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August 7, 2003

Mildly defective egoboo
Posted by Teresa at 03:14 PM *

Today I got a letter from Dave Winer, subject line Invite: BloggerCon, Harvard Law, Oct 4:


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.
That sounded potentially amusing.
2. The pleasure of your company is requested. (In other words, you’re invited.)

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.
Well, cool. That could be a lot of fun, not to mention it’s an honor to be asked.
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 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:


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 [1], with an RSS feed [2] you can subscribe to. We’ll do several mailings as the conference date approaches with more info as it becomes available.

Dave Winer
Host, BloggerCon 2003

[1] http://…url…url…url…url…url…/bloggerCon/
2 http://…url…url…url…url…url…/bloggerCon/xml/rss.xml
My goodness.

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.
Comments on Mildly defective egoboo:
#1 ::: Leslie Turek ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 06:21 PM:

Yeah, Teresa! I'm sure you'll let us know if you get a response, right?

#2 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 06:27 PM:

$500? That's cheap for a one-day technology conference.

But you've said aloud something that I've muttered under my breath at several thousand buck plus technology conferences.

On the other hand, it means that people who put on WorldCons might ought to go into the professional meeting planning business...

#3 ::: Andrew Northrup ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 07:03 PM:

That's very, very cool.

#4 ::: Rich McAllister ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 07:06 PM:

$500? That's cheap for a one-day technology conference.

Well, Hot Chips is only $415 for three days and they even feed people pretty well. (The key is they get the hall, Stanford's Memorial Auditorium, really cheap.)

#5 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 07:18 PM:

Getting bloggers to 1: pay money 2: to travel somewhere and 3: listen to someone else sounds like a big contrast to blogging.

I guess they're trying to give you bloggers a break from blogging, in as many ways as possible!

#6 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 07:21 PM:

I'm not sure whether to be relieved or annoyed not to have gotten this.

#7 ::: Lisa Spangenberg ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 07:48 PM:

They should definitely have you there!


That said, $500.00?? Sure for a technology conference that's not bad (but those include food, among other things, and the fees are often covered by corporate expenses, and you can learn enough to pass certification exams etc.) I'd pay $500 for WWDC (Apple's World Wide Developer's Conference) or a number of O'Reilly conferences in a heart beat.

You SF con is a good comparison, but I'll go one better. The description Dave Winer offers is a fairly standard set up for an academic conference, where yes, you do pay, but nothing like that amount of money. I've worked on scads of such conferences, on topics ranging from Chaucer to Celtic Studies, to Eighteenth Century Literature, to Baroque painting, to the history of the book to . . . well scads.

You solicit funds from the organizations associated with the conference, you use university facillities at no charge, though you may pay for AV support, you use skilled student labor, you provide coffee/tea breaks with pastries and such, and either request a fee for sit down meals or arrange to help folk find and pay for their own.

You don't invite "special" people, people invited to share their skills and knowledge, and then charge them $500 to attend!

Yes, some people do present papers and have travel and loging covered, while others who present don't, but that has to do with rewarding key note presenters, or enabling those who are students or far away to participate. You don't charge for the conference--not when you're expecting a few hundred versus a few thousand at say WWDC or WorldCon.

Yes, it's a cool idea, but $500.00 is a lot of money, money perhaps better spent on hosting fees, or tuition.

#8 ::: Elayne Riggs ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 07:53 PM:

Yep, I got it too, and blogged about it as well. I'm going to update that entry and link to this; thanks Teresa!

#9 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 08:32 PM:

So, is this blogger conference a for-profit affair?

#10 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 08:35 PM:

Also, googling for "bloggercon" gets you the address of the weblog.

#11 ::: Tina Black ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 08:50 PM:

Heh. As a fan, I could do it cheaper, and probably with food.
I know there is supposed to be one born every minute, but *really*.
There are plenty of blog events on the west coast that aren't gouging attendees.
Technology conference my tired feet! This has some possibilities, but it would be stretching credibility to call it a technology conference.

#12 ::: Seth Ellis ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 09:46 PM:

Teresa said, I92m sure someone will write it all up when it92s over.

I'll be disappointed if a blogging conference isn't blogged simultaneously by attendees with WiFi connections. Which would suggest that people who would pay $500 for the privilege of hearing bloggers talk are missing the point, as are the people who expect bloggers to pay that much.

Also, a blogging conference really isn't a technology conference, unless they're planning to bring in all the servers that host the spine of the Internet and explain how the whole thing works. Blogging is mostly a cultural phenomenon; the technology involved isn't particularly revolutionary. Even the expense of bringing in a laptop and hooking it up to a projector seems excessive. Do you project your blog, and people sit around in silence reading it?

I remember a recent article somewhere saying that blog culture is the new Internet bubble, like the dot-coms of yore. It sounds like somebody's taking that a little too seriously, and charging 1999-style prices for anything that involves the word "blog." In that case, they probably will in fact be great parties -- unless they can't get anybody to cough up the $500.

#13 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 09:46 PM:

A general remark: click on the link that says "volunteer labor" for an excellent article from Meeting News about how SF conventions do things.

Leslie, I'll let you know. I'm tempted to post all this to SMOFS.

Bill, I know technology conferences cost a lot more, but they're run by professional meeting planners (who aren't necessarily any better at it than Ben Yalow or Geri Sullivan or the Olson triplets, but who do run up the overall cost), and they're run by and for industries that have a lot of extra money slopping around, relatively speaking.

I know that some of our people have gone into professional meeting planning, and others could any time they want to.

Vicki, be neither relieved nor annoyed. I got asked; Patrick didn't. Atrios and Tom Tomorrow got asked; Jim Henley and Kos didn't. Go figure.

Lisa, that sounds about right. Academic conferences and SF conventions have a few structural differences (as do SF conventions and other SF conventions -- lots of variation there), but I suspect the underlying principles are much the same.

Elayne, I saw your entry: very concise. I've tried to click through to read Lis Riba's, but I keep getting a message saying her site is unfindable.

I didn't know whether to laugh or cry at the information that webloggers are starting to get together at conventions. Here we go, recapitulating again! I have the oddest feeling that if I went to one of these gatherings, I'd be in danger of running into Claude Degler, or young Wilson Tucker, or even Art Widner.

