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Les Blogs: A next generation social conference

It’s a week ago, but Les Blogs (“)was a conference with a difference in many ways, at least for me. Here were some of the interesting things about it.

– It’s hard for speakers and panelists to feel the audience is engaged when everyone is constantly checking their email and surfing IRC as you speak. Various tricks were employed by the people on the stage. One guy tried wearing a skirt while he presented his PowerPoint bullets to the passive audience. One lady ended up swearing at a member of the audience to drive her message home. Another lady had to resort to beauty, charm and wit (it was the only thing of the three that I think really worked).

– Attendees use their computers during the talks but they don’t actually blog that much. They check their email, catch up with news, check out the chat room. As I was counting it, there were about 10 weblog posts/hour during the talks. In a room with at least 200 bloggers on computers, that isn’t a whole lot. (David Sifry told us later that the pattern is that people post before and after a conference, but there’s usually a lull during the conference itself.)

– People go to these things for the networking, not the talks. At least I hope they do. I certainly hope they didn’t come for the food (which everybody thought was a little bit light all the way through). It was a great place to meet people. It’s nice to meet the ‘stars’ in person. (Although in truth these people are only known within the relatively small blogosphere.)

– There’s some fabulous talent and technology going on in our Great European Continent. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to gel together the way the US talent does. Why can’t Europeans band together and make it big? I think the problem is, like one of the panel members said, the level of ambition, but it’s also about the level of understanding. We’re not pushing hard enough to get into the big league on this side of the Pond, indeed sometimes I think we hardly even understand what it’s about.

Backchannels (i.e., having a chat room where all the attendees talk to each other while the speakers speak) demand a level of maturity from the audience that is hard to depend on. There’s no point in saying something blatantly negative about a current speaker in a backchannel. It just doesn’t add anything

– The star of the whole show as Ben Metcalfe, whose robust self-defence has catapulted him into blogger stardom for all time (well, until Christmas anyway). Not that I agree with much of what Ben was carrying on at – I agree with Shel Israel’s take on this . But from talking to him, I can see that he was always sincere. Ben is one of those characters who is abrasive on the surface, but who behind it all is very reasonable and willing to listen to points of view.

– Bloggers have to start being excellent to each other. People are getting tied up in petty rows that mean nothing. Some bloggers personally insult other bloggers just for their own personal entertainment. Success in the blogging world is too often a cause for jealousy rather than celebration. It’s sad that the community sometimes falls to that level.

– Bloggers are a diverse group. Barak Berkowitz, the CEO of Moveable Type gave us an interesting statistic that nobody really paid any attention to. The 100,000 Typepad blogs under the domain (which is by no means all of the Typepad blogs) receives the same traffic at the 4.2 million-or-so active Livejournals. What should we infer from this? Well, I think it means that Typepad users who take their blogs seriously as platforms for publishing to the public are going to be in the minority as blogging grows up. Most people will want to blog for the benefit of a small audience of friends and family, they aren’t like the people who come to Les Blogs.

(And thank God for that, I’m sure Barak was thinking after Mena’s speech was over.)

– Person of the conference, it’d have to be either Robert Scoble or Hugh McLeod. Hugh is a great character, very friendly, but very blunt too. On balance, though, I’d have to go for Robert. This is a guy who must have heard every technology sales pitch in the world and he still remains balanced and listens to everyone he meets, even though he must hear the same old stuff, conference-in, geek-dinner out. He seems to be happy talking about almost anything, on the weblog or in person. Take this podcast for instance
– Robert is asked a question that a mainstream reporter would never ask – why don’t you leave Microsoft and go somewhere else where you could write your weblog for more money? It’s an impossible question, but the Blogger of Redmond coped admirably.

Bill, whatever you’re paying this guy, he deserves more.

Anyway, thanks to Loic for organizing the conference, it was great to attend with Martin and the FON team and it was great to meet so many interesting, friendly people. Thank you Paris!


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  • Shoob Corporate Blogging (FR) December 15, 2005

    L’Europe ne joue pas en première division du web 2.0

    There’s some fabulous talent and technology going on in our Great European Continent. Unfortunately it doesn’t seem to gel together the way the US talent does. Why can’t Europeans band together and make it big? I think the problem is,…