Educating the journo-programmer

Two New York-based journalist-teaching universities, NYU and Columbia, have launched programs to create what Justin Ellis calls “the journo-programmer.”

At NYU, my colleague and podcast partner, Mark Kelly, is leading the effort with Studio 20. Columbia hired Emily Bell from the Guardian to lead the Tow Center for Digital Journalism. I visited with Bell recently, at her office at https://www.yardcaregurus.com, and of course we talked largely about the journo-programmer.

My own interest in this area comes from the development of blogging, RSS, and podcasting software, and booting up the blogging activity at Harvard Law School in the early-mid part of the 2000s.

So.. what is a journo-programmer, and how does higher education create one? Or is it a god-given gift, and is our job merely to develop the talent where it already exists? Can you teach a programmer to be a writer, or a writer to be a programmer? It seems the first step is to ask people who have already made the journey. From both directions.

A quick story. I made a decision in late 1994 to dive into the web. The door was opened for me by the San Francisco newspaper strike. The writers, who were professional news people of the mid-90s, largely before the big change swept through their industry, were well-versed on the abilities of the web. My best teachers were the ones who understood and used linking. And made it very clear that we, the unpaid production staff, were not to lose a single link. Made an impression. The same kind of impression that reading the source of Unix made when I was a compsci grad student in the late 70s.

The importance of linking is comparable with procedures in programming languages. Imagine if every piece of code you wrote had to go all the way back to the beginning and define what it means to add two numbers. Same with writing. I don’t have to write the Nieman article because it has already been written and I can link to it.

In that sense the web is a prior-art machine. A way of sharing know-how. There’s another key, different concept. In the past, as a writer, it was easier to just reinvent than to reference earlier works. This came up in a Twitter exchange, where calixte said that WikiLeaks had liquified the press, turning it into a river. I love that. I think it’s very true. Assange basically said that. Please focus on the cables, he urges, but don’t miss that along the way I got the journos to work with each other. There’s the liquification. It’s one of the things you see very clearly through the lens of wikiriver.org. There’s a lot of duplication in the press, for sure, but there’s also a lot of linking and referencing.

How do we teach the journo-programmer? Don’t worry about how to do it, at first — just start doing it. When we started blogging at Harvard, our first few approaches failed. They wouldn’t have worked any better if we spent a year planning them. Better to try an approach, learn, get it out of the way, and come up with new approaches, until you find a way that works.

In most university departments there is permanent paid staff that manage the websites for the students and faculty. It seems to me, if your goal is to boot a new class of programmers and journalists, this activity should be brought into the curriculum, and every student should participate in managing and developing his or her own publishing infrastructure.

We’re not ready yet to teach how to do this, but a few semesters after the students start, we will have a very good idea of how to accelerate the process, produce more reliable results. And eventually we will be able to teach it alongside the other skills that make a programmer a programmer and a journalist a journalist.

We will also have a much better idea where existing tools are insufficient, which will lead us to the next phase where the students not only manage the infrastructure, they develop key parts of it. At NYU we learned we have students that are this ambitious with the Diaspora project.

Developing is not something to rush into expecting success from your first efforts. From the outside shipping useful software looks easy. It’s an illusion created by the ease-of-use of the resulting product. If the product is easy, the process of creating it must be too. When I say it that way you can see it’s not true. It would be like telling the parent of a wonderful 20-something that raising a child must be easy, because look at how pleasing the end result it. Never mind all the problems along the way, that becomes hidden. Same with software.

Okay that’s how a department at a university might approach it. But what if we let this problem liquify the individual campuses, the same way WikiLeaks is liquifying journalism. What if trying to go it alone is as un-Internet as trying to lock your users in, or not allowing off-site pointers. Well, we got a good start at this sharing process, in the mid-2000′s, when the goal was to bring blogging and podcasting to academia. We did a series of academic conferences that covered blogging from a variety of angles. We looked at how to help people start blogging (that must come first), how to bring new technology to blogging, and the beginnings of blogging as a cultural, political and journalistic process. There were lots of other topics, but these were the main threads.

