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An Augmented Meeting
Saturday, June 25, 2005

Friday, June 24, 2005

If you’re reading this on the net, cut on your speakers and listen to this.

Hold it! Did you listen or not? This is important. The transportability of sound is going to shake the foundations of media and training. Go back and listen now. Then continue reading this short post.

View from my room at the Hotel Vance

I’ve spent the last two days and evenings in Seattle attending an exhilarating conference called Gnomedex that focused on developments that will likely propel the next wave of innovation from the internet. Four hundred of us convened in the Bell Harbor Conference Center, a marvelous facility hugging the shoreline of Elliott Bay.

PC020019In the closing keynote, Adam Curry compared the spirit of Gnomedex to that of Woodstock. Spirits were high. Geek culture ruled. Everyone was friendly. Networking was intense. “We must be in heaven, man.”

You can find the content of Gnomedex on many blogs; that’s why I’m going to concentrate on the form of the event.

Robo Podcaster

Gnomedex is a prototype for what I’ll call an “augmented conference.” Just as learning should focus on what an individual and his tools can accomplish, Gnomedex brought together the right combination of ingredients to ripple far beyond the events in Seattle. At the same time, any participant who also takes advantage of the material online will learn more than she who attends but doesn’t reflect on the event. I’ll describe some of the augmented features.

Buzz "he knows everybody" Bruggeman

The evening reception the night before things opened up featured endless hors d’oeuvres and an open bar, but it wasn’t just the alcohol that created this schmooze-fest. This was instant community. Shared interest. We’re all in this together. Alpha developers and top tech pundits were fully accessible at the opening party and throughout the event.

PB300006 PB300011
First night, Steve Gillmor and Dave Farber

If you don’t track what’s going on in the Blogosphere, skip ahead to the paragraph after next. On the other hand, if you keep up with the grapevine of the web cognoscenti, you’ll appreciate this. I was talking with Dave Winer about blogging my heart attack when Steve Gillmor arrived with Adam Curry in tow. Tense moment: a couple of weeks back, Dave had suggested that Adam was an unappreciative, grandstanding fibber (although they were once the best of pals.) They have not been speaking with one another. This is the first face-to-face meeting since the spat erupted.

PB300010Dave breaks off the conversation with me and scurried over to Adam. Steve Gillmor negotiates the peace process. Adam and Dave shake hands. Crisis is averted. RSS and podcasting development can continue. An element of drama always keeps the energy level high.

A new technique for creating and subscribing to newsletters and homemade radio shows (RSS) was the nominal reason for the gathering of this tribe. By the time we departed, numerous people were saying Gnomedex will go down in history as the tipping point where people took back control of the media.

PC010003Imagine, if you will, three hundred hardcore geeks, each with a laptop and with on again/off again wireless net connections, and countless phone cams, video cams, heavy-duty digital SLRs, microphones, DAT recorders, and more, all documenting what was going on, many in real time. Last night I saw two guys interviewing one another: one with a portable videocam, the other with a live high-quality microphone.

The conference ended less than 90 minutes ago and participants have already posted 1,500 photographs on the web. Have a question about a particular session? You can watch one or more video recordings; nothing new there. But then you can read the opinions of dozens of people on what you just watched, among them some of the most astute in the business.

One success factor for Gnomedex was the personality of Chris Pirillo.
His fingerprints were on every part of the event. He happens to be a great guy.

In what will be commonplace a year from now, the conference had a spot on the web where anyone could post announcements or check the attendance list, including the web sites of most attendees. This wiki will live on until next year’s Gnomedex.

What’s the excitement all about? Only four years ago, there were but a few thousand blogs on the net. Now there are 7 million and counting. According to Technorati, a new weblog is created every 7.4 seconds, which means there are about 12,000 new blogs a day. Bloggers update their weblogs regularly; there are about 275,000 posts daily, or about 10,800 blog updates an hour. Lots of participants at Gnomedex believe that “podcasting” (downloading audio programs directly into subscribers’ iPods) will be a lot bigger than blogging. Anyone who wants to will be able to create and post an audio recording to the web. Video can’t be that far behind.

Which has more value for you, a generic course in leadership skills or a personalized coaching session from your mentor? An episode of Law & Order or a streaming video of your grandchildren? As the cost of production nears zero, the economics of narrowcasting is stood on its head.

The conference itself was streamed over the net. You could watch the event as it unfolded. A fellow in Florida wrote in the real-time chat that the quality was awesome. Chat? Yes, a number of people in the audience were swapping ideas on the net during the presentations.

The first keynote speaker, Dave Winer, told us this was not a speaker and audience. Clearly, there’s more intelligence in the room than on the stage. The audience brings more to the party than the speaker. So this is an unconference. The audience talks but a runner holds the microphone for them. Don’t touch! Nobody gets to monopolize the conversation. It’s not you and me; this is for us.

Several sessions were recorded for replay as podcasts. The Gillmor Gang hosted a lively session with the brothers Gillmor (Steve and Dan), Doug Kaye, Dave Winer, and Adam Curry. Doug, who invented and runs IT Conversations (which distributes technical conference sessions and interviews for free), pointed out that at least 100,000 people would hear this session in recorded form.

Technorati tracks searches on the web. #1 now is Gnomedex. #6 is Gnomdex. #7 is Adam Curry. #9 is RSS. Word travels fast.

Check out Adam’s mid-Gnomedex podcast; it’s only six minutes and it sets up the keynote. Listen in to get a flavor what’s up. It’s personal conversation, a la Cluetrain Manifesto. For the finale, Adam podcast Source Code #200 from the stage.

Chris and Scoble

By the way, PowerPoint was largely banned.

And also, this was a family affair. No giant staff. Chris's mother and father helped herd the crowd and handled remote microphones. Ponzi was welcomed as a co-producer.



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