I wasn’t sure what to expect from BloggerCon 3 at Stanford Law School on Saturday, but I was pleasantly surprised by what a cool group of people attended. Unlike other conferences where technology execs purport to be celebrities, BloggerCon was amazingly down-to-earth and mellow and almost surprising in general friendliness. That was especially obvious at one point while I was outside chatting about podcasting with Dave Winer (software legend, creator of XML-RPC, and BloggerCon organizer) and Adam Curry (who I used to watch on MTV in high school). Talked to Cam Barrett about our new MobThought ideas, to Phil Wolff about political campaign software, to Scott Johnson about a little issue I was having with Feedster, and even showed bransonblog.com to Julie Adair from the BBC. It was pretty amusing to read Micki Krimmel’s blog while she sat in front of me (you can also see her photos here). Mike Tippett and I were noting in the cab ride back how impressed we were with the caliber of people there… a very impressive group overall. Perhaps most interesting, though, was my chat with Nick Bradbury (creator of HomeSite, TopStyle, and FeedDemon), who was really cool about encouraging me to build my own aggregator— even encouraging me to copy FeedDemon features and offering to help if I had questions in starting a one-man software company like he’s got. Incredibly nice. This guy’s a legend to all of us using HomeSite years ago, so it was almost disturbing to see firsthand how cool he was to some random rambling lunatic he’s never met before. 😉
The conference had a few stressful moments when Dave Winer and a couple vendors had different ideas in mind about the “no vendor discussions” rule. I agree that it was great that Dave held the line (lest the conference devolve into another Comdex), but I also consider it confusion and not any malicious intent on the part of the vendors. Sort of the same impression I got when Dave was arguing with Chris Nolan about her chasing “nickels and dimes” while she countered with wanting to create a site that she, as a writer, could live off of. It really just seemed like two people with very different perspectives each finding their own niche in a new medium; it’s hard sometimes for software guys who’ve sold companies for millions to understand that writers don’t quite think in the same way (nor should they have to). Chris made some great points supporting her (different) approach to her (different) goals.
This latter discussion came up in Doc Searls’ session on Making Money with Blogs, which seemed to have another similar areas of subtle contention as well. Doc asked (rhetorically, I think) whether we wanted to be people or wanted to be brands, but this misses the freedom of choice in the same way that Dave’s argument did. Yes, with Stanforth.org, I want people to know me, not a brand. But I’m a perfect example of Dave’s “technical people making contacts and starting businesses together” premise, while Chris really is creating a brand in the same way that Time Magazine or any other publication is a brand. Saying that we shouldn’t aspire to build brands overlooks the fact that while blogs may be the future, today’s world offers a good deal of money to be made with more traditional approaches. And it seems smart for Chris to build a solid, recognizable brand and make money through writing if that’s what she does best.
The other conference sessions were equally interesting, kicking off with Adam Curry’s Podcasting session in the morning. Adam and Dave commented afterward that the session essentially had the entire podcasting universe in attendance, something that will likely never be possible again at the current exponential growth rate of the podcasting meme. (The image here is of a podcaster who took the opportunity to interview Dave & Adam, the two creators of podcasting, right after Adam’s session.) Scoble’s Information Overload session talked about how the complaints people have in managing hundreds (sometimes thousands) of RSS feeds each day, and the Election 2004 session was relatively calm given the heated tempers from Tuesday’s election.
After the conference, a bunch of us headed to Gordon Biersch in Palo Alto, where I chatted with the UserLand developers, saw a cool demo from Ross, and talked to Bill Paseman about cool new ideas. The Aggregator Dinner afterward was especially cool. Funny thing is, sitting at one end of the table with Phil Wolff, Bob Wyman, Scott Johnson, Nick Bradbury, et al., I only heard about the other side of the table afterward from Mike Tippett and from reading blog accounts of the event. Definitely a lot of smart people gathered in one place.
My eternal thanks too to my friend Stephen McHenry, who met me in Palo Alto on Sunday and spent the afternoon showing me around Silicon Valley. From the excellent lunch conversation about some incredible new hardware, to a great chat at Starbucks (where we ran into Bob Wyman and Renee Blodgett), to Stephen’s awesome tour of Silicon Valley spots that I really liked, and taking me to SJC for my flight afterward, it really was an excellent ending to a great weekend. Thanks, Stephen!