eTech day one…

Went to dinner last night with about 25 folks including a bunch of old friends John Battalle, JC Hertz, and Justin Hall, as well as a bunch of new friends like Sean Bonner, Judith Meskill, and Jeff Jarvis.

Jeff is working on a some cool projects with Joi Ito on bringing blogging to countries like Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and North Korea where freedom of speech is badly needed. Jeff brought a friend of his from Iran who is pushing the blogging trend there. Blogging is becoming a clear lever in the spread of democracy, and Jarvis is the one jamming the lever under the rock.

After dinner danah and Lizhosted a round table on categorization on blogs, which I figured was about how to categorize your blog posts. You know, categorize your posts so that you can help your users find data or share feeds of categories amongst multiple somewhat related blogs. However, the goal seemed to be to figure out if Slashdot was a blog of not.

“Is Slashdot a blog?” seems to be the most important question in the blogsphere right now. Mostly because it gets so much traffic that average bloggers want to get rid of it and Drudge Report so that their blogs don’t seem so small in terms of traffic.

danah had some bigger points, more academic, like if we can’t define what a blog is then how can we have a discussion on it? As far as I’m concerned the biggest question in blogging is: how can we make this profitable for those people who want to make this part of their living. If the best blogs out there are going to keep growing, or even just going, year after year it is going to take money. Some people are ok with doing it organically, but I’d really like to see people who want to make a living, or at least cover their expenses, be able to do that. That is the goal of Weblogs, Inc.

Had a long talk with John Battelle about September 11th, the dotcom bust and future media businesses. We both manned dotcom magazines at the peak, and as such he is one of four people I can talk to who had the same experience of going from having too many advertisers and not enough editorial pages to having too many employees and no advertisers.

John likes the Weblogs, Inc. model, but he thinks that blogs still have a little ways to go in terms of their value proposition. I agree with that, there is a lot of room left for innovation in blogs.

My top ten observations at the conference thus far:

1.A shared T1 for 100+ laptops being manned by geeks is not enough.
2.If you say open source or Linux you will have five people hoot and holler.
3.Joi Ito’s IRC room is more entertaining then the conference itself. People were regularly harassing and dissing the panelists, people asking questions as well as the people in the chat room. It’s sort of like passing notes around class in high school, except you can pass the notes really fast.
4.Marc Canter is insane, but I’m still drawn to talking to him because every fifth or sixth comment is interesting, every 20th is thought provoking and every 50th comment he says is really smart. I’ll take those odds over the brain dead folks I interface with in LA anytime (not everyone in LA is brain dead, just mostI’m joking, save the flames please).
5.Apple computers outnumber PCs about 3 to 1.
6.It must be really strange for someone to walk into a hotel lobby bar and see 40 out of 50 hunched behind laptops at 11PM.
7.It is ruder to look someone in the eye when talking to them then it is to carry on a conversation while checking your email and Yahoo while talking to them (I already told my girlfriend this but she doesn’t agree).
8.Joi Ito has the best toys. His SLR digital Canon camera ($1,000) is the digital camera I’ve been waiting for, and his portable laptop table is a must have at $50.
9.Not having an official conference dinner is just as good as not having an official dinner because you get to have smaller groups plan things together and it becomes an adventure.
10.Don’t offer Justin Hall to stay in your room unless you’re a) prepared for him to take you up on it and b) you’re prepared to wake up to a boxer clad Justin doing email in bed for hours while telling about the intimate details of his personal health and hygiene issues (“I got this brush in a love hotel in Japan!”, “This nail clipper is amazing, it save the clippings for you!”, etc).

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