Thursday, July 23, 2009

Random Thoughts

Of course the day after I say I'm going to rededicate myself to writing, I find I have no time for writing. But there are two thoughts I keep rolling around my head.

-Erick Erickson has unleashed another vicious screed against President Jimmy Carter. I am willing to debate Carter's presidency and his impact on world affairs all day long, but it drives me insane when people start questioning his Christianity. Erick Erickson is exactly the type of person who drove me away from Christianity. Jimmy Carter is the type of person who tempts me to give it another try. Who is truly a fisher of men? (Matthew 4:19)


-Some time back, Thomas Wheatley and I discussed the need for a journalism town hall in Atlanta similar to the one held this spring in Chicago. Unfortunately, since that initial conversation, we've both been busier than two mules pulling a 4 team hitch. But with all the disparate meetings happening around town, I still think it would be valuable. But only if it were immediately followed up by a unconference BarCamp. And I don't mean a "half day of presentations followed by breakout sessions" meeting. I mean an honest-to-god unconference where we put a boatload of smart people in a room with butcher paper, magic markers, let them scribble their crazy ideas, then get together with people who want to discuss that idea and see what happens. And it needs to include more than journalists and bloggers. It needs to have entrepeneurs, web people, SEO people, marketing people and ad people. I bet you a shiny nickel it will result in at least one potential solution to the "how does news survive" problem.

Two thoughts that keep rolling around my head. I'm sure another one will start rollling soon.

12 comments:

Rusty said...

Vague discussions of a need for a new unconference in town have been happening on the PodCamp ATL Google Group.

There is a need to come up with a business model and marketing and all that, but honestly I feel like when you bring the marketing and SEO types into brainstorming sessions they often become boat anchors. This is precisely what holds back a lot of interesting discussion from happening at SoCon IMO (that and the aforementioned lame first half of the day).

griftdrift said...

Actually you're probably right. We should leave the money people out until we get past the basics. But I'd want it to be really journalism focused. Nothing else. And the important part to me would be to connect journalist with the entrepenuer community. That I believe is the big disconnect but also the most fertile ground.

Johnathan said...

Re: Jimmy Carter ...

Given that I'm a member of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship, a moderate-to-progressive Baptist organization that grew in response to the Southern Baptist Convention's turn to fundamentalism in the 1970s, and that I'm a deacon in a church that is a leader in the Georgia CBF, I like to think I can speak with some measure of education and experience on this issue.

But, leaving that aside, the Carter commentary is unremarkable for one, huge reason ... Carter left the SBC many years ago. The fact that Erick doesn't comprehend that and, instead, opts to miss the larger commentary Carter provides to instead focus on some nuanced argument of Carter leaving the church is pathetic.

Wendy said...

I'm all for an unconference!

I've met a few people lately who've had hyperlocal sites going as I'm beginning my own similar project. I've been very encouraged by their willingness to let me pick their brains and share their ideas.

Having a room full of people like that, who've tried and are experimenting with a variety of business models, seems to me to be the ideal way to go.

Sara said...

I almost think even calling it an unconference risks too much organization and structure. I think somebody should probably just invite a bunch of new media, old media, journalist, blogger, technology, etc. types to Manuel's and just reserve that back room for a whole day & night. You only really need one introductory speaker to briefly lay out the basic concepts to be discussed and maybe facilitate the start of discussion with a few open questions to the group. Then, naturally, as people start to find other folks in the room who share ideas they want to explore or build on, people will gravitate to individual tables for conversations about the more focused subjects that interest them. People can flow between multiple tables, or leave tables if they find the discussion is going in a direction that doesn't interest them. If someone is unhelpfully steering the conversation, the others can move on and then regroup at another table rather than being stuck in a session that's not going the way they'd like.

I know that level of fluidity might be scary for people who come from a more corporate environment and might cause people to worry that nothing will really be accomplished in unbridled chaos, but I suspect those who have worked in startups and other more collaborative environments will tell you that a great deal can be discovered, shared and accomplished in an environment where everyone sits around and shoots the shit over beers.

Now if only someone would pick a date, reserve the room, and send out invitations...

griftdrift said...

Actually I realize now I used the wrong term. I shouldn't have used unconference. I should have used barcamp. Which is exactly what sara just described.

Rusty said...

@Sara,
I think what you're talking about happens because a lot of things that are called unconferences end up taking on the trappings of regular conferences and end up being hybrids.

SoCon and ConvergeSouth are hybrids which are more like conferences than unconferences.

PodCamp ATL and Sex 2.0 were hybrids which were more like unconferences than conferences.

Something that more purely followed an unconference model (there's a lot of debate about this) would probably follow an open spaces model, which is what you described: no planned sessions other than five minutes of "here are the rules." Paper taped to the walls where people reserve rooms on the spot and then go and do their sessions. No hierarchy.

Sara said...

Rusty, you're probably right. I am just used to even an unconference involving a certain level of pre-planning in that people pick topics on which to lead sessions. I would propose taking that out altogether and just going freeflow with a very basic common goal of discussing how media is changing and how we can facilitate that transformation and be a part of it...let the rest develop as it develops. But part of the reason I like the idea of doing it in one big room rather than at a site with individual breakout rooms is because I think there will be a lot of overlap between the conversations, so it would even further foster part of that collaboration to overhear that at the next table over people are talking about tangential to your own conversation and to bring the tables together for that portion.

(And don't worry...the irony of me being the one who is laying this out and trying to strip out as much structure as possible, when I am someone who lives for structure in virtually every other way, is not lost on me.)

Thomas Wheatley said...

Promise me Fresca and I'm there.

cattherineatlanta said...

As long as it's not during business hours I'm there.

Wes said...

Count me in, regardless of what it ends up being called.

WF

unfiltered said...

I'd like to join you as well, if you have a time and place in mind. I'll just have some iced tea, please.