Sunday, October 09, 2005
Childcare issues prevented me from attending ALL of ConvergeSouth, but what I did manage to get to proved to be a highly worthy of my semi-precious time. Organized by key members of Greensboro’s vibrant blogging community, this free, two day event explored the digital revolution in publishing and self-expression that’s changing the way we communicate. If that isn’t your idea of a good time, I understand, but if you’re reading THIS, you’re already taking part in a new media renaissance. And you thought you were just killing time cruising the interweb…
For me, ConvergeSouth was a day of intense data-analysis after a yearlong experiment. Less than twelve months ago, I started this humble site with two goals: develop a more stringent writing discipline and get some more eyeballs on my work. Little did I know when I began posting my anecdotes, images and essays for public consumption that I was stumbling into a revolution, but that’s exactly what it feels like - for I soon found out I wasn’t blogging in a vacuum. Instead, mine was merely one voice in a cacophony of mostly eloquent viewpoints. For reasons we still don’t understand , Greensboro has established itself as a pinnacle of push-button publishing. Professors and politicians, educators and elected officials, techies and truck drivers - all using incredibly easy software to share their wit and wisdom with the world.
Before I fully realized what I was doing , I attended my first local blogger’s meet-up. This in itself is pretty remarkable, for despite my glib sarcasm, diarrhea of the keyboard and reluctant people skills, I’m pretty damn anti-social. Still, I pocketed my reticence and rendezvoused with these strangers, eager to put faces to the many on-line personalities I was suddenly infatuated with. Am I ever glad I did. Not only do I consider the following cyber -scribes to be daily required reading, but I count Ed, Sue, Hogg, Billy, Patrick, Roch, Jay, Ben, David, Sam, Chewie, Lex, Michael and quite a few other talented folk as personal friends of mine - people I’d gladly share a coffee, a joke or an adult beverage with. As a result, I now regard Greensboro as a place to be proud of, not just another set of unremarkable city limit signs appearing in the blue haze of my professionally-detached viewfinder.
So when my new pals began talking of a gathering of sorts, a free forum designed to encourage even more hyper-local creativity on-line, I scheduled time off from work and began counting the days toward what quickly became known as ConvergeSouth. Now that the inaugural event is all but history, I can honestly report it was anything disappointing. ‘Why‘s that?’, you (didn’t) ask; I’ll tell you. It ain’t the magic laptops, the RSS feeds or the nifty new vernacular surrounding it all - it’s the people. Be it Bora, Seymour, Boyd, or Lassiter, they’re were many attending talents I was delighted to finally share air with. I only hope they feel the same after laying eyes on your friendly neighborhood lenslinger. I’d gladly offer them their money back if they felt they were cheated, but just what part of free don’t you understand?
Of course with any cyber-summit of this stature, there are the requisite headliners that dominate the spotlight. Thanks mostly to a certain Cone’s influence, ConvergeSouth was not lacking for internet icons. Atrios, Congdon, Winer and Wales - these are certified rock stars of the blogging world. If the very notion of these self-confessed cyber-geeks being compared to swaggering musicians makes you laugh, get over it. People a heckuva lot smarter than you or I already have. Speaking of higher intelligence, two out-of-town attendees really fired up my synapses and I’d like to spend a paragraph or two sucking up. If you simply can’t take that kind of groveling, it might be time to go make a sandwich.
Jay Rosen is a towering figure in the global blogosphere. A professor of journalism at NYU, he authors the influential PressThink, a weblog about the Fourth Estate and the many dents in its aging facade. A tall cat dressed in black, Rosen anchored our session on ethics with quiet authority. Most of the audience's questions centered around print journalism, complete with ongoing potshots at my broadcasting brethren (speaking of which, Up Yours, you scribbling pukes - tear yourselves away from the safety of your desks long enough to join me in the field and YOU might learn something. The sunlight could also do wonders for that pasty shade of superiority you insist on wearing). AHEM...where was I? Oh yeah, Rosen. When I asked the famed pressthinker why so many TV stations were so hesitant to embrace the blogosphere, he replied with the correct answer : fear of losing control. From there, he had me at hello. Later, when we chatted over rain-soaked bar-b-cue on Hoggard’s porch, he confirmed my suspicions that he understood the message and not just its many mediums.
L.A. based blogger Michael Bowen, known on-line as Cobb, has been contributing his thoughts to the internet since its very inception. Self-described as Black and Republican and Civil Libertarian and Righteous and Uppity and Provocative, I suspect Cobb is ALWAYS worth reading. Truth is, I’m not that familiar with his site, though I’ve certainly heard his monosyllabic moniker bandied about the blogosphere. Simply put, Bowen knows everything there is to know about fostering a one[-word on-line identity. For some reason this really interests me (hint: rhymes with Phlem-dinger). Bowen/Cobb shared his many tactics for persona branding with everyone present at his late-day session. Most of what he suggested were things I’d harbored long vague notions of, but had never really crystallized before. If you soon notice subtle thematic changes to Viewfinder Blues, blame Cobb. Just don’t challenge him to name two dozen obscure Eighties-era video games. The dude remembers Arkanoid, for cryin’ out loud.
Well, there you have it - my reflections on what will hopefully be the first of many, many ConvergeSouths. There’s a half dozen other memorable moments I haven’t touched on, but something tells me I’ve yammered enough for now. Certainly one highlight was helping lead a session on ‘Katrina and the Internet’. For someone who barely scraped their way through public high school, standing at the front of a college classroom and fielding questions from bloggers and students alike about the current state of journalism was indeed a kick. Lastly, thanks to Ed and Sue for spearheading this seminal event.
(And thanks to Weaver and Sue for allowing me to cadge the above images from their esteemed sites. Hey - there’s a topic for next year!)