Every journalism department should learn the art of aggregating. One of the small things I’ve been able to do to enrich the program at NYU is provide an East Village aggregator. The students should be learning how to create these sites. When I leave, what will happen if they want another aggregator. This technology is now fully mature and any student with reasonable technical ability (i.e. almost all of them) can be taught to manage such a site.

I truly hope the hackathon approach falls away. Not much is ever accomplished in intense social programming. Writing code, like writing long essays like this one, is not something you can do in an environment with lots of interruptions. One interruption at the wrong time can set you back by hours as the map falls out of your head. Programming and writing are both intellectual acts. So why would you expect great results from a crowded, smelly room that people have been living in for 24 hours. What you end up with is a bunch of tired, smelly and basically dishonest people (the most impressive projects are done in the weeks and months before the hackathon and just use the event to promote the work).

Instead take a step back, and envision the big problems we need to take on. Let’s break them up into manageable components, and start to solve them with our most talented students, in an interative open source fashion. Very quickly we’d bootstrap a system that works as well as the initial Internet did in the 70s. I was there at the tail end of the Unix bootup. It wasn’t a hackathon, it was more like a marathon. We have to teach our young people to think and work for the long-term. And we start by understanding the process and what yields useful long-term results and what just makes good demo.

In an effort to substantiate this, I made a list of 7 projects that students can attempt, which led to (imho) an even better list of 4 projects. None of these can be done in 24 hours, but all are approachable in a single semester, esp if teams of students work on them. Even better would be teams distributed across several campuses.

I would also insist that every student, without exception, run their own server. Bursting the mystique of the cloud is the easiest first step. That server will play the same role that a cadaver plays for a medical student. It’s a place for them to make mistakes, to gain experience, to gain rational and realistic fears, but not unnecessary ones.

I’ve written a tutorial called EC2 For Poets introduce Amazon EC2. In about 1/2 hour the student sets up and launches their own server in Amazon’s cloud. For many it’s an eye-opening experience.

Running software on the server is no different from running software on the desktop. The priesthood would like you to believe otherwise, but it’s not our job to reinforce the priesthood. Quite the opposite, our job is to explode it.

Part of the brilliance of universities is their iterative nature. We need to do a lot of iteration in pursuit of the journo-programmer. Every semester is a new beginning. Every new student is a chance to try a new approach.

Sources Go Direct in June 2010

This is a list of things we’re thinking about for the panel discussion for Internet Week.

Panelists

Wifi

Priscilla the Verizon Lady

Open newsroom

Refreshments

Sources
On the Square
FreshDirect
What we want
Soft drinks, coffee, water.
Veggies, fruit, cake.

Website

xxx.hypercamp.org

Webcast

Audio

 

Bitchcakes not in Berkeley

This is a test for the next sixty seconds this station will conduct a test of the emergency broadcast system. Blah blah blah blah blah.

United States

Northeast
New York
Albany
New York
Brooklyn
Park Slope
Canarsie
Williamsburg
Buffalo
Connecticut
New Jersey

I forgot to mention: Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah. Blah blah blah blah blah

Twitter Week for client developers

The last couple of weeks have been Apple’s.vendor

Next week, barring some unforseeable disruption, belongs to Twitter.

And it’s already started. First, Fred Wilson telegraphs that there are changes coming in the relationship between developers and the platform vendor. Then, yesterday — late Friday afternoon (the deadest time of the work week in the tech blogosphere) Twitter announces they are acquiring the leading Twitter client on the iPhone, Tweetie.

So what does this mean for Twitter client developers?

