Last week I had the opportunity to attend Jeff Pulver's social media summit, SocComm '09....here's what I took away from it....
Jeff really is, as Chris Brogan said, a true thought leader. And it's not just because of what Jeff's already done, it's how he thinks about things that may happen in the future. He's one of those guys I've wanted to spend some time around for awhile (and one of the reasons I'd like to get back to NYC--just to occasionally hit his Social Media breakfasts.)
And as Chris and I said to each other in the hallway, "why is it that I have to go away from Massachusetts to run into you?" so odd how we live in the same state but rarely at the same functions in state. Life's funny that way sometimes...
High points of the day were, for me:
Jeff Jarvis interacting with the crowd during his presentation. I've seen Jeff a number of times since 2005, and this was the first time I'd seen him have fun with the crowd. He treated the crowd as if we were (and are)peers, skipping over some of his powerpoint slides saying "you probably already know this" and then had a great back and forth with the audience over the question "how would Google run a restaurant?" The energy was so positive and so good that it made me think he must be pretty fun as a professor...
Shelly Palmer was also fantastic! I've been reading Shelly off and on for about 2 years now, in various places, and on his blog and he was refreshingly no B.S. when it came to the idea of "social networking" (and that it's been around forever.) Shelly wrote his own take on Twitter at SocCom here. Shelly's also one of the few people I've allowed to put me on a newsletter mailing list that I haven't kvetched about. Usually, I find the automatic placing on newsletter lists of people whose business cards you get to be a little presumptuous, but with Shelly, since I read him anyway, it really is a decent way of keeping up with him (although I wouldn't advise too many other people to do that with me--you may end up with a snarky email, as I hate spam.)
Brock Meeks from the Center for Democracy and Technology provided vital counterpoints to a discussion on anonymity that was veering into the absurd. I am always shocked how so many people in the United States do not understand the importance of anonymity (or, more appropriately, pseudonumity) in U.S. history--and are so quick to want to throw away pseudonumity/anonymity as some sort of remedy for online incivility. While we may not suffer from political prosecution for our views (not at this time in history anyway) there are many other reasons for using pseudonymns or being anonymous. We have a long way to go with privacy online to dismiss the importance of anonymity or pseudonumity.
The discussion between Sandra Fathi and Rob Key on "Social Media and Multiple Personality Disorder" also brought up many good points about privacy and protecting one's privacy online. Lots of good thoughts about the blurry line between employees and employers, between one's private online life and if the company one works for should be part of that life. It's another area where the law and people's perceptions of their privacy online have not caught up with the realities of the Internet.
And now for the not so great stuff:
I hesitate to write this because, I've noticed recently, that people are far more aggressive to those critical of their work than they were in the past. The old social media advice used to be to just read the criticism and take it into account--don't necessarily respond. Have a thick skin and get on with life. But now, it's not just responding, but in some cases also suing: using the provisions of the DMCA to stifle speech (as in the case of a rodeo group v. an animal rights group) or claiming defamation (as when an SF chiropractor sued a local artist for a negative review on Yelp) I'm really peeved by this, and will just post my thoughts anyway....
The Mommyblogger panel wasn't that interesting. The panel leader didn't need to explain what a mommyblogger is, and most of what the panel said had to do with "the purchasing power of moms"--a party line I'd heard so many times before over the past four years that, when I start to hear it, I go to my "happy space." Later, in comparing notes with other audience members, we were all rather bothered that the mommyblogger panel didn't address issues around their children's use of social networks or the impact of what they do on their children's privacy --two very important issues that mothers *should* be concerned about.
IMO, the emphasis on mommyblogging diminishes the contributions of women overall to the blogosphere and social media. We are not all mommies, and being a mommy may give one perspective, but not the only perspective held by women vis a vis social media.
and I'm sorry, but while some folks may find him funny, I really wasn't impressed by Gary Vaynerchuck (and know he's now following me on Twitter.) Much of what Gary was saying, around the F-bombs and other sundry swears--wasn't anything new and revolutionary to the bulk of us in the crowd (maybe to a few young guns, but not overall.) I've been both attending and speaking at "social media" conferences of one stripe or another since 2005, and so many times I've heard "you can make money being a content producer!" that I just want to throw up. It used to be "you can make money from blogging!" now the old hype is extended out to all other kinds of social media. Please! it's very difficult for the majority of people to make money strictly from their user-generated content: reasons range from lack of "popular appeal" (let's face it: frat boy behavior and young chicks with big boobs will always get more attention than most other folks) to invisibility in Google. One can make money from a variety of resources connected to their online personae, but when it comes to UGC, the eggs-in-one-basket adage holds true.
Also, enough with "Old media's dead!" stuff. Man! We've been hearing that one for years as well and it's really not quite dead yet (to quote the old man in Monty Python and the Holy Grail.) It was esp. weird coming from a guy who, the day after the conference, I saw being very civil on the Today Show. A note to Gary: if you are leveraging old media, as it appears, to bolster new media, then say so. Nothing wrong with that--everybody does it to one degree or another. Don't commit "sins of omission"--just be transparent! (although props again to Shelly Palmer for pointing out that GV makes money from his wine concern as well...)
Maybe it was meant to be comedic relief...but, well, I felt the same way when, at the PDF a couple of years ago, I heard Tom Friedman tell an anecdote I'd heard innumerable times on TV. It was, well, kind of boring....
Another disappointment was the lack of women presenters. Yes, there was one--who seemed a little naive about what she was doing, and that was a little disappointing too. There are many other highly qualified women working in social media--like Sandra Fathi--that it would have been nice to hear one of them address larger issues of social media pertaining to marketing, media, and communications.
Or are women just not there yet in the numbers that men are--and, therefore, give the impression of being "invisible"?
I don't know, but, Jeff Pulver, if you're reading this, let's chat (not that I'm the most qualified, but I might have some really good connections--after all, "I know everybody" ;-) )
So, that's my take on SocComm. Whether you like it or not. It just is--transparent and truthful.
Update Jeff Pulver has a full list of related SocComm blog posts
SocComm social media socialnetworking