Techcerpt: More on Blog Conferences

I did a new podcast this afternoon, which will be up later tonight or tomorrow. I talked a little more about my questions involving these blogger conferences.

Here’s the Techcerpt.

Talladega Nights

It has been a long time since I have looked forward to a movie like I am this one. If this preview is any indication, it may be one of the funniest movies ever made.

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The Fun Brokers

There are two blogs that day in and day out find and present more fun and interesting stuff than any others in my blogroll:

Randy Charles Morin (iBLOGthere4iM)

Robert Gale (A Welsh View)

Along with my morning paper (Techmeme and Tom Morris), they are becoming the first feeds I read every morning.

Take today for example (no links here, go to their sites to see this stuff)…

Randy has a link to an interview with the guy who tried and failed to cancel his AOL account, a bat eating centipede, a huge sandstorm in Iraq and a bike mishap you have to see to believe.

Robert has a guy with a javelin through his head, alive and talking about it, a sales call gone bad, and Prince Phillip letting one rip at a birthday party.

Links like these are why I love the internet.

The Race is On: Firefox vs Opera

ffvop

It wasn’t all that long ago that I didn’t get the big deal about Firefox. Eventually, I saw the light and it has been my favorite browser for many months.

So when my inclination is to dismiss Opera as a non-factor in the browser race, I have to look past it and take a closer look.

Will Langford has a great post comparing Firefox 1.5 with Opera 9. Using his post as a roadmap, let’s see what Opera might have to offer.

Here’s a sceenshot of the Opera interface. Tabs, with Google-like simplicity. OK, but I don’t buy the car for the color so let’s keep going.

Opera is easy as pie to download and install (after I shut down Zone Alarm, which frustratingly prevents the Windows installer from operating). It automatically found and added my bookmarks, but not my home page- it used an Opera page instead.

Things look the same in Opera. In fact, my personal portal looks prettier and cleaner in Opera. It took me a second to figure out where the “Home” link is- you click in the address bar and a menu pops up. This seems unnecessary to me. I like the X-delete button in the tabs. Firefox should do this, without the need for an extension.

Opera has built-in BitTorrent support. I have tried these applications before and I always end up uninstalling them. So for heavy BitTorrent users I can see how this might be a nice feature, but I don’t need or want it.

It also has built-in chat (IRC) support. I guess people still use IRC, but I haven’t for many years- ever since the infamous RanchoRoom days of the mid-nineties. So here is another feature that I don’t really want.

You can select your favorite search engine, which is nothing new, but Opera includes eBay and Download.Com. Cool. I like the way that feature works. I would love an easy way to add custom searches (IMDB, AllMusic, etc.) to this list.

There is a content blocker, but there are extensions for Firefox that do that too.

Like Will, I am impressed by the thumbnail preview that pops up when you hover over a tab. Another nice feature that is better then any Firefox extensions that I know of.

Another feature that I really like is the built-in Notes feature. It works much like the Notes feature in Outlook, but it would be more useful since it is more proximate when you need to write a note while browsing, researching, etc.

The sessions feature works a lot like Google Browser Sync, which sounds better in theory than practice. I am about ready to uninstall it from this computer.

I like the Tools>Delete Private Data function.

Will ran some numbers and concluded that Opera uses less RAM and has less memory leakage problems than Firefox. There is nothing more frustrating than writing a long blog post, only to have Firefox crash before you publish it. This is a big advantage for Opera.

I have been surfing around with Opera a little today. It seems as fast as Firefox (though I miss the status bar at the bottom of the screen that tells me if the target page is loading or stalled).

Conclusion

There’s not enough here for me to switch from Firefox, but Opera is definitely a player in the browser race, and that’s a good thing for consumers. Competition will make all of the browsers better.

I Still Don’t Get the Blogger Conference Thing

OK, let me begin by saying that I am not trying to be critical. I am trying to understand.

boring meeting

But I still don’t get it. I have been loosely following Dave Winer’s reports from BloggerCon, as I have loosely followed reports from previous conferences.

I give around 12-20 speeches a year, usually at either legal or real estate conferences. These conferences are attended by real estate lawyers, brokers and business people, during the work week and at the expense of their companies. Why? Because the attendees get continuing education credit, which is required to keep their law or broker license. And because other people in the business will be there and you can network and even make some deals. For example, after one of my speeches a month or so ago, the general counsel of a big real estate company walked up, introduced himself and hired me on the spot to do some legal work for his company. That doesn’t happen every time, but it doesn’t take too many encounters like that for my firm to conclude that conferences are good places to fish for business.

Business. That’s the word that I keep thinking about.

Now, back to the blogger conferences.

I’m sure they are fun for those who are really into blogging. I’d love to go to one, but I would have to travel a great distance on my own nickel and burn precious vacation time. Don’t a lot of the attendees have real jobs? Are their employers letting them go to these conferences on company time? At company expense?