Jon, if googling for "bloggercon" turns up their address, it's no sorrow to me. I just didn't feel right about printing it myself.

I don't know whether Bloggercon is intended to be a for-profit affair. All I can say is that if someone who's charging $500 a head for a one-day conference isn't taking a rakeoff, then I am ashamed for him, because an infant could do as much.

Tina, I could be mistaken, but it seems to me that there's a faint whiff of "come and act as a focus group for the kind of software I sell" in this.

And -- yeah! For five hundred bucks a head I could give everybody sleeping rooms and at least one meal, maybe more. For five hundred bucks a per, the Head of Programming could undertake to walk on water, and the Chair could raise the dead.

#14 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 10:18 PM:

Sounds like they've confused a hobbyist convention with a professionals' conference. People whose income depends on a weblog are few and far between, and the set of such people probably consists mostly of blog software developers, blog hosting service employees, and Andrew Sullivan.

Seth, I think the new Internet Boom is going to be offshore outsourcing. I've heard the same sort of rhetoric - "you've got to go offshore before your competitors do it", and you can almost hear the three exclamation points.

In the internet boom, it was "you've got to go online before you get Amazoned".

#15 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 10:23 PM:

"Seth, I think the new Internet Boom is going to be offshore outsourcing."

Indeed, Electrolite has been written by six people in a Bangalore cubicle farm since March 2003. We'll be gradually replacing our comment-section regulars with offshore freelancers beginning in early 2004.

#16 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 10:40 PM:

Now see, you've disillusioned me. I thought the sumptuous glass-and-steel Electrolite Tower was where all that work was done...

#17 ::: Bryn Neuenschwander ::: (view all by) ::: August 07, 2003, 11:25 PM:

I can't vouch for how the law school runs things, but I was guest coordinator of VeriCon (the SF con run by the Harvard-Radcliffe Science Fiction Association) for two years, and we got space for free. Granted, that's under the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, which is very much a separate entity, and VeriCon's a student-run event. If BloggerCon is the brainchild of non-students, and just happens to be taking place at the law school, then maybe they *are* having to pay through the nose for space. Or maybe the law school just looks for any opportunity to rip people for money, whether they're students or not. Or maybe the space is free, and this *is* a not-terribly-subtle money-making venture.

Any way you slice it, reading through that much info and *then* hitting the "all this can be yours for the low, low price of . . ." line is more than a bit jarring.

#18 ::: Kathryn ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 12:46 AM:

I can think of one (or two) good reason(s) for the difference:

Tech conferences are usually tax deductible for almost all attendees. And/or employers will pay for them. = no strong incentive to lower prices (in fact, if its too low, perhaps the company won't think of it as a serious conference and won't allow the employee to go at all).

SF cons would be deductible only for pros and dealers (pros?). = strong incentive to keep prices low.

I do know of one tech conference producer who hopes to lower the charge for a Silicon Valley conference by 70% next year.

#19 ::: Kevin Andrew Murphy ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 12:53 AM:

The only sort of con that I know of that comes anywhere near that ticket price is The Westchester Poetry Conference, with the full package clocking in at $595, but that's for four day accomodations, meals, workshops, and poet laureates popping out of cakes. Well, I'm not certain about the cakes part, but close enough. Still a bit silly-pricy, but not that bad when compared to anything but an SF con.

Hmm. I'm in Silicon Valley, and while I don't run cons, I know lots of people who do....

#20 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 01:10 AM:

Please, Xopher. Electrolite Tower exists primarily to service the airship dock. Most of the interior space is taken up with storage (books, fonts, guitar picks, gracefully aging liqueurs) and the sushi restaurant.

#21 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 01:24 AM:

Well, we do rent out the "Slopes of Parnassus" lounge now and then to corporate groups. You know, regional sales conferences, Klingon gatherings, Harold Bloom groupies, the like.

You know, for years, much of the original Susan Kare decor was hidden behind clumsy drop ceilings and replasterings. But after a thorough renovation, we found an entire allegorical mural. Captioned "Et In Arcadia Dogcow," or something like that. The experts are still arguing; that's what we pay 'em to do.

#22 ::: Roger Burton West ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 07:34 AM:

What the invitation gave me was a feeling of "you're the Fans, you're why this happens, so please pay Serious Money"... exactly the same as something that doesn't seem to have been mentioned in the comments yet, the SF media con.

That's not a community I have much to do with, but people who do seem to be used to paying through the nose for what sounds to me like a "relaxacon with a couple of expensive actors at the end of a long autograph queue". I'm not active in the web-logging community - this is the only one I read, and I'd much rather have an NNTP or email interface to it - but is Winer perhaps thinking along these lines?

#23 ::: Chad Orzel ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 08:04 AM:

Vicki, be neither relieved nor annoyed. I got asked; Patrick didn't. Atrios and Tom Tomorrow got asked; Jim Henley and Kos didn't. Go figure.

The only appropriate response would appear to be confusion, if I got invited but Patrick didn't. I'd love to know what the criteria were.

#24 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 08:21 AM:

Maybe they know I don't have the money, or an employer who could be conned into paying for this, and decided not to spend a whole 37 cents on postage to invite me? It's as plausible a thesis as anything.

#25 ::: Mike Kozlowski ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 08:29 AM:

Given the names in that invite, I'm not entirely surprised by the cash-up-front approach, because they (or at least the ones whose names I recognize) seem to come from the blogging-for-money side of the fence.

Take that Adam Curry guy, for instance -- I first heard of him a few weeks ago when he was bitching about a new syndication format, because he'd paid $10K to be included as a default RSS feed in some package or other, and felt that his investment was going to be wasted. People who pay thousands of dollars to get sponsored placement on a newsfeed aren't doing the same thing I'm doing.

#26 ::: Andrew Willett ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 08:38 AM:

Bill, I know technology conferences cost a lot more, but they're run by professional meeting planners (who aren't necessarily any better at it than Ben Yalow or Geri Sullivan or the Olson triplets...

That would be Mary-Kate, Ashley, and Merryweather?

#27 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 09:23 AM:

John M. Ford writes: "Please, Xopher. Electrolite Tower exists primarily to service the airship dock. Most of the interior space is taken up with storage (books, fonts, guitar picks, gracefully aging liqueurs) and the sushi restaurant."

And the Disemvowelling Theatre, with luxuriously appointed skyboxes for the most elite editorial personages.

