The Eternal Dilemma: Les Blogs or Webdays?

First of all, I must confess that, as far as blogging is concerned, I am a newbie, but I thought I might share some of my observations on two similar conferences on blogging where I went.

I divided my discourse into 7 chapters: 1. The Conferences 2. The Target and the Speakers 3. The Organization 4. The After-Conference Get-together 5. The After-After-Conference 6. Moral of the Story (or Conclusion) 7. What to do?

1. The Conferences

A) On April 25 I was in Paris (France). I accompanied Ludo, who was invited to take part to the panel Nanopublishing and vertical blogging of the mega galactic conference titled Les Blogs: Blogs and Social Software, organized by Loic Le Meur, President of Six Apart Europe. The conference was held under the auspices of the President of the French Senate.
The registration fee was very expensive for ordinary bloggers.

B) On September 24 I was in Turin (Italy). I accompanied Ludo, who wanted to put his nose in the Italian conference titled Web Days: Le giornate della rete. The conference was supported by the municipality, and others.
The registration fee was free.

2. The Target and the Speakers

A) The target of Les Blogs was a wide public of A-bloggers.
Big shots at international level have been invited to give a speech, world class speakers in fact. I want to mention a few of them, whom I recall better for one reason or the other: the stylish, and apparently lonely, Joi Ito, who gave an interesting and funny keynote speech (to which I made some observations in my previous post My Comments to Joi Ito’s Speech @ Les Blogs, to which he unexpectedly made a long, well pondered explanation in real time — to my post, the post of a newbie with no claim or expectations of becoming important on the web!); Ross Mayfield of SocialText, who accepted with a lot of self-irony to pose for me (he chose to be Napoleon! and as for the relative pictures, check out Flikr under boh mah yes); the extremely self-conscious (just to use an euphemism) Euan of the BBC; the hilarious, brilliant, heavy-drinker cartoonist Hugh Macleod, who graciously gave me as gift several of his wonderful small cards; the shark-like Jason McCabe Calacanis of WeblogsInc –smart and quick, nothing to say, but; Halley Suitt of Worthwhile Magazine, always engaged as a heavy pr but, all in all, pleasant (though I should admit that what I like most of her blog is the image of a woman’s legs holding a lap top near the title); the well-balanced and (only superficially) easy going Julio Alonso of Weblogs SL; Gaby Darbyshire of Gawker media, who during the panel was engaged in a fake public discussion with Jason (fake since it was made up for the audience — and, however, though she played poor-baby, no doubt that she really looked like a poor-baby: Jason was smarter and much quicker at taking advantage of her game! well, we “general public” felt a bit used, since Jason was a real primadonna, and Gaby wished she could overcome him and become a primadonna as well, a I-wish-but-I-can’t game all the time..), and who tried to make a pass at a few best looking men of the party ending the conference (no names please!); Doc Searls, Senior Editor of Linux Journal, who kept me and Ludo entartained while dining with his stories on his (sincerely) amazing life — of the series “How to Make a Revolution in Your Life When You Are Over 50 and be Happy!”; and, last but not least, Loic, who is tall, let’s say handsome (besides the fact his hair is reciding), perhaps important in the comp world, I don’t know, but he is incredibly, amazingly pompous (in fact, everything he did and said had a touch of French grandeur). I really liked Doc, he is obviously in love with what he does, and passion in life is just indispensable. According to his words, he’s having the life he precisely wants to live: what else?

B) The target of Webdays were the people over 60.
The speakers were perhaps known only locally, or in Italy. Nevertheless, the goal of the conference has been correctly scored: the assistants in the space near the conference room taught many people over 60 to surf the Web, to make an easy search, and so on.
And I enjoyed the talk by Sergio Maistrello “Folksonomy: condividere etichette per le idee”: it was educative, nicely presented with short movies and schemes, and often funny.

3. The Organization

A) Grand, perfect, elegant, the conference room was in the Senate, everything wired and photographed, movies, pictures, 300 participants from more than 20 countries sitting in the French Senate, 30 speakers, 3 TV channels, France Info radio, 30 journalists from around the world, a huge security, a big screen showing people chatting a taking part to the conference from all over the world, and so on.

