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Panel At Software 2006

Yesterday I spent a couple of hours down at Software 2006, the highlight of which was a panel with Sarah Lacy of BusinessWeek, Fred Vogelstein – of Fortune fame, Bruce Lowry from Novell (and creator of the Novell Open PR blog – still one of the view overtly PR corporate blogs out there). Thanks to Sabrina and Shannon of the Horn Group for pulling it all together. Couple of highlights for me:

  • Sarah made the point that as a journalist you can no longer hide behind the medium. Blogging and the blog is about you as a writer – people attack you, not BusinessWeek. This really supports the notion that blogs, for the most part, build people as brands.
  • Fred spoke to the evolution of publishing. Prior to the panel he told me how when interviewing for one of his first reporting gigs he as asked by a gnarly old editor what business he was getting into – he said, reporting – the editor pointed out he was in fact getting into the manufacturing business. During the panel Fred pointed to how content was once designed by how often the presses ran. Now everyone is a wire service. The question now is now how we publish, but whether we should or shouldn’t.
  • I also though Fred made some interesting points about magazines and papers as products. Do people buying a mag for 4,000 word, insightful story telling, peppered with analytics, really want 40 word snippets?
  • Bruce is pioneering the pure PR blog. Novell’s blog is all about getting the message and story out – and setting the story straight. Their CTO launched his blog last week. Bruce made some insightful comments about audience and community. They aren’t writing the blog for the blogosphere – they are writing it for the Novell community – and to media and analysts that are part of that community. They are using the utility of blogging to publish once and communicate many times.

One of the interesting debates we had was to do with the social effects of blogging. Do blogs result in power shifting to individuals with information – or do they break down the silos? Are enterprises – or groups within them – not blogging in order to keep information to themselves (not just from the outside world, but from other internal people)? Ross Mayfield took the floor at that point. I agree with Ross that Wikis and Blogs are breaking down barriers inside organizations – they force transparency into processes and organizations like never before. They also alter the context of communications itself. Rather than information being transmitted, it is presented as an ongoing dialogue.

Until now, I don’t think organizations have particularly good collective memories. Blogs and Wikis are changing that. They are like live recorders of the buzz, thinking and energy inside an enterprise. I joked that it’s always interesting to sit with a CEO and a journalist from Fortune as that journalist starts flicking through notes several years old. Now companies have – via blogs, wikis, podcasts – the same opportunity to harness all that dialogue. There will be some exciting companies born around this opportunity.

Thanks again to my fellow panelists for a lively discussion and to Sabrina Horn and Shannon for pulling this together.

Other highlights:

  • It was great to bump into Jean-Baptiste Su of La Tribune, whose partner Vanessa has opened a French restaurant in Saratoga – Gervais. And they will be opening early so we can enjoy good French cooking and Worldcup Footie games.
  • As I was leaving, Tom Formenski was appropriately arriving. Traditional media attend conferences. New media blog types attend drinks – where the real dirt gets served!

2 Responses

  1. By Shannon Latta on April 6th, 2006 at 9:57 pm

    You beat me to the punch Andy! Many thanks for joining us on the panel, you put the “lively” in the lively discussion. You hit all the highlights that grabbed me too. Check out my note with a few afterthoughts I had post panel. Glad to know you. Let’s do it again soon (and we’ll invite Tom along next time!).

  2. By Barbara Kay on April 7th, 2006 at 8:47 am

    Your panel was one of the most interesting of the day. You should have attended the morning panel of the next day as well. It essentially rejected technology as a means of bridging the digital divide: “who needs a $100 laptop when kids can’t read?”. What they didn’t get to was the role of grassroots tools like blogs in democratizing and enabling social awareness and fundraising/support possibilities. How many donations could Room to Read http://www.roomtoread.org/ capture from blogs? Could blogs help virally distribute information and guidance for the coming pandemic, more cost-effectively and efficiently than traditional communications? Rather than rejecting technology, I think we need to look at its community building properties for ways to apply it beneficially. It can be a means to a desirable end, but not the endpoint itself.

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