#28 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 09:23 AM:

And yarn. Don't forget the yarn.

Bryn, Kathryn, in my youth I was taught that a perfectly budgeted convention makes enough money to handle all its expenses when they're incurred, plus a prudent surplus for unforeseen events; and then if all goes well, there's a small tidy bit of cash left over to pass on to the next con committee, for them to use while they're getting up to speed.

If you made too much money, though, it meant you'd charged more than you had to. Dollars that could have been spent in the dealers' room or art show, or on a loud unwieldy ten-fan dinner expedition, or used to buy bathtub beer for a room party, or wagered back and forth at a late-night fannish poker game, had instead wound up sitting uselessly in the convention's strongbox. Or, worse, the unnecessarily high price of membership might have scared some people off, so they hadn't been there that weekend at all, and now you might never get to know them.

To this day, my automatic assumption is that if you're charging a lot for memberships, it's because you're doing something at the convention that makes it necessary. But nothing I see here justifies the price. Not even "complete sucker" catering rates could sop up $500 per head over such a short conference.

Underwriting the attendance of "the talent" is the obvious way to incur such costs, but in this case I'd have two problems with it. The lesser is that the invitation doesn't say who "the talent" is. Asking us to pay $500 for a player to be named later is a non-starter.

My main problem is that the weblogging world is a distributed non-hierarchical network. Granted, some weblogs are more read and linked-to than others; but I literally can't think of anyone who'd be $500-a-head more pertinent, relevant, and valuable to the proceedings than some of the invitees who're being asked to ante up.

#29 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 09:47 AM:

That invitation puts me in mind of those "Congratulations! You've been included in the Very Extremely Prestigious _Who's Who in American High Schools_" letters you get after you take the SAT. Everybody's in it, but not everybody pays the $100 for the handsome volume bound in a leather-like substance with gold-embossed spine and optional personalization.

#30 ::: Jeff Crook ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 10:03 AM:

Captioned "Et In Arcadia Dogcow," or something like that.

OMG! You're sitting on the lost treasure of the Templars!

#31 ::: Kellie ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 10:17 AM:

Oh, you had to bring that up, Anne? Great, so now I have to hang my head in shame. Not only did I not get invited to the Ed McMahon-ish "You May Have Alreday One" blogging conference, but now I have to carry with me the reminder of never getting the invitation to participate in the Who's Who scam. Excuse me while I clutch my "You're the lucky winner of our hourly drawing" email and cry.

#32 ::: India ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 10:24 AM:

Sounds to me like the model is this:

I used to administer the emergency funds for writers at PEN, and I can't tell you how many applications we received from "poets" who just had to dredge up the money to attend this thing.

Perhaps Mr. Winer expects you to apply for grants to attend Bloggercon (I just typed "Bloogercon," which suggests further mutation).

#33 ::: Anita Rowland ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 10:25 AM:

A few years ago, when online journal folks were trying to put on the first Journalcon and unadvisedly using a professional conference model ("we could get corporate sponsors!") instead of a fan-run con model, I used Conventions at Light Speed by Eric Raymond to try to show them why they shouldn't.

There was talk about a weblog con or gathering some months back, and I guess Dave Winer is the one who ran with it. Good luck to him!

#34 ::: Adam Rice ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 10:45 AM:

I'm amazed. In 1999, I planned a two-day conference. $130 registration. Free coffee, one dinner, and we had enough left over at the end to buy pizza and beer for everyone.

Patrick--Have you ever been to the Chicago Board of Trade room? (Speaking of dropped ceilings.)

I'm not involved in it, but JournalCon (I know, journals != blogs) is a two-day conference for $75.

#35 ::: Bryn Neuenschwander ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 11:08 AM:

Teresa --

Your comment made me wonder if maybe the planners of BloggerCon are intending to use the profits of this year's event to jumpstart something next year -- but I have a suspicion I'm giving them too much credit. Besides, there are less offensive ways to make that happen. VeriCon made a lot of money its first year (where "a lot of money" = "probably less than WorldCon's petty cash fund"), but that was because we ran it on a budget that made a shoestring look padded; the next year, we made only a small profit, because we'd taken the proceeds from the previous year and used them to bring in more guests whose conditions for coming were that we paid for their accomodations (a very reasonable request, but one we weren't really able to cover our first year). And we did that while still charging a relatively low registration fee, even for an SF con.

Heck, from what you posted, it sounds like BloggerCon is doing the shoestring budget approach while *still* charging a substantial amount. Either they're going to be putting on one fantastic show next year with this year's profits, or that money's going somewhere else we're not seeing.

Actually, I'd be curious to know how many people end up paying and attending. Maybe a followup post in a few months? :-)

#36 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 11:11 AM:

Jeff Crook writes:

"OMG! You're sitting on the lost treasure of the Templars!"

Funny you should mention that. I have it on unimpeachable authority that Joshua Micah Marshall is descended from a sea serpent.

[Running off to conceal the Spear of Atrios now.]

#37 ::: Jeff Crook ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 11:22 AM:

[Running off to conceal the Spear of Atrios now.]

Is that the one used to spear Trent Lott after he was crucified for his Strom Thurmond commentary?

#38 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 11:22 AM:

You know, for years, much of the original Susan Kare decor was hidden behind clumsy drop ceilings and replasterings

I'd love to share this with Susan, but the thought of trying to explain what leads up to it is too daunting!


#39 ::: Larry Lurex ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 12:07 PM:

You see, all I need to do is get 2,000 people to "Dr Evil's Blog Fest" and I get (puts little finger in mouth)


Wow. Nice work if you can get it. I wouldn't pay $500 for anything that didn't include flights, drinks, car travel, hovercraft travel, all the beer you could drink, a slap up fish supper AND STILL have change left over for chewing gum

#40 ::: Atrios ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 12:09 PM:

If everyone would like to come to Philadelphia I'm sure we could find a nice bar with a large upstairs that would give us the space for free.

#41 ::: Bacchus ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 12:16 PM:

Heh, I got one of those too, and I've never been accused of being a serious blogger. I have, however, exchanged emails (and once been linked to) by the guy who sent the $500 invite.

I suspect the "selection criteria" was nothing more nor less complex than "send it to every address on my local list of known blogger emails".

