I just came from checking out Lucas on a Social Media Club LA panel on something about technology and music, apparently there’s some kind of intersection there. Who knew? Anyway, the organizers projected a live stream of all the tweets tagged with #smcla on a screen behind the panelists during the entire panel.
This has become a pretty common “feature” of tech panels nowadays, and I’m heareby asking organizers to knock it off.
There are a couple of reasons I feel this way. First of all, I don’t know how anyone in the audience could really pay any attention to what the panelists were saying seeing as the *entire audience* seemed to be on their mobile devices or laptops writing things to show up on screen (myself included). Secondly (and more importantly), the majority of the shit that went up there was totally lame (with the noted exception of this Sarah Palin tweet). Most people who get up to speak during Q&A time at panels are really doing it to hear themselves speak and try to impress the panelists and/or audience (“I’d like to pose my question in the form of a statement about how awesome I am, please validate/hire/sleep with me”). The good news is those Q&A sessions are generally short, and there is a physical limit on how many people can actually speak on the mic at any one time. Well when you put that Twitter stream up there, every self-important douche in the room can post his/her little cry for attention, and they generally do (again, including me).
Don’t get me wrong, I think real-time audience feedback is a valuable tool to keep any panel on track (I’m too lazy to search the web for the numerous stories of panels turned around by moderators monitoring audience tweets or find the right link to the Sarah Lacey SXSW debacle). But, the devil’s in the details and you’ve got to implement it in a way that preserves the right incentives for the audience to participate — i.e. improving the conversation, not trying to steal the spotlight. I was actually at what I believe was the first conference to use an interactive real-time feedback system. It was the >play conference in November 2006, and I blogged at the time about how Michael Arrington was a total prick for asking the organizers to take the SMS-based audience feedback system powered by Mozes off the screen behind the panel (ironically, this panel and the Valleywag story that came out of it may have driven the first significant tipping point for Twitter adoption).
As much as it pains me to agree with Arrington nearly two years after the fact, I do think there is a reason to have a moderator and a good moderator should be entrusted with the power to steer the panel discussion. The moderator should definitely be watching the conversation about the panel on Twitter in real-time and reacting accordingly, and individual audience members who want to have *virtual* side conversation should feel free to do so on their laptops or devices. But, don’t give individual audience members the opportunity (and encouragement) to distract the rest of the audience by putting their comments on (or above) the level of the panelists.
If your audience is that smart, put them on the panel. And if your moderator needs to be babysat by your audience, get a better moderator.
As my (legion of) followers on Twitter know, I’m at the TechCrunch50 this week. I’m here helping an Israeli startup with the launch of their product Flyscreen in the Demo Pit yesterday and today (cause I just *love* booth duty that much).
As painful as booth duty is, yesterday was actually fun because there were some cool people to hang out with. I smuggled inEric, ran into Debs, and got to meet Andrew and Ben. I’m not sure if it’s just TC50 or the “Web 2.0” conference scene in general, but there was definitely a pervasive vibe of shark jumpage in the air and anyone worth caring about was basically taking the piss out of all the other people taking this thing way too seriously. And now, for the footage…
There was a dude walking around dressed as Abraham Lincoln (don’t ask), and I had recently been told that my current ‘stache made me look like John Wilkes Booth. So, we decided to film a dramatic reenactment of the assasination of Abraham Lincoln in the TC50 Demo Pit. Andrew was on camera, Eric made it happen by being the only one with the balls to proposition Abe, and the dude playing Abe was a real sport (and a seriously talented actor 😉 ). Enjoy!
After that, things really started getting out of hand. While I got pulled off to do some demo work, the crew decided to move on to trying the world’s worst pitch on an unsuspecting VC. Hilarity ensues…
P.S. Even though Eric claims to have come up with this pitch idea independently, there is actually prior art.
This is some vintage shit right here! Definitely makes me miss one of the funniest men of the 70’s and 80’s. I remember going to the premiere of “Lethal Weapon 4” in 1998 and seeing Richard Pryor in the theater in his wheelchair. It was definitely a very sad way to end a pretty crazy (read: awesome) life.