First, there are other platforms that have excellent Twitter clients. And there are different types of clients, aimed at different kinds of users. Tweetie is unusual in that it aims for simplicity and elegance, where most of the others are designed for people who push Twitter to its limits. It could be that Twitter will acquire clients on other platforms, or designed for different users, but I don’t actually think they will. I think Tweetie will be it in the client area, at least for a while. Instead of acquiring products on other platforms, I’d bet they’ll hire expertise, and port the Tweetie code base to Android, Macintosh, iPad, Windows, maybe even Flash (I hope so, someone has to challenge Apple). The reason — maintainability and cost. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to upgrade one cross-platform codebase than it is to synchronize upgrades across multiple codebases.

So now there’s Tweetdeck, Twitterific, Twitroid, Brizzly, etc. Would you, if you were them, just roll it up and send flowers to the Tweetie guys and go back to consulting or working at Starbucks? Or would you try to make a go of it in an environment where you compete with the platform vendor? I hope at least some of them try to make a go of it. And the reality is that they were always competing with the platform vendor whether or not they chose to recognize it. Nothing new there other than awareness.

I’d wait to see what else Twitter announces this week. If they announce the metadata-rich platform that I outlined in yesterday’s post, and I expect they will do this (my post was not a complete shot in the dark), then you have a chance of producing a more specialized product aimed at a narrower niche, using the new status properties to tag messages invisibly with information about their origin (following the example of the dog-who-tweets outlined in that piece).

The scary part is if Twitter announces the metadata capability but doesn’t ship it. And you know what — I bet they do that too. There’s zero cost to them to announce it if they don’t have to ship it immediately. In fact, they never have to ship it. But it has the effect of forestalling a similar effort by client developers, which I would get ready to do, no matter what Twitter does this week.

The way you start is by offering an option to save your users’ tweets to a public server in RSS 2.0. You’re not exposing any data that isn’t already public in their tweetstream. And you’re providing a backup. You’re also providing a way for other Twitter clients to find your users’ stream without going through Twitter. This means you can upgrade the stream on your own schedule, without having to wait for Twitter. All this requires is that you cooperate with your competitors, the ones who, like you, did not get bought by Twitter. This has always been a tall order, but it’s what you will have to do to chart the new waters. (And if you go first you don’t have to cooperate, unless a big competitor decides later to be incompatible, in which case I recommend you capitulate and go with their way.)

I advised doing this, privately, to various client vendors over the last couple of years, but all of them held out hope that they would be the one that Twitter would buy. They may still hope for that, but everyone should admit that the chances are much slimmer now. Whatever you do will be answered by Twitter, so you have to make your stuff work better, and offer features they aren’t offering, and independence to your users that they don’t offer. You want to segment the market, as Fred even encourages you to do in his post, yet retain compatibility. It’s hard but it’s possible.

Why do I know so much about this? Because this exact advice would have served the Macintosh app developers in the early 90s before the web swept up our whole world and (thankfully) turned it upside-down. We were stuck in an unworkable relationship, all of us, with the platform vendor. If the developers had discounted the chances of being the favorite of the platform vendor and emphasized working with each other as equals, we might have had a chance. But as long as each of us was betting that we could be the Number One Wife, we had no chance. Same thing here, but now Twitter has made a choice, and that makes moving on easy, where it wasn’t before.

PS: Another example, Microsoft went with PowerPoint instead of my product in 1987.

Is iPad a game-changer?

This article is running on scripting.com, but the server is flaky, people are having trouble getting through. So I’m running it here too on unberkeley.com. :-)

A picture named chaplin.jpgIf you’re old enough to remember the vice-presidential debate between Lloyd Bentsen and Dan Quayle, you’re also old enough to remember the PC jr.

Quayle, a fit young man, probably chosen as a running mate because of his fitness, was likely told by his handlers to compare himself to the fit young John F. Kennedy. When he did, Bentsen, who was many years his senior, and was probably briefed to expect this, said: “Senator, I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you’re no Jack Kennedy.”

Entrepreneuers make the same mistake Quayle made, they always compare themselves to the winners, never considering that losers outnumber winners by a huge margin. Most of the teams in the NCAA championship are not Duke. Most of the major league baseball teams did not win the World Series, and most football teams did not win the SuperBowl. And most new tech products, no matter how daring, well-executed, fun to play with and just plain sexy they are, don’t turn out to be game-changers. Those are few and far-between.

