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I’m really pleased that I’ll be going over to Paris in December for this year’s LeWeb as an official blogger – despite the cold, wifi and food problems last year, it really is a great gathering of people and Loic & Geraldine are fabulous hosts.
And as I said in this video that Ande shot last year (when #media140 was just a twinkle in his eye) it really is about the people, not what’s said or shown but the opportunity to look people in the eye (or look at *their* shoes) and make a really human connection.
Naturally I’m looking at some way of getting any tuttlers in town together for a nice cup of tea like we did at SXSWi in March.
If you’re going to come too, let me know – early bird registration closes on November 10th and you can get a 10% discount using the code BLOG09
It seems to me that there are always a few things going on in such a session and that sometimes these things are in conflict with each other. Initially I got narked about the use of “questions in threes” but I think there’s more to it than that.
So one way to pull it apart is to look at the motivations of each player. Who’s there? In any panel session let’s say there’s a moderator, a bunch of panelists and audience members – there are different kinds of audience members too – those who want to contribute, those who want to only listen – also perhaps those who are part of the organisation holding the event and those who are from “outside”.
Moderator – The moderator opens up, introduces the speakers and manages any question and answer process. What do they want? A smooth running event, which people remember. Presumably they also want people to remember that the moderator was really good and maybe they might like to hire them to do something else. They want to please as many people in the audience as possible by giving them the opportunity to ask loads of questions or have lots of questions answered.
Panelists – usually have something to sell, maybe it’s a book, or strategic advice, or consulting services or maybe they’re looking for more speaking gigs. They want to show off their erudition and quick wittedness by answering questions eruditely and wittily. They want to be right.
The audience – want to learn something, want to be seen by their peers, want to see who else has come, want other people to hear what they have to say on the subject, want to be associated with the panellists, or disassociated from them. If they are part of the host organisation, they may want to impress their boss and other colleagues or else push the company line. If they are from the outside they may want to impress prospective clients or intimidate competitors with their superior intellect. They might just want to hear an intelligent, flowing conversation about the subject and make their own minds up about things. They might have come to collect ideas for a blog post or something else that they’re writing.
We all (well most of us, in this country) like to pretend that we’re not selling ourselves all the time, but the reality is that we are, especially those of us who are freelance, whether we’re doing it consciously or explicitly or not.
Questions in threes is a technique where the moderator takes three (sometimes more!) questions and lets the panelists answer them all together. It’s presented as a way to get more questions in and to give panelists more time to think about their answer, but it actually only serves the moderator’s desire to look good by letting lots of people in and getting things done quickly. Patrick Hadfield summed it up in a tweet to me this afternoon:
“…all that happens is that the first question gets ignored, or if it is answered, the rest of the audience has forgotten it!”
Exactly that happened in the session today. The panelist is also panicking because they’ve got another random question coming at them while they’re still thinking about the first one. And the audience is not sure which question is being answered. The moderator however is achieving the goal of getting through lots of q&a swiftly without any regard to whether the questions are being answered sensibly.
I’m getting tired, and I’ve written more than I initially intended, so I’m probably wrong. Let me know in the morning.
One seems to be: Big is beautiful (or at least successful) ie in order for an event to be considered a success, you have to have loads of people there. I disagree. I look at Tuttle and shudder at the idea of there regularly being 100 people there. I find it’s pushing the format to have more than 50. New people seem to expect me to be disappointed if there are fewer people this week than last week. I keep telling them that it’s OK, I’ve experienced nobody turning up to something I’ve arranged, and it didn’t kill me. I think that I’m going to always represent an extreme of Tuttle attendee, if anyone’s going to make sure they meet everyone in the room then it’s going to be me. And meeting 40 people in 3 hours is a lot, fairly comfortable, but nearing the maximum.
Now that’s not to say that I don’t think big events are any good. I enjoyed Web2.0 and I’m sure I’ll enjoy LeWeb08 which is going to be huge. What I’m trying to say is that I don’t think size is a sign of success, it’s just a sign of, well, how big something is…
Another side of this is the feeling that everyone’s got to go to everything. OK, so it’s not that bad, but I do see people feeling like they are seriously missing out by not getting to go to things. And I know that’s how I’ve felt as well. We tell ourselves that we know that no-one can go to everything and surely no-one can be that interested in everything, and if you spent all your time going to things, you wouldn’t get anything done. But still, it would be just my luck that it will be this event that I’m not going to where something brilliant and amazing and paradigm-shifting will happen, something that the attendees will remember for ever and tell their grandchildren about, and level of awesome that will never be repeated in our lifetimes.
I think we’re going to be doing more and more of these meetups, scaling from 4 or 5 right up to the thousands and recognising that we don’t need to go to everything just because it’s there, any more than we can buy, listen to and enjoy every CD available on Amazon.
In fact I’m personally going to be choosing to attend things that are the 4 or 5 right people to talk about a very niche, specific subject – I still love 40 people on a Friday, but next I want to add in some smaller, more focused things. Note, that the “right” people doesn’t necessarily imply the best, brightest, coolest, sexiest, funniest or any of those things. It just means, if anything at all, the most appropriate.
Another day another mind-blowing conference – today it’s 2gether08 which feels a bit like I imagine it is to crawl around inside Steve Moore’s head. Hundreds of gobsmackingly smart folk talking big, talking social, talking good.
