THE END of The 140 Characters Conference, New World Stages, New York
June 16-17, 2009
Throw your laptops down and run naked and chanting through the streets! This is my final posting about the 140 Characters Conference! Yesterday I watched the hashtag stream to see how far off schedule day two was, while also keeping an eye on the upload status of the video I took with my Flip cam. Snail's pace + agitation = me ranting and then heading off to the show sans laptop. It was actually quite freeing not to have that lap warmer tugging at my un-muscled shoulder all afternoon. And here's all she wrote...
I entered with a strategy - while everyone is eating lunch, grab a seat close to the stage and DON'T MOVE until after the Wyclef interview. It nearly worked save for the pair of chatterboxes next to me who giggled throughout the Digital Diplomacy and Cultural Collaboration panel while surfing through Durex ads. I did my best to pay attention to Joshua Fouts (@josholalia)(the moderator, too!) - Senior Fellow, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs; Senior Fellow, Digital Media and Public Policy, The Center for the Study of the Presidency Chief Global Strategist, Dancing Ink Productions, LLC, Andrew Kneale (@andrewkneale) - Transatlantic Project Coordinator. British Council, Evan M. O'Neil (@gpi) - Global Policy Innovations Magazine, Michael Jay Friedman (@americagovprint) - U.S. Dept. of State (IIP/PUBP), and Rita J. King (@RitaJKing) - CEO and Creative Director, Dancing Ink Productions because they covered a topic I knew nothing about. I wanted to learn! because it was a topic I knew nothing about. I wanted to learn!
Fouts began by defining public diplomacy as the method by which government reaches out to foreign publics to advocate policies and whatnot. He then went on to ask the intern on the street question - how has Twitter changed the way you do business? This inspired Friedman to go through his entire process (minus actually turning on the computer and opening a browser window) while assuring the audience that he's a propagandist, which means something different today: "What we do now is show that there is a free and vibrant clash of ideas...and we're listening - even when we don't agree." Wire taps, anyone? The gist is that The U.S. Dept of State is trying to not only embrace their own social communications, but also grabbing the ropes as an aggregator. Friedman wants to embed all relevant conversations and make their site a one stop shop. I'm sure there are TONS of Twitter app creators DMing him right now. The rest of the panel echoes sentiments from the twitter handbook about trust and engagement and, wait for it... ?building communications and relationships."
Rita King stirred the audience by going only slightly off topic and tickling the ethics bone. What's happening in Iran was a common thread that wove itself not only through the auditorium, but into the lobby, the restroom, and outside. So when Rita asked the audience if they thought changing your location from the truth to Tehran was ethically sound (AKA offering yourself online as a false representation of the real you), I wished that the house was as packed as it probably was for Gary Vaynerchuk's session (which I missed so I still have no exposure to the hype). This could have turned into a rousing debate, but instead it was hand raising and moving on.
Wyclef arrived and took me exactly where I wanted to go with this conference. He sat on that stage with his loved and respected buddy Chris Sacca (@sacca)and talked with us. He didn't blather about his Retweets, he didn't blow sunshine up anyone's butt. He talked about his life, his stories, his bathroom incidents (hi, Hector!), and his dreams to better the lives of Haitians. He wasn't a character, he was a person. He didn't waste time telling us how to tweet, he literally just shared his time and gave me some much needed "I almost peed my pants" belly laughs. Some worthwhile snippets:
"Even if you have just 5 people... those are your people" regarding this whole amount of followers status game vs quality REAL relationships.
"Twitter has all kinds of hustlers on it" referring to all time favorite spammers like "I can get you 25million followers in one day!"
Each musician or music industry player has said that Twitter cuts out the middle man - that it's direct communication from artist to fan without the barrier of the label. I wonder how labels feel about this lack of control and shaping - care to chime in? I know artists and fans see it as a good thing, but you know the business side has to be twitching about it.
And finally, to promote Yele Haiti, Wyclef reminded everyone that those hungry-feed-me-give-me-your-money sad poster children for impoverished countries aren't the only faces they have. He said there is a happy side to those kids, they laugh and play, and Yele Haiti focuses on that.
I haven't started a sentence with "In conclusion" since the PSATs, so let's do it up, retro style!
In conclusion, there is no denying that Jeff Pulver pulled together a mammoth conference of characters, real people, real celebrities who still get more ooo's than those aiming to be (gulp) "Internet famous," great sandwiches, Starbucks coffee, nerdlings, puppets, and a freakin' OWL, without any noticeable derailments at all. And that, my friends, is talent. Whether or not attendees walked away with anything new besides friends and followers remains to be seen - and I'd love to hear about it (see comment section).
Maybe if the 140 Characters Conference evolves into an intense planning session to save the world through our tweets rather than focusing on the individuals, we as attendees would be more respected rather than challenged. My favorite critique of the conference was from @Wearethechange: "#140conf Why don't you guys help find Bin Laden? Do something useful!! Instead of mentally [sensitive word bleeped for you sensitive types]!" Oh yes, that's exactly the activity I skipped in order to attend. Dang it, if I hadn't gone, you know exactly who I'd have in a sack right now, too! But I get it, and I know you do too - so maybe there are bigger plans ahead, but you gotta lay the groundwork, right?
Thank you to Jeff Pulver for pulling it together and to everyone who made the quality pieces quality.
And thank you David Tedman and Hootsuite for bringing that beautiful owl.