I stopped reading when I got to the $500 also, even though there was never any chance of me crossing the continent for a one-day event in any case.

#42 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 12:22 PM:

Please, Xopher. Electrolite Tower exists primarily to service the airship dock. Most of the interior space is taken up with storage (books, fonts, guitar picks, gracefully aging liqueurs) and the sushi restaurant.

Now I did not know that. But I've only been in the airless, windowless, virtually lightless cubefarm in the 2nd sub-basement to which the heartless brass of the Electrolite Corporation relegates the lower echelons of the Commenting Staff. Perhaps if I get promoted from my current rank ("Talks a lot but no one listens") to the next rank ("Talks a lot but hardly anyone listens") I can get access to the Disemvowellment Lounge...a prime destination for sado-tourism, I'm told.

#43 ::: Derek Lowe ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 01:14 PM:

It's not just a Harvard/Ivy thing, anyway. Last fall the Yale Law school held "Revenge of the Blog," with Reynolds, Jeff Jarvis, Josh Marshall, Mickey Kaus and others, with no fee. Now, it was just an afternoon get-together, and things have changed over the months, but still. . .I attended, and just had to e-mail the organizers and show up.

There's a notorious conference company in my line of work (pharmaceuticals) running meetings on every hot topic they can think of. They invite speakers and charge attendees out the wazoo. Or you can stay at home and just buy the conference program book, which is supposed to have everyone's slides, for a mere thousand dollars or so.

#44 ::: Michael Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 03:20 PM:

Volunteer-run conferences are starting to invade the technology conference arena. This particular group of people just hasn't got the memo yet.

Some examples:

The Perl computer language community has been regularly holding their Yet Another Perl Conference (YAPC) for a while, for instance, and The Python programming language community recently held the first Python community conference (PyCon) which was explicitly modelled on an SF con.

There was also this year an interesting crossover event called Penguicon, a combined SF and Open Source convention.

I expect the community conferences to start giving the big-ticket conferences a run for their money (especially as money is particularly tight these days). It's a pity that BloggerCon is swimming against the tide here, as it would have been a particularly good candidate for a volunteer-run conference.

#45 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 03:24 PM:

Well, I wasn't invited. (The fact that I don't have a blog is no more relevant than the fact that Richard Stallman has never been on -Dating Game.-) But I am not allowing it to disturb me, since I am on the personal Rolodex of the widow, child, second cousin, pet gerbil, and Retired Minister of Applied Graft of every deposed leader on Earth. (Except for Svetlana Alliyueva, but I'm waiting.)

What really ticks me off is that Robert Novak hasn't made this public.

#46 ::: Lea Hernandez ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 03:32 PM:

(waves to Teresa--it's Lea from the olllld GEnie!)

The problem here, as I see it, is you were invited, then after a lot of chummy talk, hit up for a fee to attend, a fee which would support the getting of other guests.
To me, an invitation to attend is as a guest, not an attendee, and this "invitation" struck me as rather clueless (or "gormless" in Olde Tyme Skiffspeake), and unintentionally insulting.

It reminds me of getting letters from cons asking me to be a guest, they love my work so much, and after I ask about flights and hotel, I get the plea of poverty coupled with the "but don't you WANT to pay to come? We'll be having BigNameGuest!" (As if I could get close enough to breather BNG's air what with the top con staff hanging on them like remoras.)

Oh, anyway, Bill Hump is right: this is cheap for a tech conference--but it's already not SEEMING like one.

#47 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 03:40 PM:

This reminds me of writers conferences where you pony up a certain amount of money to take classes taught by writers you've never heard of. I've never been to one of those, but if I *WERE* to go, I'd certainly want to be sure that it was taught either by a writer whose work I loved, or one who had achieved a good deal of commercial success.

Of the bloggers listed in Dave Winer's e-mail, the only one that I'd put on a panel of A-List bloggers is Dave himself. Possibly Jon Udell from InfoWorld. If these hosts are supposed to be great bloggers, where are Glenn "InstaPundit" Reynolds, James Lileks, Meg "Megnut" Hourihan, Jason "" Kottke, Andrew Sullivan, Cory Doctorow and the rest of the Boing Boing crew, the Reverse Cowgirl, the Real Live Preacher, Stephen Den Beste and of course the Nielsen Haydens?

#48 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 03:44 PM:

By the way, my sympathies to you, Teresa - I find that few of the minor annoyances in life are as unpleasant as receiving what you first think is fan mail, and then finding out it's just somebody greasing the hose he's about to put into your wallet. I always want to respond: "Thank you so much for adding a little bit to my cynicism, which is already an overly large obstruction in my spiritual bowel." I've reached the point in life where anytime I receive a phone call from a stranger, I assume it's a telemarketer, and any time a stranger approaches me on the street to talk I assume he's a panhandler, missionary, somebody who wants my signature on a petition, or someone who wants me to take a short marketing survey.

#49 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 03:49 PM:

Lea and I cross-posted, wow, this really IS like the good ole Genie days, idinit? Hi, Lea, good to see your phosphors again. Also, Lea said it better than me. I have BEEN in a similar position to the one that Lea describes, and it certainly is galling.

#50 ::: Allen Brill ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 04:52 PM:

All this had made me feel like such a nobody since I didn't even get an invitation to cough up $500. Must be my poor alumni giving record.

#51 ::: Paul Riddell ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 05:21 PM:

I don't see why the subject of the fee is such a big deal. Any rational person is going to insist that the organizers pay for play, while all of the egocentrics on LiveJournal (cough*cough) will jump at the chance. To paraphrase an old comment about the lottery, it's not an entry fee. It's a surtax on hubris.

