Saturday, December 16, 2006

Any lessons to be taken or has blogging taken a hit?

"Today, you need transparency and decency to run a business."
Shimon Peres, 12-DEC-2006

A conference also needs transparency and decency. Having some ground rules looks like a good idea. It would probably help achieve a higher level of quality than that reached at Le Web 3. While very unhappy with the wave of Loic-bashing that took place (I don't know the man, but I feel there is a distinction to be made between a person and what that person does), my choice is to examine what happened and try to derive a couple of useful conclusions:

  1. about organizing a conference I tend to agree with most of the ground rules proposed by Tom Morris and also believe ground rules themselves should be questioned on a regular basis;

  2. about the wisdom of crowds, I think this week shows us that crowds can be as furiously crazy as they can be "wise". Collective intelligence does not happen automatically simply because one connects individuals and grants them unprecedented freedom of expression: it takes respect and awareness, both of which ought to start within each one of us. How can I make an intelligent and useful contribution when I don't respect myself and others? How can that contribution be thoughtful when I am not aware that what is speaking is an unbridled ego?

  3. about crisis management, silence is not an option as nicely shown here;

  4. about feedback, it ought to be adequately focused, specific, balanced and solution oriented.
    • Adequately focused means that it does have a clear objective (e.g. "identify strength and weaknesses of a conference" or "improve the way a conference brings value to participants") and not be all over the place sometimes becoming mob lynching  (do I need to provide examples here?);

    • Specific means that feedback is at its best when it focuses on identifiable events, times and effects (e.g. "Sarkozy's speech was a mistake because it did not bring anything useful to the conference and wasted most people's time") rather than being unfocused and general (e.g. "Le Web 3 sucks" - something I read somewhere but do not believe);

    • Balanced means that it contain both points that were particularly good (e.g. "managing to bring together 1000 people from 37 countries was a major achievement") and points that can be improved (e.g. "the subjects discussed could have been better framed and the panels could have been better managed to help derive useful conclusions about issues");

    • Solution oriented means that the ultimate objective of feedback is to improve something or help someone, not to exclude and destroy something or someone, which means that the content of feedback ought to help us generate possible solutions almost immediately (e.g. "when it became obvious the schedule could not be kept I felt unhappy with the presenters claiming we would still be able to go through the schedule by simply eliminating coffee breaks" - drives immediately possible solutions like "amend schedule" and "communicate decently");

Choosing sides and fighting from the trenches is probably not the point and I find it rather impressing that this seems to be the game in many cases. In my experience, when that happens it means that we have probably lost track of the objective, the means are becoming an end, a system becomes a caricature of itself (and ends up collapsing) and decency, clarity and transparency are lost. Can that be avoided or has blogging taken a major hit?


  1. "wisdom of crowds"?
    What an oxymoron.
    Sorry, I had to bump on that one...

  2. Starting with such a quote give me the direction to think. Followed by your conclusions I feel more positive outcome as I felt last days in this blogstorm.
    Thanks for showing me this direction and giving me the opportunity to reflect!

  3. Many thanks for your feedback Hans. There is quite a lot of interesting feedback to take from what happened. Hopefully with contributions like yours it we will get on a more constructive track.

  4. David,
    It's an expression coined by enthusiasts of social interactions on the web. Crowds help achieve quite a lot when topics are not driving everyone nuts (e.g. sharing bookmarks, characterizing content based on tags or helping review new products). However, when one knows just a little bit of history they will remember numerous occasions on which crowds have not necessarily been wise and often became murderous mobs (e.g. in European wars of religion, when people who dared question the establishment were persecuted, or more recently with the Nazi and Stalin regimes).
    So, yes "wisdom of crowds" is often (although not always) an oxymoron. By the way, have you noticed how oxymoron contains "moron", i.e. the "elementary particle of less-than-elementary intelligence" that is necessary for crazy mobs to appear?
    alex ;-)