ONA 08 ended two days ago, and I spent all of yesterday recovering.
It was a great time, and I met a lot of talented and interesting people. Maybe if I met less people, I would have gotten more work done yesterday.
- The sessions — The key to any good conference are the sessions. Most of the sessions I attended delivered. My definition of delivering is whether or not a day after I can remember at least learning one really big or new thing. From the law panel, I learned that newspapers can moderate comments without being held liable for the content of comments as long as newspapers don’t make editorial decisions that edit in libel. That session was worth it alone for what I learned about moderating comments.
- The people — A conference is only as good as its people. I wasn’t pick pocketed or booed out of my panel. Nobody tried to fight me over my blog either. But some of best learning and conversations happened in the hallways and not in the sessions themselves. That wouldn’t have been possible without good people.
- The receptions and cocktail hours — They were nice. I like.
- Question time — Every keynote and panel I attended left plenty of time for questions. The law panel I mentioned early was almost entirely questions. Good questions often spur the best conversations.
- Keynote speakers — There were three speakers. One was good, one was bad and the other I didn’t even bother paying attention to. I’ll have more on this later, but some people feel that keynote speakers are an anachronism. You rarely learn anything new from the speakers, and some speakers like Tina Brown and the Reuters Guy (he was so bad, I’m not going to bother looking up his name) use their keynotes more as extended promotions for their products than for anything else. Robert Scoble delivered and he got me excited for the future of journalism. Excitement is the No. 1 thing a keynote can deliver.
- The cost — This is not an ONA-specific issue, but it wasn’t the cheapest conference, and the Capital Hilton isn’t the cheapest hotel. Many of the most innovative people in journalism right now are lower on the totem poll. Their employers may not be willing to spend $1,000 or so on a conference. The ONLINE News Association had a lot of older attendees, and there is nothing wrong with that, but I can’t help but feel that the cost kept out a lot of younger journalists and students. And honestly there are only so many editors a conference really needs.
- The people — Yes, there are good people and bad people. No, there weren’t attendees mugging other people, but there were some that I just don’t get. Why at the ONLINE News Association are we hearing in the hallways, “So, what is Twitter?” And why are we hearing it after Scoble spent a large chunk of his keynote talking about Twitter?!? Oh, I know, because some people choose not to attend Scoble’s talk, while many, many more decided that Brown’s talk about nothing important was a better idea. News flash, if you want to know what Twitter is, go sign up. It’s free. Be inquisitive for a change.
I will see all of you at ONA 09 in San Francisco. What I could really go for in the meantime is a conference on mobile content development and distribution. Maybe we could get an unconference going?