Live tweeting from conferences sucks.
It sucks for the presenters, who must be aware that their 'audience' is more concerned with writing rather than properly listening.
It double-sucks for presenters if they have to get through their content with the double distraction of seeing the 'audience' heads-down in their laptops AND being faced with a Twitterfall of real-time, critical comments projected on the screen behind them.
And it sucks for the audience. You have paid (or more likely you employer has paid) good money in order to learn something. Or to be inspired. Ideally both. Bashing away on Tweetdeck when you should be absorbing slide content, verbal content and hopefully a compelling on-stage performance is a waste of someone's training budget. You can call me old fashioned about this, but you'd be wrong.
I was mighty glad to see that there was no Twitterfall at MediaGuardian's Changing Media Summit 2010. And, as you can see, I vowed not to tweet while people were speaking.
Here, however, is a summary of the high and low points of the day as if I had live tweeted. Tweeting after the event.
I COULD LISTEN TO JIMMY WALES (WIKIPEDIA FOUNDER) ALL DAY. #CMS2010
Jimmy Wales spoke for about 20 minutes and was then interviewed by Rory Cellan-Jones for about another 20 minutes. Neither slot was long enough, a consistent failing of this conference if truth be told. He was eloquent, passionate and candid. He had clearly edited a wealth of material down to 20 minutes, and the audience would clearly have kept him talking in the Q&A had time permitted.
LOVE THE WIKIPEDIA MISSION STATEMENT. LAYERS OF MEANING TO EVERY WORD & PHRASE. #CMS2010
Mr Wales spoke with great conviction about the role and purpose of Wikipedia. This clearly isn't a bland, vanilla, dust-gathering pronouncement to be laminated, stuck on office walls and ignored. It is an active credo by which the organisation lives and works on a daily basis. Well worth a closer look. His discourse on the layered meaning of the word 'free' ("free as in speech, not as in beer", "not just no paywall, no wall at all") led to an interesting examination of the contrasting approaches of Google and Wikipedia in China, which is again a hot topic as I write this.
CHINESE MENUS DEMONSTRATE THE POWER OF WIKIPEDIA. #CMS2010
If I had live tweeted this I would have used Twitpic to illustrate the point. Mr Wales showed several examples of menus from restaurants in China that appear to list Wikipedia as a key ingredient of several dishes. I have included an example below.
The explanation for this appears to be that when looking for English translations of Chinese ingredient names, the corresponding Wikipedia entries were returned first and misinterpreted.
CORPORATE ATTITUDES TO CHINA ARE LIKE THOSE TO SOUTH AFRICA DURING APARTHEID - JIMMY WALES #CMS2010
In that some companies choose not to be associated with the regime, some choose to be there as an active force for positive change, and some are just there to make money regardless of any human rights issues. Despite the differences between their approaches, Mr Wales placed both Wikipedia and Google in the middle category.
WIKIA - END OF THE ROAD FOR NICHE MAGAZINES? JIMMY WALES #CMS2010
Mr Wales is also the founder of Wikia, a "consumer publishing platform that enables passionate communities to collaborate". He cited the example of his daughter, an avid user of the Club Penguin platform who, once exposed to the rich depth of (free) content on the Club Penguin wiki, is bitterly disappointed with the mere 100 pages of content that she gets from a $6 niche magazine.
BAKERS SELL FRESH BREAD AND GIVE AWAY STALE AT THE END OF THE DAY. NEWSPAPERS DO THE OPPOSITE. #CMS2010
An interesting parting shot from Mr Wales. He attributed the stale bread/fresh analogy to Matthew Freud, whom he had met the previous day.
SHIFTING CULTURE AT THE BBC. TECHNOLOGY AND EDITORIAL ON EQUAL FOOTING. ERIK HUGGERS. #CMS2010
Erik Huggers is Director, BBC Future Media & Technology at the BBC. His presentation (deliberately?) took the entire 20 minutes allocated to this slot, leaving no time for questions from what, judging by the murmurs, was not an entirely friendly audience. He talked about how the creation of "products" at the BBC (things like the iPlayer, the news website, C Beebies etc) was a collaboration of equals between technologists and editorial staff. This is a common theme right now, with people like Mike Arauz posting recently about the magic that happens when technological 'tricks' and great storytelling work hand in hand.