#52 ::: Yule Heibel ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 07:49 PM:

Teresa, thank you for that post. Since I have a blog through Harvard Law School, I got an invitation (despite my techno-peasant existence in every other way, lack of a career, homeschooling-lunatic-fringer beingness, etc. etc.), and I too just rolled my eyes at the price tag (despite the 50% discount I could get). You also wrote, in a comment, My main problem is that the weblogging world is a distributed non-hierarchical network. Granted, some weblogs are more read and linked-to than others; but I literally can't think of anyone who'd be $500-a-head more pertinent, relevant, and valuable to the proceedings than some of the invitees who're being asked to ante up. I agree, and I find there's an unpleasant aspect here, a "driving" aspect -- driving as in traffic, as in "yeehaw, little dogies, this way to the top blogs," at which point it gets complicated too much by ego. I like your blog a lot because of your wonderful topics, which in turn indicate to me that you're an interesting person with a witty personality; but I never feel that I have to pay any attention to underlying ego issues. If I disagreed on my blog with some take on some issue that you blog about, I wouldn't feel that personal ego issues were on the line, but ideas. (Or am I wrong?, would you, if you read me, send a hit-man to chop off my legs or flame me? :-) I suspect not!) A-lists, stars, hierarchies: all that has the potential to feel icky, like a Family Romance (you know, Oedipus, Electra, sibling rivalry, etc.), and the $500 price tag intensifies it. I'm a bit mystified how they came up with that sum, except to say that Harvard Corporation has always been expensive and has always protected its financial holdings by never giving anything away for free. Anyway, I don't have any money right now, so I can't even be tempted.

#53 ::: Elise Matthesen ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 10:47 PM:

Egad, they've invented vanity conferencing.

#54 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 08, 2003, 11:18 PM:

One of the things I found out with the CoHousing Network is that certain people don't take you seriously unless you charge money. Now, we put on a cohousing conference in Seattle and invented the concept of Instant Minutes (get reporters to take notes in each session, an editor [me, in this case] types them up and gets most of them distributed before the convention ends) about 8 years ago. I don't remember the membership fee, but everyone paid it -- it was a genuine Community event. That seems a real difference with what's happening here -- it's not a Community event, it's an Exploit Community event. And it may not be Winer's fault -- he may be someone who's been blinded by those who think he can be conned into collecting a Lot of Money for them as a shill. I don't know either way -- just putting forth an alternative interpretation. I remember hearing about a group that was fearing they'd have to hire Professional Convention Managers because they thought their next convention might get over 150 people! Sigh -- kids these days, they have no idea how to put on a show in a barn.

Or, crediting Loren MacGregor -- "Hey, let's make a porno movie! My uncle's got a bed!"

I hope Winer's backers lose their shirts. Community means too much to me to make it commercial.

Tom Whitmore
Recently surviving chairing a 6,000 or so person convention run entirely by volunteers in the SF community, as a volunteer

#55 ::: invitee ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2003, 01:58 AM:

I felt like I'd been suckered into reading all the way to the end of a particularly clever spam. "Give me a mere $500 and spend the last warm Saturday of fall in a classroom with wealthy bloggers!"

#56 ::: Kip W ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2003, 09:28 AM:

I wasn't invited, but if I went, I'd probably have to make the money back by selling WEIGHT REDUCTION and VIAGRA products to the other attendees.

#57 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2003, 11:11 AM:

That seems a real difference with what’s happening here — it's not a Community event, it’s an Exploit Community event. And it may not be Winer’s fault — he may be someone who's been blinded by those who think he can be conned into collecting a Lot of Money for them as a shill.

Let’s cut them some slack. Probably the organizers have just spent way too much time in the technology world, where $500/day conferences are the norm, and the money almost invariably comes out of somebody’s employer’s training or marketing budget. Someone has mistaken blogging for a technology or product or business model rather than a social phenomenon, that’s all.

And possibly they’re not mistaken; maybe they know something we don’t. Even if it’s something we wouldn’t care about if we did.

#58 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2003, 12:50 PM:

There seems to be agreement that this is not as worthwhile (pricewise) as some other gatherings, but where can I find the more worthwhile ones?

#59 ::: Adina Adler ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2003, 01:13 PM:

David M: In the technology world, $500/day conferences tend to take place at a hotel or convention center, and include breakfast and lunch, at least one big party, lots of conference materials, and paid speakers. That's what the money is used for. At least, I know that's how it worked at the small technology company where I used to work, and from what I've heard, that's how it works at the much larger technology company where I now work.

BloggerCon isn't advertising very much in the way of free food or expensive-sounding parties. (My previous company had parties at places like the Museum of Science and the Aquarium--lovely rooms, but I have a feeling they weren't cheap.) It's not like blogging is something that lends itself to 200-page books of proceedings, so where's the money going to? Either they're paying speaker's fees to some people and not others, and/or providing travel and accommodations for them, or they're having to pay a lot for their facilities, or they're just trying to make money.

If they get 50 people to pay $500 each, that's $25,000. What do they need to pay for that costs that much?

#60 ::: Adina Adler ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2003, 01:17 PM:

Teresa, do you have any idea what he means in the invitation when he says, "a lively discussion including (at no extra cost) Web Energy"? I've never heard that term before, and it sounds kinds of scary.

Also, at one point in the invitation, he said something about "the people who make the products are here to listen". I took that to mean that he's going to have representatives from companies that making blogging software. Maybe they're the reason for the expense?

#61 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2003, 05:26 PM:

Adina writes: "Also, at one point in the invitation, he said something about "the people who make the products are here to listen". I took that to mean that he's going to have representatives from companies that making blogging software. Maybe they're the reason for the expense?"

Dave Winer himself is one of those people, though I understand he's out of day to day operations of his company, and now has some kind of blogging-related position at Harvard.

The 'companies that make blogging software' are typically pretty tiny organizations, I think, except for Blogger, which is now owned by Google.

Blogging weblog technologists, including the developers of the software, strikes me as a fairly significant axis of weblog activity. They have all manner of public pissing contests and discussions. So from that perspective, attendees who are blog software developers are on a similar level to regular bloggers who focus on the humanities or religious tat on ebay.

The conference's pricing is probably set with an eye towards them, however, and not the tat bloggers.

I'm not entirely sure who'd be getting the money, if the software developers are the paying audience. Adam Curry is rich (owns a castle in Belgium and helicopters), so I don't know why he'd need the money.

#62 ::: Anil ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2003, 05:31 PM:

Apparently, Roger Ailes agrees with your assessment:

I don't recall ever having been asked to pay to talk about blogging, but somehow I manage to do it all day every day anyway.

#63 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2003, 06:04 PM:

Yes, well, you're one of those plutocratic purveyors of blogging software, arncha.

#64 ::: Bill Humphries ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2003, 08:42 PM:

"Et In Arcadia Dogcow"

So that's where they moved the Icon Garden that used to be in front of 1 Infinite Loop...