I’m thinking again about the potential for action that this sort of event creates. Loads and loads of people, talking big ideas, connecting disparate subjects and disciplines, talking about what they’ve done, what they’re doing, what they’d like to do. Ooooh yes, let’s do that, let’s do this, oh my god, can you imagine if we did that? Let’s talk about it, let’s make it happen.
It’s something that happens every week at the Tuttle Club. People get enthused about an idea or another person or their work and they talk animatedly about what they might do and how they might collaborate. A small number of those collaborations actually have come quickly to fruition. Sometimes this is because they’re at the level of “hey! what if we could mash up flickr and google maps and ‘ta-dah’ – you know” ie it’s not really a new idea, just new to the people involved. Other times it’s more about already busy people having great ideas bu they don’t have time, or money, or time to generate the money to do it.
However, it is a weekly experience for me and I’m getting used to seeing the realisation of awesome potential and the later associated deflation. That’s in a group of 30 or so people. So it’s not surprising that we get it in spades at conferences like today.
So. Much. Potential.
I feel it physically. It’s painful. I think sometimes it’s the thing that winds me up most about events – the raising of potential and the lack of resolution. I know I’m going to feel it again tomorrow. The only answer I have by the way is something Umair Haque said this morning: “Organise something” Y’know like “just do it” but no, really do it.
Irony Alert: this post lacks a real resolution
(and I’m cross-posting to the 2gether blog)
As I spent much of the day helping Russell to be slightly less worried, finding things for all the helpful people to do, filling up the water boiler and wondering about including audience participation in my slot I’m afraid I missed some of the startling, stimulating and assorted wonderful displays of interestingness. But…
Roo kicked off beautifully with some great historical images from that geek classic – Lego
Something about Horses and their blind spots. (Dave funkypancake picked up on “horse” later too while struggling against dead air)
I next tuned in to Collyn saying how she was bored with reality and expected more ferns and snails.
Not sure what happened then but next thing I knew, Dan Raven-Ellison was bigging up Geography and kicking History in the balls and then Michael Johnson was segueing from Django to Freddie Green to Eric Clapton to Jimi Hendrix to Jimmy Page and so on and so on with much pedalling and magical slide changing.
so Azeroth is
about 16 12km in diameter and very, very dense according to James Wallis’s endearingly obsessive calculations – also something about chucking some bird off a tower and seeing how long it took for her to fall.
Phil Gyford reminded me of what fun mask work was, but also how difficult it is.
I think I caught some bits of Matt Dent’s lovely work on coin designs – I’m glad I met him at the sign-up table and got to tell him personally anyway.
Matt Webb told a lovely story about a South American mirror telegraph that might have been an hallucination, I really wished it hadn’t been, I like the idea of local physics.
Andrew Webb must have been next thanks to the matt-matt-webb-walkingshaw doo-dah. Oh yes – food – it’s all over the country, allegedly, and farmers are saying get *on* moi land!
Andrew Walkingshaw talked about having lots of names (like cats do) and uniqueness and ambiguity
Andrew Dick finally found how to get to sleep after years of insomnia – audio books of bad thrillers – not too exciting or interesting but also not too dull – also apparently the effect doesn’t properly kick in until you’re listening for the 2nd or 3rd time.
I bet Jenny Owen’s Churchill impression is even better when she has a cigar in her mouth – she gave us a bundle of interesting titbits about the great man though my blood sugar was plummeting as we got close to lunchtime.
To close the morning, Matt Irvine Brown displayed excellent headmaster skills getting 35 people to play the recorder – I qik’d it but it’s probably even more painful to watch on a mobile phone video than it was to witness in the flesh.
Then after lunch that fat baldy bloke from last year made us listen to him sing to a (very) small guitar and then made a mountain out of some molehills – other people will cover this slot better than me.
Simon & Curtis James & Ken Hollings did some weird thing about suburbia set to a radiophonics jam session.
Anna Pickard on why biscuits, flanges and gussets are funny.
Younghee Jung talked toilets – unfortunately this is when I managed to get to the toilet for the first time myself, so I had empirical experience, but I missed out on her theory.
James Bridle got me thinking about wine and evolution and talking about booze without talking about drunkenness.
Kim Plowright- oh god, Kim, I’m sorry I wasn’t paying attention.
James Houston showed us why he just got a first class degree.
Jim Le Fevre wowed the hall with his live zoetrope demo – at the start Jim asked if he could bring his equipment in which included a turntable, so naturally I was expecting something audio but it was decidedly more visual – Jim, I’d love you to meet Steve Lawson – @solobasssteve – you could make great stuff together
Gavin Starks – all I remember is dodecahedrons and something about music from n-dimensional hypercubes
Joel Gethin Lewis tries to get people in the moment, talking about something untranslateable into English from Welsh
Was George Oats talking about flickr or was that Kim? I think that’s when I popped out to get some more milk.
Lea Becker I’d have like to see and hear more about drawing from her. I’m not sure about the taxonomy of drawing approaches…
Leisa Riechelt is clearly a lovely mummy and reminded me of how interesting your first small person can be. The young man in question had a domain named after him before his name was on a birth certificate. Excellent.
I agree with Max Gadney that we will see some serious re-appraisal of the second world war the further we get from it.
Lots of lovely lovely lovely people in the audience – Tuttlers, Headshifters, Interesting07′ers to many to mention individually but lots are mentioned here.
So yeah, it was, again and I’m sure it ever will be.