"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:
- 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;
- 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?
- about crisis management, silence is not an option as nicely shown here;
- 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?