Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

Obligatory ONA10 Reaction Post

Wow. What a blast.

I haven’t been to a big journalism conference in two years, since IRE in Miami in 2008. I love going to meetups and such, but the multi-day conference is a whole different experience: the people, the sleep deprivation, the alcohol, the sessions, getting lost in a different city…

Because I was livestreaming on Thursday and Friday, I didn’t get to go to all the sessions I would have liked to. But it was worth it.

However, there was one conversation that I kept having over and over with various attendees: We need a more advanced conference.

The problem is that it feels like these conferences are being used to bring people up to date on the online news ecosystem. “Look, there are apps and hyper local sites, and data visualization!” There was even a session on comments, which turned into a debate on whether or not we should have comments.

Seriously? The journalism community has been doing that one for at least 4 years. Isn’t it time to move past the “is _____ journalism” and “are comments good” crap and have a discussion about HOW we can do these things better?

I would have loved, in the comment session example, (which, by the way, I didn’t actually attend, only heard about afterward) to see these topics of discussion:

  • How Slashdot makes comments awesome
  • Happy Cog’s commenting system on their Cognition blog
  • Policies for journalists participating in comments
  • Other ways to make comments better

The solution to crappy comments is not to do away with comments altogether. Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, figure out how to make the water clean itself.

In “Creating Killer Apps with Public Data,” I wanted to know how they got to the demo. Show me the demo in 2 minutes and spend the rest of the time telling me how you got there. Inspirations, ideas, how did you put it together? Nuts and bolts, man.

“Seven Deadly Sins of Data Virtualization” was the worst named panel there. No sins were described. The panelists simply demoed their work.

Matt Waite put out the word on “demos not memos” a few years ago, but I don’t think he was referring to conference sessions. Demoing your product instead of telling us how you got there is just lazy.

I don’t know if we need a new conference/association for these ideas, or if we can just up the level of discussion at existing conferences. But if all we’re gonna do is demos and rehash the same old conversations, I’ll skip the sessions and see you in the hotel lobby and the afterparties.

  • Matt Waite

    You’re right: I wasn’t talking about conference sessions. Unless you’re unveiling your site for the first time at a conference, the demo should be “here’s the homepage, here’s the one thing we do well, check it out on your own” and move on. I didn’t even bring up the web in my app demo — two screenshots, that’s it — and went straight to the philosophy and decision framework we used to build the app. I didn’t even mention that we used Django — it wasn’t important. What was important was why we did what we did and the practical outcome of it.

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