So We Media 2006 has finally closed its doors and a lot of tension has died down now. This gives me a chance to go over some of the low and highs of the conference
A couple of highs to get us started, Suw Charmans talk at the We Media Fringe event in which she explains why We Media 2006 sucked filmed by James Cox. Robin for setting up the Fringe event with help from a couple other people. Kevin Anderson for staying true to himself and pointing out this classic from Helen Boaden
I want to know who checks the bloggers… There is something very tricky or even dangerious about writing about people who you work with or for but in my honest opinion Kevin did a great job on this.
Some lows now. Although the We media fringe event was in full swing by the time I got there (7:30pm) and had attracted quite a few people, it seemed to lack the tightness of a well planned event. I actually left half way through because I needed to get something to eat. But even then I would have left pretty soon anyway. Nico Macdonald does a good job explaining where things started to go wrong. But lets not get ahead of ourselves here. The biggest fundimental low was the lack of conversation in the we media conference its self. Not only did it lack conversation but it also stuck up an even larger wall between the mainstream and pro-amatures (bloggers, etc). I won't even go over this issue again, because honestly Suw has this so covered in her post Where's the we in WeMedia? I have to dig out a couple of quotes.
The lack of understanding of blogs, bloggers and participatory media shown was astonishing, and the false dichotomy of journalists vs. bloggers was emphasised by the speakers throughout the day. It was very disappointing indeed, because I had hoped that we had moved beyond these sorts of non-issues and into the real substance of when, why and how you begin participatory media projects.
Now although I'm on tricky ground here, I wanted to at least put up the point Suw makes about the digital assassins section of Wemedia.
And a new level of embarrassment. Halfway through the day, the BBC trotted out 25 'digital assassins', primarily young people (I think to show that they were hip wiv da yoof) who were brought in to talk to the attendees and give them the opportunity to interact with a real live blogger. Oh, please. Could that have been any more condescending.
It reminded me of a story a friend of mine told me about a comedy show that he went to once in Chicago, where one of the comedians asked the audience, 'Who's never met a gay man before?' and then went up and introduced himself to whomever raised their hand. It felt a bit like the BBC were saying 'Who's never met a blogger before?' and then helpfully provided some specimens for attendees to look at. Cringeworthy.
My experience of being a digital assassin was very bad due to there being no BBC facilitator on the table, a group of guys from Qualcomm who didn't seem that interested in anything I had to say and a generally very quiet bunch of suited men around the table. Others like Rachel Clarkes seems to be much better. But before I go on, I have to say thanks to the guys who arranged the section and did a good job of getting us all there on time. But back to the table with the Qualcomm guys. One of the things which strikes directly with my thinking is this from Suw
All in all, the day was very insular and introspective, with a lot of people appearing to think that they are doing very well, thankyouverymuch, without the input of anyone who knows what they're talking about.
The Qualcomm guys asked me if I knew who they were and at that point I should have realised what was coming really. So I said yes, and replied with
you guys build that brew platform for mobile phones right? One of them pipe up and says, yes and said very happily
So our job is done, because you've hear of us and brew. I was seriously dumb founded and proceded to say the only reason why I had heard of Brew, was because it failed where Java/MDIP succeded. And honestly they really did not care about that, they seemed to think just because I had heard of it for good or bad reasons was enough. While on the subject of questioning at Table 13, some more classics. I was asked about my blog and if I had advertising on it? My answer of no, came to shock them.
Why would you spend some much time writing if your not going to get paid for it? I said about it being my authentic voice and talked about social capital but they were really struggling to understand any of it. I guess these things simply don't translate to the business world easily. You can imagine the questions I got when geekdinner was mentioned by myself. One of the questions was something like
Why would anyone go to a social gathering of people in London? I think by then, I had all but given up. However their minds changed ever so quickly when Rachel Clarke stood up and started talking about Geekdinner on another table. Me and Sarah Blow owe her one for that.
So getting back to higher level idea of the conference. I totally missed thursday at Retuers for personal reasons but heard things didn't get much better with the change of venue. Sara at work told me that she had gone over there and was equally amazed as Lisa Goldman, that a session about the Middle east only included Arab men.
During the lunch break at today's We Media conference, I discovered that the first post-prandial panel was going to be about media in the Middle East. I happened to be talking to a Persian-British woman journalist, who is half Jewish and half Muslim, at the time; when we discovered that the panelists were all male Arab journalists in their fifties, we looked at each other and rolled our eyes.
And honestly you can't make this up…
The panelists included Rami Khoury, the editor of the Lebanese Daily Star; Jihad Ali Ballout, Director of Al Arabiya's corporate communications; Saleh Ngem of BBC's Arabic service; and from Iraq by satellite Zuhair Al-Jezairy of Aswat Al Iraq.
None of them had heard of blogs. None of them was interested in the fact that Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian, Lebanese and Saudi bloggers are writing and talking to and about each other and, linking to one another. None of them was interested to learn that quite a few of us are discovering that the Middle Eastern media is doing a pretty crappy job of getting beyond the cliches, the slogans and the dogma, and that we made that discovery through blogs.
On the plus side I heard very good things about Dave Sifrys session and Rachel from North London's session. From Rachels own blog, you can't help but get a little emotional about how she got into blogging.
This blog is dedicated to the victims of all bomb attacks. It's also dedicated to two men who changed my life when they told me I was a writer and must keep writing
This is the real side of We media, the people whos lives are changed forever. Sometimes Mainstream media and even some bloggers forget this. I'll put up my own hands and say I sometimes forget this even. There are real people behind the stories and they would like us all to know them a little better that we do right now. During the time I was listening and attending We media 2006, I didn't hear much in the way of an authentic conversation. Its such a shame because there is great opptunity on both sides if we stop pointing fingers and just start talking. Mainstream media needs us and in turn we do need them too. I guess that is actually what the word we in we media is all about.
Oh by the way, there's a Global party at 7pm this Sunday (7th May 2006).