This is exciting to me on a number of levels. First of all, Joel has been a friend of mine since he moved out to LA about 5 years ago, and we share a mutual best friend (hi, Devra 😀 ). He’s someone who I truly admire for having the unabashed courage (and/or stupidity) to blindly pursue his goal of making a living amusing others. And, he’s the only person I can ever imagine even attempting the full-time occupation of professional contest winner, let alone succeeding at it (for more back-story, check out his blog). So, I want to see him succeed on that level as well, because I have a dream of a future in which “Professional Contest Winner” is a choice in the drop-down menu for the “Occupation” field on forms. I also have a (psuedo-)professional interest in seeing Joel succeed. I’ll post more on this in the near future, but I’ve been working with Joel over the last month or so on how to use the off-the-shelf tools the web has to offer (e.g. WordPress, Flickr, Twitter, Facebook, etc) to build and cultivate a fanbase to unleash at times like this. So, having him win something like this means I can actually start charging him for my pearls of wisdom 😉 . And finally, his shit really is pretty damned awesome. But, don’t take my word for it, see for yourself.
Register (or sign-in, if by some miracle you’ve already registered). Yes, registration is a pain in the ass and the ad agency behind this is a bunch of morons for requiring it, but we don’t have any control over that. Plus, you could win $25k from Klondike just for voting and Joel will totally make it worth your while if he wins.
Watch happyjoel’s video, and rate it 5 bars (Klondike Bars, get it?). Also, leaving positive comments for Joel’s video (note that they don’t appear in realtime and must pass an editorial review before being posted, tools!) and/or rating other videos lower than Joel’s can’t hurt.
(Optional) If you happen to know any of the Lonely Island guys, who will be judging the final outcome of the contest, put in a good word for Joel. (I’m looking at you, Hurwitz.)
And, please blog, Facebook, Twitter, Digg, or [insert social media nonsense of your choice] this to help spread the word.
P.S. The photo up top pretty much says everything you need to know about Joel: it was taken on a cruise to the Arctic (the same one on which he filmed the Polar Bear bits of the Klondike video), which he won in a Nature Valley Granola Bar contest, and he purchased and schlepped a giant penguin suit all the way up there just to stage a photo of him as the only penguin in the Arctic. I mean, how can you not love this guy?! (He also just pulled a similarly Ludacris stunt on his recent trip to Australia.)
In writing all of that, I did get to thinking a little bit about why (relatively) intelligent and well-adjusted people are totally comfortable with our behavior on Twitter (at least until its absurdity is temporarily called out, as above). The answer may be that it isn’t, in fact, that absurd after all. For people who live their lives at the leading edge of consumer technology, our signal:noise ratio in daily life is rapidly approaching Infinity. Is it possible that the human condition demands some degree of noise to have a balanced life — think about it, a life in which nothing is random or serendipitous (i.e. all signal) doesn’t sound too fun. Eliminating the noise in meatspace can practically only go so far, but in cyberspace, where our kind now spends most of our time, the vast majority of products and services have been designed to give you nothing but signal. Twitter (and to a certain degree other social software, like the Facebook newsfeed) can theoretically be adjusted to be all signal, but the entropy of its design tends towards providing you with noise, be it noise of your choosing. Maybe Twitter is the cyberspace equivalent of one of those sleep machines that emits white noise to help you sleep at night.
For a couple of people who work in tech, Ed and I argue over grammar and usage a lot. We’re currently working on an upcoming post for the Widgets Blog, and got into it over the English use of the French word “naitre,” as in “nee.” I originally used it in the French masculine (“ne”), which Ed then changed to the feminine (“nee”). At which point, the following IM conversation ensued:
Me: u made konfab feminine? Ed Voas: i guess i did. Me: ok Ed Voas: but i suppose it doesn’t need to be Ed Voas: just so used to seeing it that way Me: conformist Ed Voas: in fact, i think in its english use, it’s always nee Me: no Ed Voas: yes Me: u and arlo decide if u want it to be an homme or femme Ed Voas: hey, we don’t speak french here, and according to even dictionary.com, nee can simply mean “formerly known as” and there is no entry for ne. Me: oh, and dictionary.com is such an authority Me: i heard it just replaced the OED as the scrabble bible Ed Voas: well, the cite is from AHD, so suck it Me: im going to blog this and have a poll Ed Voas: ok. good luck with that. Ed Voas: and the next time you use “begs the question” wrong, we’ll see if anyone cares Ed Voas: or “moot” Me: i use moot correctly Me: we established that Ed Voas: point being, you suck Ed Voas: i should be a debater Ed Voas: and in conclusion, neener. Me: oh thats totally going in my post! Ed Voas: the 6 of us will appreciate that
I think Ed is technically right in that English has totally bastardized the correct usage of the French original. But, that’s not a reason to give in. I’m standing on principle that a foreign word should retain it’s usage rules when appropriated in another language — even if those rules are not normally applicable in the new language (e.g. the gender of an object).
Nerdy enough for ya? Weigh in below to help us decide the battle of the grammar-inclined Widgeteers.