Supernova and unconversations about unconferences

I’m mildly confused by all this kerfuffle about Supernova 2006, apparently kicked off by Marc Canter’s comments on his blog. I don’t know Marc, and I do know Kevin, and I intend to be at Supernova again this year. [Disclosure: I have been on panels at Supernova before, and cannot rule out being on one again some day].

I do not understand all the arguments, and don’t claim to be an expert on any of this. I am perplexed as to how Kevin can be accused of Having the Same Old Faces at the same time as Not Inviting Some Of the Same Old Faces. I do not believe Esther Dyson bought her right to speak by CNET being a sponsor. I do not think Skype was a large company when Niklas spoke two years ago.

But maybe it’s me, and I’m confused. Of Calcutta.

All this made me think of conferences, why I go, what I expect to get out of them, which ones I go to. And it made me think of all this in the context of the way we connect and co-create today.

And here’s my take:

  • There are no audiences any more. It is better to call them communities. Gone are the days when people spouted pap from the front and people lapped up the pap in the back. Today good conferences are conversations. Active and participative.
  • There are no speakers any more. It is better to call them moderators. Moderators with some stories and some tools, but moderators nevertheless.
  • Conferences have become rites of passage, ritual meetings of communities and subcommunities. So there is always an element of Same Old Faces, and an element of Missing Same Old Faces, and an element of New Faces we’ve never heard of.
  • Community conversations take place before, during and after the ritual meetings. In many shapes and forms. Including if necessary at unconferences across the road. This is not a big deal.
  • Yesterday’s on-the-edge ritual meetings are tomorrow’s establishment programmes. We already live in a world where Skype and Amazon and Google are called “Incumbent to Watch” in the Next Net 25 by BusinessWeek. So maybe Supernova and PC Forum and O’Reilly are already establishment. And reboot is moving there. And geek dinners and barcamps and unconferences are tomorrow’s establishment. Plus ca change….

So I’m looking forward to saying hi to some of the same old faces; meeting some new ones; listening to some new stories and occasionally some old ones as well. And learning more about what it means to be at a conference in this day and age.

Especially for people who fly in from places other than the US, people like me, the Same Old Faces argument doesn’t wash. I’m looking forward to meeting Amy Jo Kim again, even though she was at Supernova last year. I think she has forgotten more about communities than I know. I’m looking forward to meeting Esther Dyson again, having missed PC Forum. I guess she sees a few Same Old Faces on her travels. I’m looking forward to finding out how Saul Klein is doing, if it’s the ex Firefly guy via some DVD rental outfit in between. Because I want to know more about collaborative filtering.

And I’m looking forward to meeting Marc Canter for the first time in Amsterdam before that -)

Let me know what you think

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