I promise to soon make an index with links to everything I have written about what has emerged as my two favorite topics of late — WiFi and blogging. The two subjects came together this week at the Agenda 2003 conference in Scottsdale. Last year or the year before (not sure which) the conference organizers began to provide WiFi Internet connectivity — basically free public access to a broadband connection for the duration of the conference. They also provided electrical outlets so that attendees could keep their laptops going non-stop. Having continuous WiFi available at a conference raises a number of issues.
First is the matter of attention span. I suspect that more than one attendee left the conference with only a fraction of they could have learned if they hadn’t been doing email and surfing the web during the fireside chats and panels. Perhaps the interaction at breaks is not as great because some people remained tethered to their laptops. And then there is the issue of consideration for the people on stage looking out at many blank faces staring down at their laptops. This makes it hard to read the audience, let alone to really engage with them. But this year there was an additional issue — blogging.
I don’t know how many bloggers were in the audience other than Dan Gillmor and me. Dan blogs as part of his livelihood at Mercury News. I blog as a hobby. We both blog because we have a point of view on things and enjoy communicating and sharing. The issue is called “off the record”. Quite a few professional journalists attend conferences like Agenda to hear what industry leaders have to say and to catch up with friends.and fellow journalists. The conference organizers require the journalists to agree that they will not report on the proceedings of the conference while they are there; i.e. the conference content is “off the record”. For me it is different — I am not a journalist. I am just a civilian blogger, so it seemed natural to me to write about (blog) what was going on at the conference and share it through my website just like I do for other things that I participate in ranging from motorcycle rides to web experiences to restaurant or book favorites.
Perhaps I’ll get a call or an email from Jim Fallows asking me to not blog any more or even start a new precedent of asking all attendees to agree not to blog at a conference. I don’t think so. I also don’t think of myself as a journalist but then on the other hand maybe blogging makes all of us journalists. I think at a minimum that blogging will change how we think about writing, reading, and how we decide what to read. More on this in a future posting.