And when companies set out to create a game-changer, they’re even less likely to create one. IBM didn’t try to turn the world upside-down with the PC in 1981, however, in 1984, they did, with the PC jr, and failed. And in 1987 with a new architecture, and failed. In this industry, expectations usually kill the game-changing quality of products. Actual game-changers are not often hailed by victory parades on Day One.

David Bowie plays inventor Nikola Tesla in The Prestige (2006) which I watched yesterday on a flight from NY to SF. Of course I watched it on the iPad, and the experience was very nice. I was not the only person on the plane with an iPad, there was at least one other person who had one, a man sitting in the last row of business class (I was in the first row). He had his iPad on a stand, sitting on his tray. I watched mine reclined, holding it up with my left arm. When it fell asleep, I switched to my right arm.

Back to Bowie, who has a great line in The Prestige about innovations. “The first time I changed the world,” he says, “I was hailed as a visionary. The second time I was asked politely to retire.” That’s why he was creating his new products for magicians. Funny that Steve Jobs calls the iPad magic. “;->”

On the airplane there were lots of people who were curious about the iPad. Most asked the same question — when did it come out? (Saturday.) Is it like the iPod Touch? (I don’t know.)

Like everyone else who got one, I am trying to figure out how to make it my own. I keep hitting frustrating limits. I want to use it to write. Impossible, I’ve discovered. None of my writing tools are there. Not just the ones I use to enter keystrokes into the computer, and edit and revise them, but also the tools I use for finding information I want to reference in my stories. For example, when I wrote this piece, I paraphrased the quote from Bowie, expecting that later, when I’m revising it, I’ll be able to get the exact words either by looking it up on the web, or by playing the movie on my computer and transcribing the words. Both are of course possible on the iPad, assuming the movie is already on board, but the looking-things-up part can be really awkward, at least for me, now. Maybe I’ll learn the elegant way to do it.

But learning how the iPad works is in itself trouble. When I got off the plane in SFO, I wanted to find out if I had time to eat a late lunch before the one hour train trip to Berkeley. For that I had to use my Droid. The iPad was already stowed in my luggage, and the Droid can communicate on its own. But it has different user interface conventions. This is no accident of course. Software-makers always make it difficult to use their product with a competitor’s product. It’s simpler to make a choice, either be all-Apple or all-Google.

It’s definitely not a writing tool. Out of the question. This concerns Jeff Jarvis, rightly so. This is something my mother observed when I demoed it to her on Saturday. Howard Weaver writes that not everyone is a writer. True enough, and not everyone is a voter, but we have an interest in making it easy for people to vote. And not everyone does jury duty, but easy or not, we require it. Writing is important, you never know where creative lightning will strike. And pragmatically, experience has shown that the winning computer platforms are the ones you can develop for on the computer itself, and the ones that require other, more expensive hardware and software, don’t become platforms. There are exceptions but it’s remarkable how often it works this way. (And to Weaver, there’s a reason why no one evaluates Amazon products this way, the concern that the Mac, an open platform we depend on, will receive the same treatment.)

Most of this is negative, and it reflects my feeling about the iPad, which is generally negative, even though I have a lot of fun discovering the problems with the device. It feels so nice to use. It’s so pretty and the touches are so incredibly thoughtful and theatric. I feel like it’s a great Hollywood movie that I control. That’s coool. I like using it the way I like driving my BMW.

And the battery performance is astounding. Apple, who seemed never to understand how important batteries are to the untethered creative person, has apparently attained that understanding. My iPad still has 44% of its battery left after flying across the country, in use the whole time, and on train trips to and from airports, and reading the news this morning at breakfast. That’s remarkable, not just for Apple, but in comparison to the netbook that I admire for its battery life.