While we're talking about inexpensive, good tech conferences, I should mention the Open Source Content Management Conference,, whose last version was also at Harvard, co-sponsored by the Berkman Center, and was only $200, which pleased my managers.

#65 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2003, 09:13 PM:

Well, I was curious about the $500 fee, so I emailed Dave Winer to ask him if Bloggercon was a for-profit venture, and if not, what on earth he needed such a high fee for. He replied very quickly and politely, which was good of him, given that he doesn't know me from a hole in the ground.

Here's what he said:

1. It's absolutely non-profit.

2. We will use the money to pay expenses for speakers and students who will get in for free, some of whom will have their expenses paid.
3. We're going to have parties and dinners, all of which cost a lot of money.
Experience with conferences at Harvard has been that they lose a little money, but come close to breaking even.
Finally, I'm not getting a penny of the money.

If they're paying travel and lodging for the speakers, that's probably the primary source of the high cost.

I personally don't think he's using the best approach; if I were running this (and thank God I'm not), I'd run it along SF con lines, with one or two all-expenses-paid keynote speakers and program participants invited to come on their own dime. This leads to a very regional flavor, of course; it doesn't work so well if you're going for broad national representation. As has already been pointed out, however, a big money gap between speakers and attendees doesn't go over well with bloggers. It's not that bloggers aren't a caste society; it's just that when you've got dozens of different interlocking caste systems, it's easier for everyone just to pretend they aren't there.

(I'm in the larval planning stages of a high-tech speaker series here in Pittsburgh, so all this is not entirely academic to me, but I'm planning to beg for corporate sponsorship and philanthropic support. One of the things I love about Pittsburgh is that it has some excellent sources of small grants for local activities.)

#66 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: August 09, 2003, 10:15 PM:

David M, in terms of cutting slack here I did point out that it's not necessarily Winer behind this. And I wish him nor others ill -- I'd just like to see those who approach community events with this sort of philosphy fail financially so they don't try it again. Grassroots conventions are possible, pleasant and interesting -- and it wouldn't have taken him very long to get together a group of people from the SF community who overlap with bloggers to do this in a community supporting way. I do hope someone points him at this thread -- it might make interesting reading, though I'm curious as to whether he'll understand where we come from on this. As I said, I've done this kind of organizing in several different areas, and I'm nowhere near unique in that among people posting here.


#67 ::: Lois Fundis ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2003, 01:16 AM:

Kip writes, "if I went, I'd probably have to make the money back by selling WEIGHT REDUCTION and VIAGRA products to the other attendees."

You could start your own conference: Spamcon.

Hidden agenda: see how many of your m/a/r/k/s/ target audience notice that "spam""con" is redundant.

#68 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2003, 08:45 AM:

Christina, I've been assuming this is a matter of his having made inscrutable decisions, rather than a case of active fraud.

I think it would be very nice to have so much money that you can not only splash out $500 (plus travel, lodging, and food) for a one-day gathering, but, apparently, lose track of the fact that other people may not be able to do the same.

#69 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2003, 10:59 AM:

I'd like to have that much money, but NOT lose track of the fact that other people don't. It's that "let them eat cake" attitude that makes some rich people hateful, along with the sheer waste of their silly luxuries.

#70 ::: Bryant ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2003, 10:59 AM:

He has twelve presenters/moderators listed, two of whom live in Boston and many of whom live on the East Coast.

I'd bet that, yeah, he hasn't tried to economize on lodging for those people. I also suspect that lunch and dinner will be gratis for attendees, based on what he said about dinners and parties. He probably just doesn't realize he could do it inexpensively.

#71 ::: Charles Dodgson ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2003, 11:07 AM:

FWIW, I know of a couple of weekend events which Harvard law school itself has held on net-related issues, while charging participants little or nothing. So Winer has good advice and experience close at hand, should he choose to make use of it...

#72 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2003, 01:34 PM:

What did Adam Curry make money at? His MTV gig?

#73 ::: patrickD ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2003, 03:16 PM:

Great discussion. Open, wide ranging, lively, inclusive. Where's the bloggerCon equivalent?

#74 ::: language hat ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2003, 04:40 PM:

73 comments and not one a long, bitter diatribe from DW? Astonishing!

Xopher: You get to work in the airless, windowless, virtually lightless cubefarm in the 2nd sub-basement? I slave in the airless, windowless, completely lightless cubefarm in the 3nd sub-basement, typing purely by touch (and what they do to us when we mistype doesn't bear repeating here). I just wish I could move up to "Talks a lot but no one listens"; try being in the "Hardly ever gets to comment and then everyone pointedly looks away" echelon and see how you like it. Oops -- gotta scuttle -- the overseer's coming!

#75 ::: Betsy Devine ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2003, 11:29 PM:

>> 73 comments and not one a long, bitter diatribe from >> DW? Astonishing!

Mmmm, almost as astonishing as your finding a way to bash DW for not saying anything here you could bash him for....

#76 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 02:57 AM:

Christina, I've been assuming this is a matter of his having made inscrutable decisions, rather than a case of active fraud.

Well, yes. I hadn't considered fraud at all myself, but there's a corporate mindset where turning a profit on this sort of thing is not only acceptable, but desirable.

I think it would be very nice to have so much money that you can not only splash out $500 (plus travel, lodging, and food) for a one-day gathering

I'd rather spend it on hardcover books, myself. There's the new Robin McKinley book coming out this fall, and the new Charlaine Harris mystery, and a new Stevermer on the way, and pretty soon we're talking real money.

#77 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 09:00 AM:

a new Stevermer on the way

Oooh, is it done/scheduled?

#78 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 02:48 PM:

A new Charlaine Harris? Excuse me, must run. Gotta go to Powells.


#79 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: August 11, 2003, 11:54 PM:

I am very late to this thread, and no one will probably read this, but I had to reply. I recently attended a brain-research-in-education conference and spent the whole time appalled by the money for pleasure mis-match. SF convention folk should deffinately be placed in charge of all conventions in other areas. In addition to costing $350-ish there was no food, no shuttle to the overflow hotel except once at the beginning of the day and once back at 5. I have no idea at all what they spent all of the money on. There were lunch meetings but they cost $60 a pop. The whole thing was shocking. And on top of it all, many of the presenters used their time to shill for their books - their very low production values, found a few copies with some different book in the middle, $50.00 a copy, poorly written, stupid books. Don't even get me started on the books! I simply cannot fathom what they spent all the money on. Pure profit I guess. I did enjoy some of the brain research and neuroscience panels, but the practical application sessions were pretty dire.

