Just back from SXSWi and the Us and Them: A blog conversation survival guide panel. We had our 60 minutes and it went by fast. It was a lot of fun to meet in person after having talked on the phone about the topic for several months. How did it go? There was us (the panelists) and them (the audience), and there were some engaged and engaging moments. But it's tough, with a topic that has broad associations, for an audience and panelists to have more than a surface-level discussion in 60 minutes. But some surfaces have a lot of texture and I think this one did (and still does). Since the panel was about guidelines there are some useful resources here. It's a wiki; feel free to jump in.
There were (at least) three other panels I attended that had similar themes: Public Square or Private Club, Blogging While Black and The Future of Darknets. I'm sure there were others. I had a head-slap-light-bulb moment when I remembered that hey, it's not so clear where the boundaries (individual and group) are on the net (sometimes it's a problem f2f) and we're all trying to figure it out as we go. But that fact that we're exploring how to engage and interact with civility without suppressing feelings does my heart good. I also think these discussions need to continue at SXSWi next year. There was also a panel on elder blogging that I missed. It would be good to explore that axis again.
Some general reflections: I'm ambivalent about big conferences. It's good to run around for a few days and take in information about topics I know and those that sound interesting. It's fun to meet new people and connect with the known. But I found it tiring to go to some of the parties. Too many people I don't know; bands that play too loud for personal conversations; after a while I just get tired of being extroverted. One night I took myself to a nice restaurant for a quiet dinner. For me one payoff for attending will be in the kinds of interactions and relationships that extend after the conference.
Our co-panelist Jimmie Bise, Jr., has already recorded his first impressions. I think his "where's the beef" reaction is a good one. There are several other aspects of SXSW that I'll be exploring in other posts.