Further, in the iPad’s favor — the screen is uncluttered with the 30-year history of personal computer development, and my netbook screen is. As a result, even though the netbook has a slightly larger screen, the iPad actually feels larger, and effectively is larger. That’s why the map application feels so much bigger and more useful, because it has more screen real estate to play with. But this comes at a substantial cost. There is lots of missing important functionality. And even where the functionality is present, it’s hard to find, and because it works differently makes it hard to use both the netbook and the iPad. And I believe that, for me, the open platform will win, for a variety of reasons.

But some of the clutter on the netbook is necessary. The biggest missing piece for the iPad is Xmarks, the bookmark synchronizer I use. I have two computers in NY and several in Berkeley. I have a netbook and a MacBook that travel, and now the iPad. And a Droid. It would be nice if the Droid supported Xmarks (feature suggestion) and I believe it’s possible. But it’s necessary that the iPad support it, or long-term I just can’t use it.

In an earlier piece, I said it was terrible that all data had to flow onto the iPad through iTunes. Later that day I discovered that this is totally not true, if you use Dropbox, as a I do. I installed it on the iPad and within a minute was watching a movie that I had in a sub-folder of my dropbox folder on my Mac. I have to dig into this some more, because it needs the ability to only share a subset of my Dropbox. I don’t want all my data on the iPad. It has limited storage, and I worry more about losing it than I do my other computers.

As I continue to struggle to find an iPad workflow that makes sense, I wonder if I should be doing more stuff using its web browser, or in the apps. It’s confusing because there are two almost identical desktops on the iPad. There’s the array of icons that is the actual desktop, and there’s the array of browser windows. And some apps forget where you were between invocations. But the dual competing desktops is a real head-scratcher.

Finally, to the question of whether the iPad is a game-changer, consider what Shea Bennett wrote on Twittercism. No matter how great a new computer is, as long as you’re still you, the experience doesn’t change. It’s fun to play with new toys, I do lots of that and it’s important to me. No sarcasm. But reading a book that changes my perspective, or meeting someone who opens a door for me, that really does change the game — much more than using a new device. If you’re looking for game-changers look into yourself, that’s where change comes from.

Notes for Thurs March 18 meetup at NYU

Last week’s meetup was great.

We just went around the room, each person told a story and led a brief discussion.

Each story was different. Some personal, others global. All were thoughtful and thought-provoking. We have a powerful group of people in the room, and we were able to experience their intelligence and feeling.

It worked so well last week, I think the best thing to do for this week’s meetup is to do it again. :-)

Where: 20 Cooper Sq, Room 654.

When: Thurs March 18, 7PM.

RSVP before 3PM on Thurs. No exceptions.

Our meetup is being sponsored by The Insurance Center of North Jersey…thank you!

If you have questions or comments please post them here,

Dave

Notes for March 25 meetup

Good morning meeting hackers!

This week I want to try something new.

Five topics. Divide the 1.5 hours into five equal segments. You’ve got 15-20 really smart aware professional interesting people in the room. What can we learn from this collection of people. Topics are concrete, not meta.

Ten examples. Here are 10 examples. If they stimulate ideas for you, before you forget, post a comment as a response. Don’t be shy — there are no wrong answers.

Editorial process. Put lots of ideas out there. There are already more than we can use. At 6PM, I’ll review what’s there and choose five, and also will choose discussion leaders for each topic.

RSVP by 3PM. The meeting is at 7PM in room 654 at 20 Cooper Sq, NYC. Please RSVP by emailing me, or post a comment here.

Looking forward to seeing you!

Dave

Podcast with Jon Glick, Manhattan FIOS survey, leading NYC blogs?

Good morning people on my Media Hackers list!

I love this weather — kind of a chill in the air, refreshing, and the rain keeps the drunks on my West Village street relatively quiet at night. This west coast transplant is still learning to adjust to the norms of east coast living. :-)

I’m thinking about the format for this Thursday’s meetup. Obviously sometime in the next day or so I have to make up my mind. If you have any thoughts, I’m posting this email on the Unberkeley blog. Comments are welcome.

