Defrag came to Denver. I couldn’t go, which was particularly difficult for those of us going through conference withdrawal after three great days at Enterprise 2.0 in San Francisco.
I’m a conference junkie. I like the excitement of live events. To me, industry conferences are Shakespearian theatre wrapped in a religious revival tent. Live events have a story line and the element of danger: someone might screw up and blow their career, and they’re also full of revelation.
Not being able to physically attend Defrag, here’s how I figured out I could participate:
The first day of Defrag had been pretty raucous as I checked the Twitter stream from time to time – Ben Kepes had coined the term Feudalism 2.0 after Andy Kessler called anyone not involved in high level work a parasite and advocated that we get rid of all teachers. I thought he might be kidding or practicing a Swiftian form of satire a la a modest proposal since the title of his keynote was something about cannibalism. But it seems he was serious.
The next day, @epc predicted that after Kessler’s incendiary comments, there was sure to be a “rumble in the aisles” as the gloves came off. There was no blood letting on Thursday, but for the conference junkies like me, it proved to have its own excitement – and revelation.
It started with Nathan Reuss, from Reuss Design, who showed up at the Denver Hyatt Regency and quietly took a seat in the center of the keynote room behind Stowe Boyd and his hat. Nathan turned on his ancient Apple iSight, logged onto his Live Stream Webcaster and clicked broadcast.
I found out about the very unofficial video stream from @mbrevoort and figured it would be shut down at any minute. I was enjoying the bootleg feeling of the video when the conference began with Eric’s opening post-Danish remarks. He did the regular thing and then as a footnote asked the crowd to please thank the event staff for how incredibly hard they work and for their attention to detail. Then, he blithely added that they work for free. With all the folks who plunked down cash for the event, I thought WTF. Why doesn’t Eric pay his staff?
And this thought really wasn’t for public consumption, but I sent Ben Kepes a DM “why the hell doesn’t Eric pay his staff? Feudalism 2.0?”. Ben tweeted to the audience – hey someone just said to me … and the tweet reverberated over to Eric, and as I watched the bootleg video of the event, Eric went to the podium and called out to the audience: where is Ben Kepes? At that point I had one of those is this really happening moments? In this scenario, I had no access, no authority and limited tools, but from my house in Burlingame I’d caused an effect in a public forum.
Eric went on, “Ben the reason I don’t pay my staff …” but from that point I can’t remember what he said, something about they’re his in-laws or cousins, and back in California, I’m thinking, yes, we’ve seen moderators take questions online and convert text to live comments, but the route that this tweet traveled seemed particularly circuitous and it made me think about many of the things the people in that room care about. Where do ideas come from, who owns them, what’s our motivation for sharing information, what’s our expectation when we exchange ideas, how do we decide who to listen to, and how do we control the dissemination of ideas. How do we want to be heard?
In this scenario, we had a rogue video guy (Nathan) with access to tools, someone clearly on the periphery (me) but with some access to information, an influencer (Ben) and an authority figure (Eric).
If you’re in a position of authority, how do you respond to information – especially negative feedback? If you’re an influencer, how do you control the message? If you’re “locked out” how do you get in? And most importantly, what are we are we all trying to gain from this exchange?
Good things for me to think about for the coming months. Defrag was packed with information, revelation and thought provoking ideas. Fortunately, Ben’s reaction to Eric’s rebuke was any PR is good PR, although if I were he I would have been looking for that magical trap door in the conference room floor. (Actually Eric was fine about it – look for more about that soon and check out the smiling happy image below – Ed)
Big thanks to Nathan Reuss from ReussDesign who taped the entire day. I spent eight hours in a chat room with my not-in-Denver fellow conference attendees, and when we were saying our goodbyes it felt like the last day of summer camp – a sentimental journey probably not unlike the real thing.
(Guest post by Kate Hobbie, media, marketing and sales consultant at MediaBrew Consulting, currently contracting with Aria Systems)