What is the benefit to a company of an employee attending a blogging conference?

Do these conferences provide continuing education credits and if so for who? If not, how do they attract a business audience?

Since most of these conferences are on the west coast, do most of the attendees come from nearby, or far away? I speak on the west coast 2-3 times a year, but if I started attending conferences out there (as an attendee), my firm would quickly tell me to find somewhere closer and cheaper to get my continuing education hours.

Who decides the topics? I like Doc Searls a lot, but I have to say that it would be a little hard for bloggers to change the world, since 99% of the world either doesn’t know what a blog is or considers it an online diary.

I could see a business use for these conference if vendors/potential sponsors had something to sell to companies, or even to a large base of consumers. But almost all of the blogging-related tools and applications are free. So there’s nothing to be sold (other than ads, and I won’t go there today).

It seems to me (and again I am not being critical) that a lot of the conference buzz begins with some smart and lucky people who got rich in tech, don’t have to work at a traditional job and are looking for something to do. Sort of an alternative to fishing or playing golf. In other words, people with time to kill are trying to dress blogging up as something serious and business related. So far, I’m not buying it.

All of this is not to say that I don’t value blogging. Obviously I do. I just think some folks are trying to make it more, or at least different, that it is.

I think blogging is pretty worthwhile as it is, without the need to dress it up like something else.

For example, one commenter at the BloggerCon Emotional Life sessions described one of the great beauties of blogging:

“Something I’ve found is that I’m shy and not quick to walk up to people, so blogging was very helpful as an ice-breaker. I now come to a place like this where i know people already, with common things we can talk about.”

Exactly.

One of the things I like about my blog is that it allows me to converse with and become friends with people all over the world I would otherwise never have met. From Steve Rubel and Robert Scoble to Phil Sim, Tom Morris and Mathew Ingram to Rick Mahn and OmegaMom. It’s not about how many readers you have. It’s about what you have to say, and so many of the people on my blogroll are profoundly interesting. I am blessed by knowing them.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, I know in the real world is the least bit interested in tech. I am, and my blog provides me with a large, diverse and knowledgeable group of people to talk with and learn from about tech-related topics. That’s a wonderful thing.

But it’s still not a business.

Another thing I use my blog for is a learning aid. Right now Darren Rowse, Richard Querin, Thomas Hawk and others are helping me learn about my newest passion, photography. I am reading a great book on photography right now that someone suggested to me in a Comment. I really need somebody to tell me how to use the light meter on my camera. I don’t know anyone to ask in the real world. But I just asked hundreds of people and I suspect I will soon get a kind and patient answer.

Beautiful. Fun. But not a business.

Dialup RFD

Mike over at Techdirt posts today about the death or not of dialup as an onramp to the internet. He talks about two reports, one from Nielsen/NetRatings that says dialup is dying and one from Fox that says it is not.

It’s not, and here’s why.

A lot of folks, including the myopic commenter to the Techdirt post who exclaimed “I would rather not have the internet at all than to use dialup ever again,” seem to think dialup versus broadband is a choice. For a whole lot of people, including my sister, dialup is the only choice, because they live in rural areas and small towns where broadband is simply not available.

A more thoughtful commenter replied that his or her only real choice was dialup, even though he or she lives very close to a major urban area:

“You learn to adjust–For instance, I get my podcasts by chipping away at them for an hour in the morning and an hour at night–so as not to tie up the phone line. MIght take 2-3 days to get a big one, but eventually the job gets done.”

While digital downloads and other fat pipe stuff are a lot harder, you can get a lot done via dialup when it’s your only choice. We all did a lot of stuff over the net via dialup back in the day, and some folks still have to.

Mark Cuban & the Blog Comment

Mark Cuban has removed the ability to Comment from his blog. I think that is a mistake and I hope he reconsiders. Here’s why.

Comments are not primarily about the reading. They are primarily about the writing- letting your readers know that you care what they have to say and, more importantly, giving your readers a place to share, debate, vent and, yes, even call you names if they want. Most of the time, the ensuing discussion is fun and interesting. Sometimes it’s not.

If you decide for a while, or even forever, that you don’t like what people are saying, just ignore the comments. Just because a comment is on your blog doesn’t mean you are bound to respond. The conversations between the commenters create a sense of community- even if not always a positive one.

More importantly in Mark’s case, turning off comments is inconsistent with his persona as the new, improved, accessible CEO. It’s less blog maverick and more blog conformist.

It’s old school masquerading as new school. In sum, it just isn’t cool.

What makes Mark so popular (and, granted, somewhat of a target for the discontent fringe) is the very accessibility that his blog comments permit. That and the fact that he refuses to be silenced by the NBA powers that be.

Let people have their say. The goodwill and positive buzz will far outpace the temporary buzz kill of a few bad names.

And while you’re at it Mark, go sign Josh Howard to a long term deal. That guy is a player.