B) The “conference room” was the medium-size hall of the palace Antichi Chiostri in Via Garibaldi 25, Turin, downtown; a few people, no journalists but some local reporters, no TVs, no bathrooms, no security or security exits, no fire alarms, and so on.

4. The After-Conference Get-together

A) An elegant party for all the speakers and a few guests at the Alcazar, in St. Germain des Prés: trendy, expensive, full of delicious appetizers and small things to eat, salmon and roastbeef at wish, champagne.
Small (and dark!) tables and candles everywhere.
In a corner, a well-known painter was performing “live”.

B) A rather gloomy, pseudo-technological restaurant, which was and remained empty for the whole evening.
Just after sitting somebody of the speakers announced in a serious and stiff way (I hope just embarassed..) that the dinner table was only for THEM, the speakers: meaning, if you want to eat you can eat, but eat by yourself, and pay by yourself. Thanks a lot man!
In fact, a big table was set up for the VIPs, while we had to seat at 2 smaller tables, which we somehow joined together.
Later on, even though a few seats at the bigger table were empty, nobody wanted to seat there. Nobody ever joined the important table but, on the contrary, just after the appetizers the speakers started to join our humble table.
At the smaller table, starting from left: the romantic Marco Candida, whose passion is writing (I mean, writing writing, and not only blogging), Jtheo (ahahah! he is simply wonderful.. When I asked him whether he was from Near-East — well, he looks from Egypt or Syria — he told us humorous, hilarious stories of his month in Egypt as a travel agent, speaking a very little Arabic, sleeping in hotel rooms with huge flying colored coakroaches, and all the misunderstandings between two cultures, the Italian and the Arabic, which, far from clashing in this case, met with a reciprocal amount of laughs; and when I learnt that he wants to buy an IBM mainframe on eBay, well, I elected him as the most beautiful and intelligent man in Turin at the moment!); Ludo (I talked enough about him in my blog), Tiziano, who works with Luca (I talked enough about him, too), also present there; somebody whom I don’t remember the name, Lele, Elisabetta and me.
Nice company, nice dinner. I and Ludo left just because we were too tired, after wandering in town all day long.

5. The After-After-Conferences

A) Hundreds Thousands of photos in Flickr, a tag in Technorati, national newspapers writing on the big event, big waves, big money.
A 2nd conference has been organized by Loic in December.

B) A few photos on Flickr… (two on my site). Some local news.

6. Moral of the Story (or Conclusion)

To make a long story short: Ludo compared the 2 conferences in his post Alla tavola dei grandi.
(His post has already been commented, but, as I often do, I have not read those comments. I want to look at the world with Alice‘s eyes in the Wonderland: fresh and wide-open)

I can say something for sure: Turin, and Italy for that matter, is not the world. Here just a few people, even comparing the situation to countries like India or Nepal, know what a blog is, and what the Web is, and how to make use of this wonderful orizontal link to the real world.
If a conference like Webdays has taught a lot of ordinary people how to use the Web, or to express themselves in a blog, welcome to many more conferences like that.

Moreover, the display of money and support of Les Blogs is not comparable to the honorable but relatively poor Webdays. And money set up the stage, a nice international stage attracts people who want to become more and more “famous”, world class speakers attract lots of specialized people, and so on.

A comparison between the two events is not possible, it’s like comparing an elephant to a mouse: is it possible? They are both animals, they are both greysh, they both are four-legged, they both have a tail, but…

7. What to do?

I think the point is how to gather resources (good people + decent money + good will) to organize also in Italy a conference a bit more specialized, but not only for geeks or whoever pretends or claims to be one.

A conference where local and international geeks and world class speakers are patient and humble enough (generally speaking, like in Les Blogs) to talk to computer semi-illiterate poeple like me, to explain, to discuss and to stir a real discussion among us, –> THE USERS<–


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L'autore del blog


Questo è il blog di Enrica Garzilli, specialista di indologia e di studi asiatici e docente di Storia del Pakistan e dell'Afghanistan presso il Dip. di Studi Politici dell'Università degli Studi di Torino.