#80 ::: Rachael ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 12:17 AM:

Oh, look, people were still posting. Just goes to show, read a thread before you respond...

#81 ::: Christina Schulman ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 02:06 AM:

Wandering far afield from the topic here...

Mary Kay: The new Charlaine Harris is a new Roe Teagarden mystery, "Poppy Done to Death". It's fluff, but I enjoyed it. I wish she'd write another Shakespeare book. Have you tried Jennifer Crusie?

Kate: I thought "Scholar of Magics" was due out sometime this fall, but I think I had conflated it with the new (lovely) edition of S&C. According to Amazon, it's due out on 4/15/04, which ought to take some of the sting out of tax day.

I have no idea how accurate Amazon dates are that far out, but they also list the new Neal Stephenson for 9/23/03, the next Jennifer Crusie mystery ("Bet Me") for Feb. 04, and Rosemary Kirstein's "The Lost Steersman" as being due out this month, but I'll believe that when I see it.

#82 ::: Roland Tanglao ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 02:25 AM:

I don't get this discussion at all!

When you register for a Manila site, one of the checkboxes is "Receive email bulletins". As far as I can tell, if you sign up for the BloggerCon Manila site and check "Yes" next to "Receive email bulletins?" then you got an email invitation for BloggerCon. In fact Dave mentioned this on Scripting News: "Also, to be sure you get an invite, sign up for membership on the BloggerCon site and say Yes to receiving bulletins. That's a guaranteed way to get an invite."

Otherwise you don't get an invitation.

No conspiracy, end of story.


#83 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 09:18 AM:

Language Hat, I suspect Dave Winer is busy this week. This morning on Technorati I found that my little dab of a post about Bloggercon is #39 on the Web Popdex. As I see it, I just happened to be in the right place to get picked up by a wave; but Dave Winer is getting to be the beach.

Adina, I don't know what they mean by "Web Energy", but I'll bet it's not what I'd mean if I used the same words. Perhaps it's a new piece of software, and they want feedback on it.

Roland, I never thought there was a conspiracy. I thought the selection was oddly capricious, and was curious; only that, and nothing more.

I don't know what a Manila site is, but I don't think I have one, or have been to one, or have checked a box on one; and I don't follow Scripting News. Nothing against SN, mind; but I don't personally regard weblogging as a mechanism for talking about blogging technology. For me, it's a mechanism for talking about other things.

I use Movable Type. I write a piece, I hit "save", I load Making Light, I find all my glitches and fix them and hit "save" again, and that's that. My idea of getting technical is using Power Editing Mode to set up a bunch of Particles links.

I don't think this makes me an ignoramus. It's just that life is finite, and some subjects interest me more than others. But isn't that so for everyone? I don't follow Scripting News, you don't subscribe to SMOFS. All normal.

#84 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 10:00 AM:

"I don't get this discussion at all!"

Yes, that's pretty clear.

#85 ::: Eloise Mason ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 11:14 AM:

Teresa says, "I think it would be very nice to have so much money that you can not only splash out $500 (plus travel, lodging, and food) for a one-day gathering, but, apparently, lose track of the fact that other people may not be able to do the same."

When I was helping organize my 5-year high school reunion, I was the only person on the organizing committee who found '$90/person' completely and utterly ridiculous. Of course, I was also the only one who wasn't a lawyer, law student, or medical student ... I didn't go. I couldn't afford it (and figured nobody else I wanted to see could either). I did go to the 10-year, which was the more reasonable $45/each.

What were they trying to do with the money for that first one? Open bar, catered fancy meal, 'decorations,' embossed invitations with silver ink ... All of which we actually also had ten years later for half the price.

#86 ::: Michael Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 11:52 AM:

Regarding 'Web Energy': I'm pretty sure (having read Dave for years) it's not a piece of software. I think Dave is trying to coin a term vaguely analogous to 'sensawunda', and the 'at no extra cost' quip was meant humorously.

#87 ::: Shobab Abacha-Winer ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 02:51 PM:

FROM: Mr. Shobab Abacha-Winer
Blog Promotion Center
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Dear Sir:

I am Engr. Shobab Abacha-Winer, the first and only surviving child of former conference promoter from 2003-2005, Late Rtd Conf Prmtr Dave Winer, who was assassinated on Thursday 19th July. Along side all
family member, after a one of his World Famous Blogging Conferences by forces royal to usurper Mark Pilgrim. I survived this massacre of my
entire immediate family members because i was out of Cambridge (Massachusetts)on the eve of failed attempt Coup to Somerville,from where I flied to Berkeley in Republic of Kalifornia where i am
presently into hiding,for security reasons.

Just exactly one week before my late father Rtd Conf Prmtr Dave Winer,of blessed memory was assassinated,he called my attention to a
fund deposit slip,valued USD.4.65 million dollars only,as if he knew he would die soon.He charged me as his first son,to look for foreigner who would assist me in transfer and investment of this fund for the future of his family.

He made me to know that,it was part of the money he made during his two years of leadership as a weblogging conference promoter and software seller. Because of political instability of our conferences and his stained relationship with blogger Mark Pilgrim, it prompted to him deposit this money with a local bank in Berkeley,the economic and administrative capital of Republic of Kalifornia,also in America,where i am presently because of the fund my father deposited with my name of his next of kin.Owing to this responsibility,I humbly propose to you as follows...

#88 ::: LNHammer ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 03:48 PM:

Dave Winer, who was assassinated ... by forces royal to usurper Mark Pilgrim.

Tee hee!


#89 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 05:12 PM:

You shouldn't make me guffaw at the office...I'm getting some MIGHTY strange looks.

#90 ::: Ray Radlein ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 07:33 PM:

I was going to e-mail this question to PNH & TNH and Avedon and Vicki and Avram and all the other folks I know who are running blogs, but I think this topic provides a nice opportunity to ask this in public, instead: What sort of options are out there for starting up a weblog?

Even though our savings has miraculously stretched almost a full year longer than I would have thought it would when I first became unemployed, I don't exactly have a lot of money to throw around (and it's likely to be a while yet before I can manage to convince Social Security that I am, in fact, disabled), so cost is a significant issue.