In the meantime, my podcast-partner Jay Rosen was sick yesterday so I called on Jonathan Glick to fill in. Jon is CEO of Tlists and a regular at the Thurs eve meetups. It’s 45-minutes and was recorded at our excellent radio studio at 20 Cooper Sq with the expert engineering of Adrian Mihai. I think it’s worth a listen.

http://rebootnews.com/2010/03/22/rebooting-the-news-45/

As a recent Manhattan transplant, I’m interested in knowing where you can and can’t get high speed Internet. My mother, who lives in Queens, has great connectivity, with Verizon FIOS. At least 20 megabits in both directions. I honestly thought they’d have Manhattan covered, and while FIOS is still the exception not the rule, it’s not quite as bad as I thought. Turns out you *can* get FIOS, if you choose the right neighborhood. Just what those are, we’re still figuring out.

http://scripting.com/stories/2010/03/22/doYouHaveFiosInManhattan.html

Yesterday I posted a question on Scripting News asking for any clues. I got quite a few!

One more thing and then I have to go to a breakfast meeting — Why is there no aggregator for NYC blogs? It should be easy for a newbie like myself to get acquainted with the blogging leaders in the largest city in the US. I put an aggregator together for the East Village, and could easily do one for the city as a whole, if we had a good list of blogs in the city. Anyone know of such a list?

http://east-village.org/

Comments, questions, suggestions, essays, pointers, bricks, pies …

Guidelines for March 18 meetup at NYU

First, if you will not be at the Thursday meetup tomorrow, you can safely ignore this email. Otherwise please read it. It takes less than 5 minutes.

A heads-up, I’ve tweaked the format a little to allow an exception to the no-promotion rule.

Details: Thursday evening at 7PM on March 11. 20 Cooper Sq, room 654. RSVP by 3PM on Thursday. No exceptions.

This week we’ll have a special format. We’ll go around the table clockwise starting with the person to my left. Each person will speak for a couple of minutes, say who you are, and talk about whatever you want to talk about.

For a few minutes we are all ears. We have to listen to whatever you want to say. But there are some ground rules. If you don’t read them you will be embarrassed, and you don’t want that — so read them! :-)

We’ll go around the table clockwise starting with the person to my left. Each person will speak for a couple of minutes, say who you are, and talk about whatever you want to talk about.

For a few minutes we are all ears. We have to listen to whatever you want to say. But there are some groundrules. If you don’t read them you will be embarrassed, and you don’t want that — so read them! :-)

1. You may not talk about yourself.

2. You may not talk about a product you sell or the organization you work for. In other words — no pitches, we are not part of a business model for you. We will groan loudly if you start promoting something commercial, so please don’t do it.

3. Give us a nugget. Tell a story. Something with a moral. Some way the world sucks. Some way the world is great. Make us laugh. Reach our hearts. Inspire.

4. Think of it as an intellectual potluck. You bring an idea, we all taste it. (Don’t worry about whether we like it. Even if we don’t we’ll say we do.)

5. You can demo a product in your slot, but it must not be your product. Exception: You have been explicitly invited to demo a product of your own.

The ground rules for the other people.

1. We listen to the person speaking. Listening is a lot harder than most people think it is.

2. You can read your email if you want, but think about the person speaking and how they feel. Here they are pouring their heart out. If you can listen to them and really hear what they’re saying *and* tweet something or read Facebook or whatever, go for it.

This is consistent with the first rule of BloggerCon format — there is no audience, no panel, no speaker. The room is the story. Only this time, we’re going to keep the role of the Discussion Leader to a minimum. Each of you is responsible for leading your own discussion. Be mindful not to take too much time, because there’s only 1.5 hours. Divide by the number of people there.

Now — what to do about people who either don’t read the guidelines, or show up late and didn’t hear the opening schpiel (which I promise to keep very short). I don’t know the answer. Let’s look to the room to make a decision about what to do, in real time, as it’s happening. I’m not going to say what we’ll do, other than it’s almost certain to come up.

