Buzz about BloggerCon

I’m not sure there’s ever been a conference at the Berkman Center that has received so much attention as BloggerCon has two months before it’s actually happening.  It’s quite flattering in its way.  And we’ve been delighted by the number of people who’ve signed up in the first few days of registration.  Not all of the buzz has been positive, though, so I thought it might make sense to respond to some of it.

One track of commentary has been about the conference price ($500 for full-fare, $250 for academic fare).  We’ve heard from a number of people whom we’d love to have here in Cambridge that they’d come to the event, but for the cost.  That’s a very valid point, and we’re pleased that so many people have mentioned it directly.  We’ll do something positive to address this problem, to be sure, and will announce it shortly.  This conference, like everything we do at the Berkman Center, is not-for-profit.  No one or no institution will make a dime on it, no matter how many people decide to come and to pay.  That’s been the plan from the start and a pledge to everyone thinking of participating.  Why do we need to charge for attendance at all?  Well, almost exclusively so that we can pay for the coach-fare travel of speakers and their accommodation.  It’s a reality of running a conference here.  We recognize, clearly, though, that we want to have bloggers at this conference who can’t afford a $500 entrance fee — it would be a shame to do otherwise.  We hear that and will do what we can to fix it.

Other forms of less-than-positive commentary: the Register, for instance, ran a story today that took a different tack.  In addition to mentioning the cost of the conference, the author took aim at two Berkman fellows — Dave Winer and Jim Moore — as well as generally at the Berkman Center.  Dave and Jim are well-respected for their work in various parts of this space and deserve better.  The Center itself is a vibrant, ambitious place working on a broad range of issues related to the Internet, law, technology, society, developing countries, and occasionally, yes, political economy.  Most of our work we offer free and clear to anyone who wants to participate in an event or series or use what we’ve done.  I’d welcome any journalist to come visit us, see what we’re up to and to engage us on the merits.  We’ve got a strong public spirit, and we’re certainly not out to fleece anyone.  Dave and Jim, in particular, are leaders in this regard.

12 thoughts on “Buzz about BloggerCon

  1. The Orlowski story, just like the mean-spirited uninformed piece he wrote about Emerging Technology (which I was involved in session selection for), should be ignored.

    Dave Winer sent out invitations; Orlowski quotes people who treated them like invitations to speak and ask to pay for the privilege — they weren’t. They were invitations to attend, which many conferences that are interested in attracting a specific audience and have limited room use instead of a direct mail campaign or other effective tools for sweeping from a broad pool.

    Orlowski needs to stop writing articles in which the subjects are not spoken to. Journalism is about presenting multiple sides, and analyzing the differences between them.

  2. I posted this at GrepLaw, where there’s an interesting discussion taking place.

    Seth makes a good point in highlighting the ambivalent nature of the conference. Is it an academic conference, subject to academic standards? If so, the fee can surely be justified. It is, after all, taking place in an academic setting with the Harvard imprimatur.

    But if so, then surely we can expect a rigorous critique of ‘weblogging’: with consideration given to the merits of other tools and other modes of communication, and the many possible deleterious consequences that might result from these? I assume that a responsible discussion of utopias permits dystopias. (We have already seen some of the unintended consequences [wholelottanothing.org].). For example, is public unmediated communication better than private or mediated communication? How so? Given the twenty-year history of communications software, what have we learned or forgotten about information retrieval and data integrity? When we have such discussions, what values to we put on information?

    (If any of the researchers, academics and software developers who have contributed to this rich history have been invited, they don’t seem to be present on the BlogCon agenda).

    In academia, conclusions are arrived at, not hard-wired in from the start. Faced with the hard-wired assumption that ‘blogging is good for you’ – even the most facile critic is entitled to ask ‘good for what? – please be specific!’

    Although John focuses on the fee, the ideological make-up of the panel has surely rankled as much with the left-bloggers I cited. Which raises the question: who is being conferred with authority in this emerging power relationship, by BlogCon. Tools vendors, like Winer? The most popular bloggers, like Reynolds?

    I fear that many of the critics of BlogCon voiced in my Register article share many of the same values as Berkman fellows: and just as strongly resent the loss of privacy and the encroachment of monopoly corporate power onto the commons. To alienate such a constituency does have its consequences for the effectiveness of advocacy in the future. That’s assuming Berkman is in the business of advocacy.

    It’s simply my job to raise questions.

    To Fleishman: I’m not as presumptious as you when it comes defining what “journalism is about”. Readers can judge for themselves whether I’m asking the right questions, and how effectively you “present multiple sides” – for example by comparing this kind of critical coverage http://www.msnbc.com/news/944632.asp with your own at http://wifinetnews.com/

    Pot, meet kettle.

    Andrew Orlowski
    The Register
    San Francisco, CA

  3. Is Orlowski angling for equal time on the internet? It seems to me from reading the Register article that his problem is more with the political leanings of those who are becoming popular through weblogs, than the medium itself.

    We see the same thing going on with conservative talk radio. Rather than demand equal time, put some quality interesting stuff out that people want to read/listen to, and voila, you have an audience.

    Maybe Orlowski doesn’t want blogs to appear in his Google search because he disagrees politically with most of the popular blog authors, and often times, blog authors are commenting on or criticizing pieces published in major media outlets or The Register. Therefore, maybe he also doesn’t want other searchers to read what the blog authors have to say.

    With the full blown media bias we have to put up with these days, I (and maybe I’m alone) appreciate the opportunity to get a little context with which to evaluate what I’m reading and hearing.

    I’ve found that I have to wade through completely irrelevant search results (non-blog) than I do blogs that are posting on the topic for which I’ve searched. When I do hit a blog while looking for something else, I often find a link to what I need.

  4. “This conference, like everything we do at the Berkman Center, is not-for-profit. No one or no institution will make a dime on it, no matter how many people decide to come and to pay. That’s been the plan from the start and a pledge to everyone thinking of participating.”
    I don’t have any dog in this fight, and stumbled on this dispute. But I read the above and could not believe my eyes. From Harvard? If the event income exceeds its costs it is profit in most people’s view. The organization may be non-profit, but individual events or activities are not necessarily so. The more money the more for salaries or other events, etc. Are webloggers supposed to be the gullible?

  5. “This conference, like everything we do at the Berkman Center, is not-for-profit. No one or no institution will make a dime on it, no matter how many people decide to come and to pay. That’s been the plan from the start and a pledge to everyone thinking of participating.”
    I don’t have any dog in this fight, and stumbled on this dispute. But I read the above and could not believe my eyes. From Harvard? If the event income exceeds its costs it is profit in most people’s view. The organization may be non-profit, but individual events or activities are not necessarily so. The more money the more for salaries or other events, etc. Are webloggers supposed to be the gullible?

  6. Dear C. Chalmers:

    This pledge is quite simple: event income won’t exceed event costs. The numbers are such that it will be tough for us even to break even, much as we’d like to do so. Bloggers who attend will get their money’s worth, and then some.

    Best,
    John

  7. Well guys do not go to extremes, I think that fees are reasonable and absolutely required. Non for profit does not mean all for nothing and what about all these organization procedures that are to be done to prepare everything and to nvite the right persons to lecture. Keep it up I am going to take part in your conference it’s importance is high priority for me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s