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August 2, 2005
blogher from afar
I was very disappointed not to be attending BlogHer, but I’m delighted to see the level of discourse that it has been generating online. That’s an excellent sign of a good conference, and was one of the stated goals of the organizers.
Among the post-conference posts that caught my eye was Mary Hodder’s discussion of creating a community-based algorithm to address some of the problems and frustration surrounding current blog “ranking” mechanisms (like the Technorati 100):
After 45 minutes of intense anger and frustration from many audience speakers in the room toward Technorati link counts and top 100, I suggested we create a community based algorithm, based on more complex social relationships than links. It’s something I’ve been working on for few months, trying to frame, about what this problem is and how we might solve it. But it’s a complex issue and I’m also busy. So it’s taken a while. However, my blog post is almost done, and I do plan to put it up in the next day or so.
I loved Halley Suitt’s comment about the Q&A sessions at the conference:
During Q&A — and this will shock you too — the people asking questions aren’t standing up to hog the mike and show off for the most part. The people at Blogher who asked questions actually wanted answers, wanted to be educated and were happy to be educated by anyone in the room who could educate them. The speakers deferred to others in the audience who could answer questions better than they could.
It reminded me of someone once telling me about an academic conference where an unoffical award was regularly given for “best statement phrased in the form of a question.” Anyone who goes to tech conferences (or academic conferences) is well aware of this phenomenon, where someone who believes they know more than the presenters steps up to “ask a question” but instead uses the microphone as their personal soapbox.
For a visual assessment of how Blogher was different, take a look at TW’s “Blogher Vs Gnomedex:
There was one thing I really wanted to comment on. Look at the pictures on Flickr tagged Gnomedex vs those tagged for Blogher. These are totally different sorts of pictures. Pictures of PowerPoint projections at Gnomedex. Pictures of women, their FACES at BlogHer. (as opposed to the backs of heads at Gnomedex. It speaks to what women value.
Particularly gratifying to me is the fact that it’s not just the women who are talking about the conference and its participants. I loved this post from Christopher Carfi, who attended the conference. Here’s an excerpt:
This problem has deep roots, and a number of them. How did it come to pass that “number of links” became a surrogate for “quality?” It’s a result of a number of factors that lie in the technical underpinnings of how we currently “discover” new things online, namely PageRank and related algorithms. If a lot of people link to something it must be good, right? Well…sort of. The concept of “a link is a vote” is a blunt instrument.
Read the whole post. It’s good stuff.
And finally, Evelyn Rodriguez has a great roundup of quotes and highlights from the conference, including this great observation:
Although Marc’s heart is in the right place, his suggestion that BlogHers create our own list, our own companies and tell the guys to fuck off…is ultimately simply playing the game by the same old (tired, not wired) rules. (Guys aren’t the real issue; it’s the metaphors we unconsciously live by, the worldviews embedded in the games.) Marc’s Implicit Assumption much like August issue of Wired: You only change the world when you are on a list. You only change the world when you are heading a company. Bigger is better. Louder is more impactful. Celebrity matters.
Go forth and read the posts I’ve linked to, and the posts they link to, and the posts that link to them. Scan the blogher tag in del.icio.us. Don’t just dip your toes into the stream of conversation. Plunge in, and learn. There’s a lot being said that’s worth listening to.
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