Back from Syndicate and IMC 2006
Two conferences, two vastly different crowds of people, and only two people I knew at both events combined. That’s the one sentence summary of my five days in New York and Las Vegas last week. It was a fun week, and definitely a personal highlight sitting next to Roger Black on stage, but I couldn’t help but notice how dissimilar the situations of the attendees at both conferences were.
On the one hand, there was the Syndicate crowd — a group of people pretty well ahead of the curve on the technology side, but well behind on the business side. The types of people who preach giving up all control of your content and basically letting any business issues just work themselves out. “RSS” was mentioned hundreds of times. “Web 2.0” almost as often. The focus here seemed to be — not surprisingly — on syndication, but there was very little talk about business models, products, creativity, or really anything outside the scope of “delivering information”. There were a few interesting exceptions which rounded the event out a bit, but that was the gist of things.
On the other hand, there was the Interactive Media Conference crowd — a group of people squarely on the other side of the equation. People working at traditionally profitable businesses (mainly newspapers) whose companies are quite obviously threatened by many of the concepts discussed at the Syndicate conference as well as plenty of other emerging forces. There were a number of visionaries there doing great things at their respective organizations, but this conference was all about established media.
So what was the more fun conference? For me it was the second, by quite a bit. For all the time I spend researching, using, and sometimes creating technology, I just don’t like talking or hearing about it when it’s not coupled with interesting, tangible products. I don’t want to hear about RSS. I want to hear about a product that is 1000 times better because of RSS. I don’t want to hear about Web 2.0. I want to hear about a service that, via its Web 2.0 approach to things, improves the lives of thousands of people.
I felt the Interactive Media Conference Crowd was much more interested how to use technology to improve their product, whereas the Syndicate crowd was looking for products with which to use their technology. Two honorable quests I suppose, but hey, how long can you really talk about RSS? For me, it’s about an hour until I eventually fall asleep.
Both talks went very well. Everyone on the Syndicate panel was mostly of like mind until we closed the session with a cursory discussion about full-text vs. excerpts in feeds. I’m an excerpt guy for now until certain rights, monetization, and content theft issues work themselves out, and someone else on the panel was for full-text. Judging from the reaction of the crowd afterwards, the world seems equally undecided. The full-text vs. excerpt debate is one that deserves its own blog entry — and will probably get one — but for now, my opinion is that people should do whatever makes the most business sense for them. At least one person at the conference mistakenly thought I meant that full-text feeds were evil and no one should use them. I can only attribute that to a bit of what I will now call The Jason Fried Effect (anybody want to do a Wikipedia entry on that?) — that is, when confident words are mistaken for unconditional advice.
The Interactive Media Conference panel was more interesting and touched on subjects ranging from typography on the web, to redesign strategies, to new distribution methods, to branding, to inverted pyramids. I was thrilled that Roger loved Newsvine and so did many others at the conference. That day I also learned that Forbes Magazine gave Newsvine their “Best of the Web” designation for user generated news sites. I don’t mention every time we get an award or recognition somewhere and I don’t spend any time entering us into competitions, but it’s always gratifying seeing the company get a step closer to the mainstream.
All in all, it was an interesting week, but I’m glad to be back in the office working on Newsvine. We’re launching some great new things in a couple of days.