Sunday, October 15, 2006

ConvergeSouth Link Love

When I mentioned to my TV news colleagues I’d be spending the weekend at a blogger’s conference of sorts, snickers emitted from the crowd.

“Huh! You guys wearin’ your Star Trek uniforms?”

I laughed and offered a rude hand gesture as retort before their conversation turned back to the loftier realms of Nascar and the NFL. But their petty scorn didn’t deter me from thoroughly enjoying the annual summit of thinkers, geeks and madmen known as ConvergeSouth, That the attendees all operate or enjoy local websites may be their only shared characteristic. Otherwise, they’re strikingly scattershot - from the overly earnest to the outright odd, the personalities behind the pixels proved delightfully diverse. But what unites us is the raging cyber-life we all lead, on-screen personas more important to us than we’d probably like to admit. I for one dwell deeply on the ideas, images and axioms I park on this page and I’m on the shallow end of the passion pool. But whatever the level of our obsessions, the blogging community of greater Greensboro is a potent one indeed. I am proud to be but a tangential member, as the echoes of others have kept me blogging far longer than first predicted. Thus I present you with the following link-letter, in which I give a lusty shout-out to everyone but Mr. Spock himself. And that filthy Vulcan knows where I am if he wants to apologize. Meanwhile, let’s meet the players:

One cannot begin to discuss ConvergeSouth without recognizing its architects. Acerbic oracle Ed Cone, cyber-sage Sue Polinsky and the ever-wise Ben Hwang have constructed an un-conference that reflects the teeming scene it seeks to represent. In other words, these folks know how to get their geek on.

The wife and I kicked things off with a rare date night at Hoggard’s Blog-R-Cue. There we dined on the finest swine while enjoying conversation not found in the average cul-de-sac. I especially enjoyed commiserating with the Brothers Coon, from the activist writings of Sean to the filmmaking aspirations of Andy. Damn, those fellas sure do think a lot.

When not shoveling top-shelf pork into my pie-hole, I caught up with fellow peddler of the moving image Tom Lassiter - a magnanimous cat far too generous with his praise for my scribblings. As I issued the occasional ’Aw Shucks’ my wife Shelly met the man behind Mr. Sun, a sprite like individual who just happens to be a brilliant cyber-satirist. More on him later.

Despite the pork flank fellowship available at Hogg‘s, the real fun started the following morning when the lot of us gathered at A&T University. There we filed into the main hall where headliners Elizabeth Edwards and Robert Scoble helped kick off the day’s festivities with a bracing exchange of ideas, opinions, and URL’s, not to mention those homemade blog cards Billy so favors.

Although many a stranger was in attendance, I chose to chat with the usual suspects and a smattering of newer names. Of the latter was Joel Leonard, a prophet of the maintenance industry I’ve put on TV a time or two. Then there’s Jonathan Davis, Matt Hill Comer and print reporter Joe Killian, one of the more self-assured 24 year olds I’ve ever met. Throw in the eerily composed Sam Wharton and there may very be well be hope for our future.

In the present day, a blinding orb lights the way. Jim Rosenberg, recently unmasked as Mr. Sun, eagerly presented the most substantive of sessions, a insightful plea for on-line civility. Were I a sit-com producer, I’d pair this affable chap with the ever-irascible Jeff Martin whose well-honed vitriol and wacky-neighbor warble makes for such fun at Vie De Malchance. It’d be gold, baby , gold!

On a more somber, there was serious journamalism to discuss. Thus, I joined a room of very smart newspaper people for a dissertation on ‘Building a Media Culture within the News Organization.’ N&R Editor John Robinson graciously asked me to help lead the session, but when it bogged down in print minutia, I remained mum. Only at the end did I give my analysis of that industry’s death throes, though perhaps I did employ too much hyperbole. Whadaya expect from a guy who used to make used car lot spots?

Though I never saw Chewie, I did catch up with the newly shorn Brian Clarey, whose happy hipster patter doesn’t erase the fact he needs me writing for his fine free weekly. Until then I’ll enjoy the occasional Ovittore piece and all those nubile revelers featured in the back of his rag. It’s the least I can do for not attending the event’s many musical venues.

Before I could fill my pockets with business cards and free bagels, the last session ended and ConvergeSouth was all of a sudden over. On the way out of the building, I eavesdropped on a fascinating discussion over who might dare publish the RMA report - a once confidential police department report currently available to anyone with two cans and a string. Blogsboro’s handling of said document will no doubt forge new ground in citizen media scandal-handling.

Before hitting the parking lot, I rendezvoused with professional troublemaker Ben Holder, met hulking gadfly Will R., reintroduced myself to Billy Ingram, shook Dave Beckwith’s hand, smiled at Sandy Carmany and yakked with Daniel Rubin. Last but not least I talked jazz and jumper cables with David Boyd in the parking lot until his pick-up was sufficiently charged-up.

Driving away, I was equally amped, Once again ConvergeSouth proved an intriguing way to spend a small part of my October. Maybe next year we can get some wireless microphones, so all those Donahue wannabes don’t risk strangulation. Until then, I’ll be right here, polishing my blog, pruning my prose and programming my tri-corder.


Anonymous said...

I'd love to be Meat Head to Mr. Sun's Archie Bunker, or the other way around.

Darkmoon said...

As usual, eloquently summarized. We couldn't do all of this without the people that attend. Hopefully we did a good enough job that you'll be coming again next year!

Anonymous said...

If I were a Muslim blogger I would have found the BBQ offensive and probably would have gone on a jihad at Cypress St.

But I'm not so I think I'll hit Stamey's for lunch today.

Mayor Holiday, What gives? Why don't you support local writers?

IamMe said...

An event I truly wanted to make had I not been signed up for something else at the same time. I will have to be sure my social calendar is clear next time.

Hope everyone had a great time. Sure seems like it.

Anonymous said...

Pork is always an issue and not just to Muslims. Perhaps we'll add a big second choice next year when we get that great BBQ sponsor! Maybe WGHP likes chicken or tofu?

Anonymous said...

You are my hero.

spcoon said...

stew, who in your list-o-links is wearing the red star trek shirt? not it, man. i wanna make it back to the mother ship alive and well.

and speaking of pork at the bbq... heh.

Joe Killian said...

Yes Weekly would be lucky to have you, if your day job would let you give it a go.

Anonymous said...


I was disappointed that the session was so dominated by the print side. I thought your comments were right on the money. Ironically, they needed to hear more from you instead of the group slog of negative reinforcement on a lack of innovation in their industry.

I'm starting today to lobby for you to host your own session next year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the great recap. I hope to meet live at CS '07! --Jill F.

Anonymous said...

Atlanta will be hosting our own little get together on Feb 10 thanks to the inspiration of the Greensboro event. We hope to see you there!

Anonymous said...


It was a blast I think your comment at the New Media gathering was poignant or was it pungant... ahh who knows. Not sure if you have seen the doc yet. Would love to see you out at UNCG Friday night if you don't have plans yet.