As my life has been recapitulating the second part of Flowers for Algernon over the last couple of years, my world has steadily shrunk: I lost my interactions with my co-workers, then I lost my interactions with shopkeepers and neighbors, then I lost RASFF itself, as I no longer had the energy required to keep up with any significant portion of it (how Dorothy Heydt has managed is beyond me). Physically, I rarely get past the end of our driveway any more.

As a result, I have become a larger and larger portion of my own world; to the point where it seems only natural and obvious to start my own blog. :-)

Also, I remember Mark Siegel talking on his blog about how few blogs there were being done by folks with disabilities, and that kind of struck a chord.

Mostly, though, there's the fact that I'm only usefully coherent a few hours a day, on average, and a blog seems like an efficient way of concentrating my concentration, so to speak (speaking of which, I think my focus is slipping away again, so I apologize if any of this post makes even less sense than my usual drivel; but I don't think I'm going to be able to edit it down to les mots justes).

#91 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 08:24 PM:

Ray, I don't suppose you could send me your phone number?

#92 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 12, 2003, 08:44 PM:

I went and looked at Mark Siegel's piece, and tried to post a message saying "Hiya, I have narcolepsy," but it doesn't seem to have posted. Oh, well.

#93 ::: Chris O'Shea ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 10:34 AM:

The "Cult of LiveJournal" has been meeting at SF cons here in the UK for quite a while now. ;-)

I joined LiveJournal in 2001 having been blogging on Blogger/Blogspot for a short while before that, and considered myself a late "early adopter" since my friends had been on for ages.

But I was there for the massive growth of UK fandom into blogging (many on LiveJournal, and then a number of them running their own blog software on their own sites) and consider the items at the UK conventions where we handed out LJ codes and did silly items (such as the stuff at Damn Fine Con in May of 2002, see for some con reports and photos)

We now have a separate real life fannish meet in London for UK LiveJournal SF bloggers (all welcome I'd guess) every month, plus the LJ people tend to hang out together at the London monthly SF pub meet and at cons, and there's even several fanzine articles (plus a couple of zines and at least one house con) that have grown out of blogging ...

... so it's really very established in the SF community in the UK (and among the filking community of the UK, Germany and the US, many of whom are on LJ) and we *know* how to run events that cost closer to $50 a person including guests and function space rather than $500. Expecting 500 dollars shows that this person somehow equates "blog" with "next big business model after wifi hotspots" rather than "just like sf fans, bikers, boyscouts etc." as a meeting of hobbyist peers. I would no more pay $500 for a blogging event than I would for a comic convention, a volkswagen owners club meeting or the Poughkeepsie Parent Teacher Association.

I've had to give up Worldcons since I couldn't justify spending 1500 dollars for 10 days of fun, which is why I ran for TAFF last year (the last worldcon I attended where I paid for my own flights was in the 1990s, I got to Chicago in 2000 as I arranged two customer visits either side of the con and so work paid for the flights). Spending 500 dollars for ONE DAY of events (single stream?) I wouldn't even expect the most rabid Shatner fan to pay ... (well, actually, maybe them, but not anyone else!)

#94 ::: Kate Nepveu ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 10:47 AM:


LiveJournal can be done for free, service plus space; I have a spare code if you want.

Blogger (service) and BlogSpot (space) can also be done for free, though free BlogSpot has ads.

Those are probably the simplest entry-level methods of getting a blog.

#95 ::: Vicki ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 12:38 PM:


The LiveJournal software is pretty easy. Like Kate, I have a spare invite code, email if you need it. if you want to see what my LJ looks like.

That's where I keep my journal. My Weblog, with actual links and such, lives on Panix and is maintained using cut-and-paste, notepad, and ftp. (In the past, I have used vi instead of notepad.)

#96 ::: Roland Tanglao ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 02:05 PM:

Hi Teresa:

Didn't mean to imply you were ignorant just because you don't know what a Manila site is and how to sign up, etc. Also I didn't mean to imply that you thought there was a conspiracy. I must have read this somewhere else and mis-attributed it to you! Sorry!

It appears with respect to invitations:

1. That people who signed up at the Manila site for bulletins as per my previous comment on this post, got invitations.

2. That some people who didn't Sign up got invitations anyways

3. That some people who didn't signup did not get invitations

As for the $500 fee, if I had money, I wouldn't think it's too much. However I don't so I won't be going to the conference unless somebody else sponsors me!



#97 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 02:52 PM:

Same here. It sounds like fun, but it's impossible.

#98 ::: Bryan ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 03:14 PM:

Very interesting discussion. I posted a couple of things about this, including a suggestion that someone host an online conference blog the same day as Blogger Con -- for free.

I get very little traffic, but I've gotten several hits from since then. Hmmm.

The price really is outrageous for a one-day thing for blogging. I mean, most of us have other jobs.

#99 ::: Steve Taylor ::: (view all by) ::: August 13, 2003, 08:19 PM:

From The Register this morning:

"Webloggers deal Harvard blog-bores a black eye"

Teresa gets a mention. *And* they spell her name right.

#100 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 10:43 AM:

Weirdly, the Register seems to think it’s all about politics: left-wing bloggers turned off by expensive con where GoHs are all right-wing bloggers.

That said, if there really were a distinct right-wing slant to the “talent” list, that might explain the fees....

#101 ::: David Moles ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 10:46 AM:

Some of their comments on the insecurity of blogging tool vendors, toward the bottom of the article, are quite interesting, though I’m not sure if I buy them. I do buy this quote from August Pollak:

If Blogger and MT and LiveJournal all dissolved into the ether tomorrow, I would still be a cartoonist. I would still be trying to do cartoons and animation, and I would still be trying to post news links and interesting things on my website. The only thing that would change would be the level of convenience. That’s why I find the blogging paradigm overplayed.

#102 ::: Bruce ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2003, 11:38 AM:

one word: Gnomedex

$99 conference, two-days, excellent speakers.

#103 ::: Bryant ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 10:05 AM:

I don't think the right-wing slant claims holds water. Josh Marshall balances Glenn Reynolds, and Winer's pretty liberal himself.

#104 ::: Michael Bernstein ::: (view all by) ::: August 16, 2003, 01:21 PM:

BloggerCon is now offering free registrations to 25 randomly selected people. Sign up here:

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