Most of the time when I attend a conference, I benefit more from the schmoozing/partying than I do from the actual panels. Truth be told, I usually skip the majority of the sessions, hoping to save my energy for the after-hours socializing.
So the biggest compliment I can give to BloggerCon IV is that I spent the entire day sitting in a chair listening to (and participating in) the conference itself. I know that some people sneer at the unconference idea, but my experience has been that it works – involving the “audience” in the conversation results in a far more interesting and unpredictable event.
My favorite discussion today was “The Emotional Life of Weblogs” (MP3) moderated by the brilliant Lisa Williams. Listening to fellow bloggers talk about how blogging connected them with other people reminded me why I’m in this business – to build tools to help improve peoples’ lives rather than complicate them.
I also enjoyed the “Users in Charge” discussion moderated by Chris Pirillo, but I have to admit that I had to struggle not to blurt out my opinions as a developer (it’s a user conference, so the users do the speaking). Why did I want to speak up? Because many of the people talking were techies, which is a big part of the problem. Less technical users believe they don’t have the technical expertise to join the conversation, so developers end up tailoring their tools to meet the needs of power users since they’re the ones that speak up. We need to create an environment where non-geeks don’t feel intimidated, and power users need to help rather than hinder this goal.
What I’d like to see at a future BloggerCon (or Gnomedex) is an open, respectful discussion between users and developers. Even though public speaking terrifies me, I’d still be willing to moderate a session between users and developers if it would make the discussion less adversarial. So much of our society’s future depends on technology that we absolutely must open the communication lines between those building the tools and those using them.