Today I got a letter from Dave Winer, subject line Invite: BloggerCon, Harvard Law, Oct 4:
Greetings.That sounded potentially amusing.
I know you’re busy so here’s what’s going on.1. We’re having a conference about weblogs on October 4, at Harvard Law School.
2. The pleasure of your company is requested. (In other words, you’re invited.)Well, cool. That could be a lot of fun, not to mention it’s an honor to be asked.
3. I am the host of the conference. It’s going to be a great show. We’re going to have a lively discussion including (at no extra cost) Web Energy and lots of philosophy, great art and technology and lots of ideas.4. Presenters include Glenn Reynolds, Joshua Marshall, Doc Searls, Scott Rosenberg, Adam Curry, Elizabeth Spiers, Jim Moore, Susan Mernit and more. Moderators: Lance Knobel, Ed Cone, Christopher Lydon and myself. And new discoveries, people we hadn’t heard about until we set out to find the most interesting and eclectic blogs and bloggers.
5. We’re going to talk about how weblogs are used in politics, business, journalism, the law, medicine, engineering and education. And it’s Harvard so you know it tastes good and is good for you too. ;->Hrm. I was once a typesetter for the Harvard Crimson, and spent a good part of one school year living illegally in Mather House. Somewhat more recently I did a guest lecture there, with Patrick, on science fiction and its relation to the community. Harvard’s a nice place, but in this postlapsarian world its gooditude is no more certain than any other institution’s.
6. It’s a one-day Saturday conference, with an all-day open house on Sunday for impromptu meetings and discussions about anything you want to talk about. We did it this way because we’re going to have so many creative minds, we wanted to make sure there was lots of time for people to create.Got it. What the SF community would call a relaxacon.
7. It’s October, the most beautiful time of year in New England. Come see the beautiful trees and of course the beautiful young Harvard students.I’m not sure how to take that. If I want to see students, New York is full of them. If I go to a conference about weblogging, I want to see other webloggers.
8. Our local host committee of Boston-based bloggers includes Cluetrain author David Weinberger, InfoWorld’s Jon Udell, author Halley Suitt, MIT’s Andrew Grumet and Tracey Adams, Harvard librarian Jessica Baumgart and Larry Bouthillier from Harvard Business School. They’re here to make sure you find what you’re looking for at Harvard and in the Boston area. If you have ideas for speakers, or people we should invite, please let any of us know, including the local hosts. 9. This is a user’s conference. Technology is important, but at this conference the people who make the products are here to listen, to learn how people use the software, and to learn how we can improve it. This guarantees that something will actually get done here. It’s an important role-reversal.I took that part to mean that there won’t be any elaborate presentations. The “role reversal” bit is a little puzzling. In what universe does the normal role of the weblogger consist of shutting up and listening?
10. Okay this didn’t turn out to be that short. Hehe. Hmm. Anyway, it’s time to say that seating is very limited, so if you want to come, please sign up right away. The cost for this incredible once-in-a-lifetime experience is a mere $500, …Say what?!
… and if you’re a student (please provide a photocopy of your ID) it’s only $250. Harvard affiliates also qualify for the discount (Harvard ID, or harvard.edu mail address). We’re using the money (where needed) to get the talent in and out of the city, and to put on a few great parties so we can all mingle, share ideas, and learn a lot.Those had better be some swell parties. And given that Atrios and Tom Tomorrow have apparently been sent the same invitation that I received, I have to wonder who in the weblogging universe is so exalted that they qualify as “the talent”, while we qualify as “people entitled to pay $500 apiece to subsidize The Talent’s travel and party expenses.”
I’m sorry. My background’s in the SF community, where our basic model is that a convention is the community coming together to enjoy and entertain itself, not some kind of hierarchical thing where some people are stars who get paid to come, and the rest are attendees who pay to come see them. A ten-year-old kid sitting in the audience at a panel is as much a member of the convention as the newbie pro writer on the panel who’s temporarily hogging the mike, and the thirty-years-a-fan moderator who’s presently going to wrest the mike away and hand it off to another panelist. It all goes around.
This attitude may explain why we can run our conventions on volunteer labor. This keeps our costs way down, which means we means we can keep membership prices far lower than they would be for comparable gatherings of most other groups, which means that more of our people can afford to come. We like it that way.That inclusiveness has been one of the things I’ve liked about the weblogging universe. Anyone with a web connection can start one, and after that it’s all a matter of how interesting you are. How many fewer weblogs would there be if you had to pay $500 upfront?
You can reserve your space, right now, at this URL:My goodness.
Please go there now, sign up, and let’s make BloggerCon 2003 a huge success!
If you have questions about the signup procedure, or conference logistics, reply-all, or send mail to:
There’s also a BloggerCon weblog , with an RSS feed  you can subscribe to. We’ll do several mailings as the conference date approaches with more info as it becomes available.
Dave Winer http://…url…url…url…url…url…/bloggerCon/
Host, BloggerCon 2003
I’m sure Dave Winer meant no harm. He does work in a better-paid industry than I do, so perhaps it didn’t occur to him that cost might be an issue. In any event, it was very kind of him to ask me.I wrote back to say thank you, that I was pleased and honored to be asked, and that I was sure the conference would be enjoyable; but that I couldn’t possibly afford a $500 membership charge on top of travel and lodging expenses, especially not for a one-day conference. I added,
Please don’t take this as criticism, but I’ve been helping run conventions since the late 1970s, and I cannot for the life of me imagine why a small, low-key one-day conference with no food functions and no unusual setup, AV, or security needs should require a $500 membership fee. Even assuming the worst sort of sucker rates for facilities, I can’t imagine how you’d run a convention with that kind of fee structure. … One of the joys of weblogging as a medium is that it’s so inexpensive, which means it’s available to a very wide range of participants. At $500 a head, your weekend gathering may talk about that aspect of weblogging, but you won’t be talking with the webloggers in question.I wish them well. I’m sure someone will write it all up when it’s over.