DCI wrap

I had a fantastic time at the DCI conference.

I’ve been frustrated in my aim to post regular, up-to-the-minute updates by the lack of bandwidth at the conference, the fact that the ‘open-till-late’ internet cafe was closed at 3pm, and the cheeky R45 for 30 minutes rate at the hotel, where I get to plug my laptop into an exceedingly slow ADSL connection and scrunch under the desk (as the network cable is tied to their office PC, situated under a desk).

But that’s no excuse, as here I am a day or two of ample bandwidth later with not much more to say. Ethan Zuckerman probably posted the most complete summaries, and there’s always the DCI wiki as well.

I enjoyed the breadth of the conference, and that’s perhaps one of the reasons for not having much to say – there’s been a lot to take in. The quality of the sessions was high, and some of the questioning astute. Time was limited though, so the really interesting discussions happened outside.

Alaa Abd El Fattah (blog), the Egyptian activist proved to be much more outspoken one-on-one than during his presentation, but then I guess no-one asked him about Israel during questioning 🙂 I don’t know much about the Egyptian situation, and it was interesting to hear more, as well as probe the differences with the South African resolution (and humbling to realise that South Africa is not a big deal for everyone, nor looked up to for its miracle – he would only have been 12 or so in 1994!)

The hugely impressive Ory Okolloh was the other speaker on the activism panel, and the only good thing about the Zimbabwean Pundit not being able to make it (there was hope too of a remote hookup, but it didn’t happen) was that there was more time given to the remaining two panel members.

The We Media panel was also interesting, with 3 good presentations. Mathew Buckland did open himself up for attack with his comments about control, especially his closing sentence: Self-regulation works only up to a point – it doesn’t work when you’ve got free riders, rebels, vandals and bad people. If anarchy doesn’t work in the world, why would it work in citizen media?. Peter Verweij went down a similar path to Matthew, albeit more subtly, though I did find the way the worthy 1% of blog posts (journalism) was compared the unworthy 99% (art) condescending (and it seems Alex Maughan agrees).

I got the sense throughout this session that no-one had understood a key point of the Zen koan reference from my earlier Web 2.0 presentation. Swap the boxes of journalism and not journalism for the two chess pieces, or the Web 2.0 and not Web 2.0, and you’ll understand what I mean. Mark Comerford, in a nice abuse of his power as the chair, did seem to get it, saying that the debate was the same as asking whether or not telephones are journalism.

The final speaker, Tom Johnson, didn’t have much of substance to say, which was perhaps understandable in a 10 minute slot, but struck a cord with his How long are we going to put up with this crap? rant about limited accessibility.

The Business and Marketing panel was surprisingly also quite interesting, especially Alec Hogg, who’s clearly a seasoned presenter. His company, Moneyweb, came out smelling of roses and seeming incredibly progressive as he slated the competition (mentioning an Absa freebie to business editors that no one else covered, and a dismally inaccurate Business Day article about Moneyweb), and mentioned that all his journalists would be equipped with laptops and 3G cards from next month.

The previous day’s sessions were perhaps less interesting. There was the editor’s forum, where disappointingly all presenters were from South Africa. The sad state of our media is reflected in the fact that 2 of the 4 speakers were from one company, Media24. The highlight of this panel for me was the term braaispace (as a counter to MySpace) and the quotation of Thomas Aquinus by Ray Hartley during his thoughtful, though overly lengthy and complex presentation for the allotted 10 minutes. Then there was the Civil Society forum, and of course the Web 2.0 panel, on which I spoke. Matthew at least particularly liked Vincent’s presentation, which you can download here (needs Flash).

As for my presentation, I was interested that people seemed to pick up different parts. One noted the reference to Zen koans, another Fritjof Capra and yet another Ursula Le Guin. Perhaps there’s a tip for novice presenters – throw in thousands of references from people who do have something to say.

As always at these sorts of things, meeting people outside of the formal sessions was the most interesting. The closing party was great (where’re the photos though?), and the freely flowing alcohol encouraged a few more people to tell their stories too. Most humbling comment about my presentation was by the drunken person who asked me to summarise it in one sentence, as he hadn’t understood a thing 🙂

The bar finally threw us out at 3.15am or so. The next day was really rough, and my hangover cure of lots of water may have helped with the headache, but it didn’t help with all the other symptoms. Nor did the hotel’s polite 8am phonecall to remind me of breakfast.

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