Converge South 2007

16.01.11 - Mark

Ignoring some of the advice given in the Better Blogging Session yesterday at Converge South, I'm not going to try and write a great lead in. There's too many great things to say about the event to even attempt to try and cram it into a single paragraph.

I've been going to ConvergeSouth since it's first year, and this year has been the best by far, the only regret I have is not making the effort to go up Friday for the Journalism and Music.

Session: Social NetworksI found the morning alright as a whole, to me Converge South has always been more about the discussion, and not lectures, and the morning just felt like a series of lectures. There were enough good points raised, and enough scraps of conversations to make waking up at 6:30 worthwhile, but I think that a lot of great questions and conversations were lost to the monologues.

It's established that people are sharing their lives online, how they're sharing their kids lives online from conception on, and how we have golden age grandmas getting their life story online with the help of their families. But what's to say this data will last? Elisa Camahort from BlogHer was talking about how the online content being created now will be the source material for documentarians 100 years for now, but last I checked the standard advice is to upgrade your backups formats every 5 years or so - that's a bit of a difference that in past years probably would have started a discussion and prompted questions like who's done this? How do we archive this stuff, how do we record these stories?

Another topic I think got left by the wayside was activism. There's no doubt in my mind that blogs, social networks, and the internet in general has changed the way activists work. It's reasonable to say the internet is producing bigger, louder, and stronger movements than anything created before the web took off in the 90's, but how does the amount of influence compare? 100,000 emails is easier to ignore than 100,000 people at a protest march.

As silly as the group sing-along was last year, maybe that's what's needed to get the audience talking first thing in the morning.

The AudienceI am glad that someone mentioned the demographics of the audience, and that it did get a group conversation started for a while. One of the great things about Converge South is that it brings in everyone, men and women of different ethnic and social backgrounds. Someone asked why the "missing" group was the twenty-somethings. There were a few of us there, but I think the reason that age group is underrepresented is that blogging and new media is approached differently. The audience at Convergesouth is using higher end tools, Wordpress, Movable type, Typepad, Drupal, etc, and topics they want to cover. People under 30 or so (as a guess), are using free tools like livejournal, xanga, facebook, myspace, and use the same general technology as a journal for a closed network of friends and online acquaintances.

Session: J-School and B-SchoolThe split sessions after the first break didn't do anything for me. I started the hour in J-School and B-School mainly hoping for some insight on how newspapers and journalism should see themselves in relation to the audience. I saw some promise at the start, one of the panelists started out with the question along the lines of What should we be teaching journalism students about blogs and new media? But by halfway though it didn't seem like they weren't really looking for those answers and I walked out. I don't like walking out on sessions, but between what I saw and this description of the session I think I made the right choice.

The alternative session, Images and Video on the Web wasn't much better. I guess it was pretty focused on what Current TV is and why it's different from youtube. At least that sticks out in my mind more than the few notes I jotted down in my notebook. As I understand it they control it and try to filter for "quality" - they're looking for high production standards and facts, but one of the panelists (I think one of the ones from Current) pointed out that the most compelling video in the last 10 years has been pretty bad quality. Cameraphone video clips, stuff shot in movie mode on a digital camera, maybe some lucky guy who had a home video camera on hand at the right moment. The other thing was that the real power is when you turn it over to the audience and let them rework it.

Session: Why Most Web Video StinksLunch brought on some good discussions, nothing really worth commenting on but it provided a good break. Once that was over I went to the Why Most Web Video Stinks. I'm probably echoing the crowd at this point, but it's easily the best session I can remember attending at any Converge South. Tom Lassiter did a great job of balancing being a moderator and being the designated expert. Within the hour we covered everything needed for a good web video, from hardware to scripting and planning to getting good audio and video quality, to editing and publishing. I've posted a few videos and would say I've got intermediate video production skills, so I mainly tried to answer questions and offer tips, but I still picked up a handful of ideas to try out.

Last session I went to was Better Blogging, which had some good tips. Most of them I knew but I sat in and chimed in on some topics. I think that the timing was pretty good on this session. By the end of the day the vibe I was getting is that we're moving beyond the discussions of how do we define what a blogger is, what's this or that technology, and people's obsession with monetization. Those topics still pop up, but they're bullet points rather than chapter headings. The new conversation, and I think more interesting conversation, is "How can I do cool stuff online?", "How do we get other people to do cool stuff too?", and "How do we connect this all together?" If Converge South keeps moving in that direction, and from the wrap up session it sounds like it will, I'll keep looking forward to attending.

Converge South Film FestivalAfter the conference ended there were a number of people loitering around talking. One of the people I talked with was Brian Russell, who organized Podcastercon, and I'm a little disappointed that it sounds dead for now. It had some overlap with Converge South, but brought in a different group of people. Talked with a few other people, but it didn't take long before Jeff Martin suggested regrouping at Natty Greene's on Elm Street, and about 6 of us went over. Beer and drinks until 6 when we broke up to go to dinners. I ended up at the Table 16 dinner, which had an interesting group of people. Upscale place with good food, but next time I'll probably seek out a cheaper dinner. Our table talked for a while and by the time we got out of the restaurant the Film Festival was at least an hour in. The films and vlogs were a mixed bag (true of any film festival) but the event was worth sticking around for. Andy Coon did a great job of putting on the event and had some hilarious films mixed in with some serious stuff. While there wasn't anything I really wanted to get a personal copy of, I've got a handful of ideas kicking around in my head that now need exploring.

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