1. Conferences and Events

Stories from Saturday at Blog World Expo

I’ve now survived another day of Blog World Expo, so I’ll share a few more observations to follow my first impressions.

From the show:

There’s a mix of energy and torpor. People are very excited to be there, and many are finding enough energy to have fun at night. But people here also seemed drained from their travels, from the slew of events going on, and from not being able to unwind over the weekend. Having the conference on the weekend may have made it possible for some to get here who couldn’t during the week, but for most it shows an extra commitment.

There’s little to eat. The pizza place (which wasn’t as bad as it could have been) and coffee shop on the BWE floor closed early, leaving people starving. Only toward the end of the day did I discover the break room for full conference attendees and speakers, stocked with a fridge full of Jones soda and juice, and some cookies that had been sitting out awhile.

From the events at night:

Identity switching’s the new meme. At the @zappos party Saturday night, @gregarious approached me and introduced himself as Tessa / @driveafastercar. He was wearing Tessa’s nametag. Nametag switching, and thus identity confusion, became a meme that night. I wound up wearing the sticker of someone named Nadia. Yet in a community, as this clearly was, there’s some built-in transparency.

Sometimes you don’t need the live version
. Also at the Zappos event, Judson Laipply appeared, got up on a counter, and performed the full Evolution of Dance video, said to be the most watched online video ever, with 100 million views on YouTube alone (his video actually trails Avril Lavigne’s music video Girlfriend, though he has received far more votes). He was a big hit. And yet, there was something about the grainy YouTube video, and perhaps the idea of this guy being a total stranger rather than inches away from me (I mean it – he almost kicked me in the face), that made the recorded version even more watchable. Judson is incredibly talented, and I gave him a heartfelt congrats on his performance there, but I’d like to think of him as the Evolution of Dance on YouTube Guy, not Judson.

Twitter is the mob. After that party ended, dozens of people were standing around aimlessly. A good chunk of them were going on Twitter, just searching for what others were saying about where they were going. For a good number of people there, Twitter was their source of word of mouth, rather than all the other people standing right next to them.

Forgive us — we’re still learning out this really works.

My cab driver back to the hotel tonight was Ethiopian. While he didn’t profess his love of America, he unabashedly asked me about my politics, wondering how New York City would vote in the presidential election and then how I would vote. While the ride wasn’t as inspiring as last night’s, I still found the conversation stimulating. It’s easier to discuss politics with a total stranger than a friend; it’s easier to risk disagreement when the encounter’s fleeting, so one can be far more open. If you both agree, then it’s also fun to meet a stranger who’s come to similar conclusions. Such openness has its limits; a cab driver in Los Angeles once told me how the Jews caused the 9/11 terrorist attacks because he heard it on the radio. Generally, though, it makes for good conversation.

Both the Ethiopian and Saudi Arabian drivers, who both may well choose to simply be called American, strike me as bloggers without a platform. They’re welcome reminders that while I’m here with the vanguard of digital media, there’s more to self-expression and storytelling than the technology that enables it.

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