs to look into, and some others to catch up on. I'm pretty sure I said it after the Chappel Hill Conference, but its worth saying again, I love these conferences, and I can't wait for the next one.

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Comments:
Thanks for coming -- I'm glad you had a good day. That's what it was supposed to be about. And thanks for taking the time to write this up.
 
Thanks for the write-up, and thanks for coming to my session on online activism!

Here is a post with some links about it. And here are my own ConvergeSouth thoughts.

I can't belive that BS about the FBI visiting you! Something similar happenned in Chapel Hill but it was local cops posing as federal agents. I many have to blog that.
 
Still working on the weighted RSS feed idea. A local election and work has kind of consumed my time of late but that'll be over real soon now.
 
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