Yesterday was mostly people talking to us from the stage, something that Robert Scoble and Dave Winer complained about. I guess they weren’t at the Idea Market, a room with fifteen tables with people sitting round them talking about different topics. Or at the last session, when they finally hooked the chat up to the projector and made our conversation as visible as that of the internet campaign managers on the stage. “They didn’t put the chat on screen earlier because those people were too important,” someone said today. “You can’t have chat behind the back of Google’s CEO.” Perhaps it’s true that backchannel chat on a project works better for a panel that’s already a discussion than for a monologue.
Today is the Unconference, with no speakers, all conversation. At an Unconference, everyone writes ideas for sessions on sheets of paper, people sort of collectively paste these up in a grid on the wall, and people simply go to whichever session they’re interested in and talk about the topic. Click on the photo of the schedule to see it big enough that you can read the words (it’s huge though, I’ll compress it later).
Most people here today are working on political campaigns, or they’re working on websites meant to help activists coordinate activism or debate politics or they’re building tools they want to sell to political campaigns. I’m almost the only academic here, I think. And I think after the next session, which is interestingly entitled “How Segolene Royale won the netroots and lost the election”, I might leave it to the non-academics.
Last night one of my best conversations was after I left the conference, beat. I walked out the door at the same time as Dan Newman of MAPlight.org, a website that gives people access to information about representatives in congress, showing how much money they were given by which organisations and lobby groups and how they voted on different bills: “Money and politics: illuminating the connection”. Using the internet to make information available and to make it easier to see connections seems like a wonderful way to use it, and a very interesting way of making an argument that is about transparency and showing the data rather than persuasion. It also fits what Lee Rainie from Pew called the forensic way we’re reading these ways.
The Segolene Royale session is starting. I’d better go.