BloggerCon IV

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.

8 thoughts on “BloggerCon IV

  1. I’m trying to figure that one out too, a conversation where everyone’s engaged, and listening, and telling real stories about things people can do to make things better. I thought the Emotional Life discussion was a prototype for the kind of discussion we could have someday betw users and developers. Everyone was so relaxed talking about their positive and negative personal experiences with public blogging, but when it comes to making the tools better, we’re all so sensitive…

  2. If you don’t want a discussion dominated by developers, hold it in an area which isn’t a tech hot-spot.

  3. Part of the problem with getting users and developers together is that almost by definition users are too busy to spend time talking to developers. They’re mostly worried about keeping their jobs, feeding their families, etc.
    In my experience, when developers start talking about their experience as users, they rarely can separate their geekiness from their user experience. I was in a meeting the other day when a techie said “I suggest you put in 10 sliders…so the users can configure it how they want”. He, of course, assumed that everyone was a power user like him.
    Anyway, it sounds like Bloggercon is getting there…way ahead of sit-and-listen events.

  4. I agree. It was tough staying quiet during that “Users in Charge” session. Over and over we heard people say ‘what were those #$#%$# developers thinking’ and it was pretty hard not to jump up and try to explain. It reconfirmed my own sense, that software design is never a straight line but more of a watercourse way through design choices, user requests, and business priorities.
    The ‘unconference’ format is fantastic. It’ll be hard to go back to sitting in the audience watching someone’s Powerpoint presentation.
    BTW, thanks for the HTTP 410 tip. Made my day ;-)

  5. “We need to create an envionment where non-geeks don’t feel inimidated, and power users need to help rather than hinder this goal.”
    I agree wholeheartedly. I have been trying ton contribute to an open source project recently, and it has been abundantly clear that, as a web designer and print designer, I am totally unable to “assist” with proceedings. Yet I am guiding many of my clients every day with respect to their choices about going on the web, for the first time of the 10th time . . . Meanwhile, the OS project finally is getting around to issues of communication with its user group 5 months after I first raised the fact that they need not only develop their core code, but communicate with their users, who are mostly like me, an non-geek interface to even less geekier clients.
    While OS projects probably don’t need people like me to help them see, the bovious, they certainly need to get their heads out of their code and start looking at the needs of the “real” people who will drive the uptake of their product around the world in teh web sphere.
    And yes, TopStyle Pro is my choice of CSS editor precisely because it embraces this philosophy.

  6. My experience from attending BloggerCon III was that there were few, if any, users there who did not share the same body with a developer with a commercial interest in the “blogging industry.”
    Sort of a “I’m not just the Hair Club president; I’m also a client” approach … which is actually an effective marketing strategy.
    Still, it struck my wife and I as a conclave of all chiefs and no Indians; all management, and no labor. The “we” in “WeMedia” tends strongly to be VC-backed and incorporated as an LLC in Delaware. though marketed as a bunch of amateur working stiffs like the rest of us.
    So I welcome your idea of having an actual Cluetain “conversation” with the user base of “vigilante consumers,” as Faith Popcorn calls us. (Mike of TechCruch calls us “trolls.”) It’s long overdue.

  7. Forgive my lack of tech experience but someone sent me the audio of the conference (Is that a podcast?). I’ve only listened to Lisa’s segment so far, but wondered at the comments expressed from the participants. I felt I had found compatriots in this blogging madness/compulsion. The only problem with the audio is that I have no names to go with the voices of those whose comments were so insightful. As a result I’m stuck “Googling it” in an attempt to seek out the participants and their blogs.

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