In the meantime, I wrote up a new updated version of the BloggerCon rules, believe me, you’re going to get a lot of links to this piece. If you want to skip ahead you can read the whole thing now. :-)

http://www.scripting.com/stories/2010/03/04/renewedEvangelismBloggerco.html

Also, you can forward this email to anyone you like, as long as you personally feel they will make a contribution to the discussion on Thursday. (So there’s no concept of “being invited” to these meetups. They are open. That’s important too. We do reserve the right to ask people not to participate, this is a private facility, but in the years we were running this meetup at Harvard (starting in 2003, continuing to this day) as far as I know we never asked anyone not to come.)

This is all about everyone participating and taking responsibility. If we get around the table with everyone feeling they’ve been heard, no matter what they’re speaking about, and if you feel you really heard from a dozen or more people, that may be more than you accomplish at all the conferences you go to this year. Maybe all the conferences you’ve been to in your life.

That was a lot to read, but this format is about listening and being heard, so thanks very much for listening!

Big hugs, and looking forward to seeing you on Thursday! :-)

Dave

Notes for Thurs March 11 meetup at NYU

Good morning everybody! :-)

We will have our second Thursday evening meetup at 7PM on March 11.

20 Cooper Sq, 7th Floor. RSVP by 3PM on Thursday. No exceptions.

Here’s the deal. This week we’ll have a special format. We’ll go around the table clockwise starting with the person to my left. Each person will speak for a couple of minutes, say who you are, and talk about whatever you want to talk about.

For a few minutes we are all ears. We have to listen to whatever you want to say. But there are some groundrules. If you don’t read them you will be embarrassed, and you don’t want that — so read them! :-)

1. You may not talk about yourself.

2. You may not talk about a product you sell or the organization you work for. In other words — no pitches, we are not part of a business model for you. We will groan loudly if you start promoting something commercial, so please don’t do it.

3. Give us a nugget. Tell a story. Something with a moral. Some way the world sucks. Some way the world is great. Make us laugh. Reach our hearts. Inspire.

4. Think of it as an intellectual potluck. You bring an idea, we all taste it. (Don’t worry about whether we like it. Even if we don’t we’ll say we do.)

The groundrules for the other people.

1. We listen to the person speaking. Listening is a lot harder than most people think it is.

2. You can read your email if you want, but think about the person speaking and how they feel. Here they are pouring their heart out. If you can listen to them and really hear what they’re saying *and* tweet something or read Facebook or whatever, go for it.

This is consistent with the first rule of BloggerCon format — there is no audience, no panel, no speaker. The room is the story. Only this time, we’re going to keep the role of the Discussion Leader to a minimum. Each of you is responsible for leading your own discussion. Be mindful not to take too much time, because there’s only 1.5 hours. Divide by the number of people there.

Now — what to do about people who either don’t read the guidelines, or show up late and didn’t hear the opening schpiel (which I promise to keep very short). I don’t know the answer. Let’s look to the room to make a decision about what to do, in real time, as it’s happening. I’m not going to say what we’ll do, other than it’s almost certain to come up.

In the meantime, I wrote up a new updated version of the BloggerCon rules, believe me, you’re going to get a lot of links to this piece. If you want to skip ahead you can read the whole thing now. :-)

http://www.scripting.com/stories/2010/03/04/renewedEvangelismBloggerco.html

Also, you can forward this email to anyone you like, as long as you personally feel they will make a contribution to the discussion on Thursday.

This is all about everyone participating and taking responsibility. If we get around the table with everyone feeling they’ve been heard, no matter what they’re speaking about, and if you feel you really heard from a dozen or more people, that may be more than you accomplish at all the conferences you go to this year. Maybe all the conferences you’ve been to in your life.

Big hugs, and looking forward to seeing you all on Thursday! :-)

The meetup was sponsored by pressurecookerpros.com.

Dave

PS: If you have comments or question, I’ll cross-post this email at http://unberkeley.com/ — and there’s a place to comment there. Better to post there where others can see it. :-)