IS IT IRONIC, UNLUCKY OR JUST INEVITABLE THAT TECHNOLOGY HAS FAILED FOR THE DIGITAL BRITAIN PRESENTATION? #CMS2010
Oh dear. Least said soonest mended I think.
IN SWEDEN 20-30 YEAR OLD MEN SPEND MORE TIME ON SPOTIFY THAN WATCHING TV. #CMS2010
A comment made during a panel session on "The New Economics of Content" and the different business models currently being explored by Condé Nast, CNBC, Spotify and Pearson. The above observation was made by Jonathan Forster, Global Sales Director of Spotify, as he opined that the agency mindset needed to work harder to keep up with changing content consumption behaviour. Some interesting stuff in this session about combining various business models (freemium, micropayments, virtual goods, oh yeah and advertising) rather than relying on one.
USEFUL, USABLE, DELIGHTFUL - THE AKQA RECIPE FOR CREATIVE SUCCESS. #CMS2010
This was from a pre-lunch panel session on "Quality creative control". Once again the format wasn't ideal. The panelists were potentially awesome (from Contagious, Nokia, Ogilvy Labs, DDB Stockholm, AKQA and BERG) but none of them really had enough time on their feet to get into any kind of stride. Some interesting bits and pieces like the AKQA philosophy on digital creativity, but I was left wanting much more.
MEDIA COMPANIES CAN'T HOLD AN AUDIENCE BECAUSE WHAT THEY PRODUCE IS SHIT - MICHAEL WOLFF. #CMS2010
Michael Wolff is the founder of Newser.com, a news aggregation site with the mantra "read less, know more." He also wrote The Man Who Owns The News, a biography of Rupert Murdoch. The quote above refers to his opinion that US newspapers in particular are rapidly becoming victims of their "over-supply of inconsequential content".
THE NEWSPAPER INDUSTRY IN THE U.S. IS OVER - MICHAEL WOLFF. #CMS2010
Michael Wolff continuing his candid and thus highly entertaining tirade against traditional media owners. And against Mr Murdoch...
UNTIL A YEAR AGO RUPERT HAD NEVER BEEN ON THE WEB UNACCOMPANIED - MICHAEL WOLFF. #CMS2010
Michael Wolff and Jimmy Wales were the undoubted highlights of this conference.
ENFORCING CONTROL DOESN'T WORK WHEN YOU NEED TRUST. PARENTS GET IT. MEDIA DON'T - GERD LEONHARD. #CMS2010
Gerd Leonhard describes himself as a media futurist. I don't know about that but I do know that he's a complete nutter on his feet. A flamboyant presenter with even more flamboyant slides. I have never seen so much animated giffery in one place. Literally every component of every chart moved in some way, usually all at the same time. His conference slides can be found here but they're static and so really don't capture what it was like on the day. Maybe if you close your eyes, spin rapidly on the spot several times until you're giddy and lose any sense of balance, then look at the charts, you might get close. All he needed were big shoes and an exploding car for the full clown effect. It was a shame because he made some interesting points but you had to not be laughing (at not with) in order to hear them.
IT'S ALL KICKING OFF HERE. YOUNG TURKS FOUNDER HAVING A RIGHT OLD GO AT NBC. #CMS2010
Cenk Uygur, founder of The Young Turks basically accused most American journalists of being liars who are in the pockets of big business and the US political machine. This incurred the wrath of a heckler in the audience and it all kicked off from there. To describe Cenk as "cocksure" would be a massive understatement but you only have to look at some of the engagement stats on his YouTube channel to see that this confidence is not entirely without foundation. This closing panel was moderated by Rory Cellan-Jones who was clearly enjoying it. Equally clear was his frustration at not having more time to develop and milk the debate further. And that, as you may have gathered, was the story of the conference.