Why blogging conferences is so damn hard

Think it’s easy blogging a blogging conference? Think again.

(UPDATE: If you’re reading this post in a feed reader, you may see a big block of spam below. Sorry about that — my blog has been hacked. I’m working to fix it.)

The thing about conferences is that, in my opinion, it’s really damn hard to both attend the conference and blog about it much — unless I go to the conference specifically to blog it. A lot of things get in the way.

Right now I’m at Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas, where yesterday my blogging ethics panel went very well (thanks to my excellent panelist and a very engaged audience). More about that panel later.

Here’s a quick rundown of my reasons (or excuses) why I have a hard time blogging at conferences, unless that’s my reason for being there…

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Skin in the media game: Smart investing in the attention economy

Ian Ransley, via Flickr (CC license)
Do you treat online media like a spectator sport, or do you really have skin in this game?

Recently, my Poynter colleague Roy Peter Clark caused a stir with his article Your Duty To Read the Paper. There, he wrote:

“I pose this challenge to you: It is your duty as a journalist and a citizen to read the newspaper — emphasis on paper, not pixels.

“…And here’s why: There is one overriding question about the future of journalism that no one can yet answer: How will we pay for it? …Until we create some new business models in support of the journalism profession, we’ve got to support what we have.

“…I have no proof, but a strong feeling, that even journalists, especially young ones working at newspapers, don’t read the paper. That feels wrong to me — and self-defeating. So join me, even you young whipper-snappers. Read the paper. Hold it in your hand. Take it to the john. Just read it.”

Oh yeah, that piece drew a lot of criticism. It’s also generated useful discussion, in the 83 (and counting) comments to that post and elsewhere.

This may surprise my regular readers, but I don’t think Clark is entirely wrong. Part of what he’s saying is that if you’re in the media business, eating your own dog food is crucial context. I’d add that you should not just eat one flavor, but the whole damn menu.

Here’s my take: If you work for a media organization that publishes a print product, you should indeed read the print edition regularly. You should also read the online edition regularly — including the comments and forums (if any), and explore the multimedia and interactive offerings.

But don’t stop there…

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Yikes! iPhone Bills Look Scary!

Earlier, when I mentioned that I’m finally going to get some kind of smart phone, David Brazeal suggested that I might want to get an iPhone. I’ve seen them — they’re sleek, they’re cool, they even came down in price. But for me, I need to make sure the billing isn’t a nightmare. In the past, I’ve found that’s been the biggest hassle of cell-phone ownership.

I took a second to see if anyone had posted about their iPhone bills online. Oh yeah, they have — and this makes me really nervous:


And then this….

Of course, since then AT&T simplified its iPhone billing…

But I still really want to see one of those bills for myself. I’m worried not just about the detail, but about “surprise” charges that might be hard to spot and time-consuming to contest.

I Need a Smart Phone, or Something….

My trusty Tracfone just ain’t cutting it…

It’s getting embarrassing. Mobile content is increasingly part of what I cover in my media consulting work and blogging, yet I have the most bare-bones, behind-the-times cell phone imaginable. It’s an ultra-basic Nokia, and my carrier is the pre-paid service Tracfone. No web browser, and not much else. Currently I really only use it when traveling, although I’m starting to use it with Jott.

But I hate waste, and I’m starting to find little reason to pay for a landline plus cell phone (even a pre-padi one). I’m not really a phone person, and I barely use either one. But I need to have some kind of phone, because, well, that’s just life. So why not just pay for one that does all the main things I need?

Plus, I’m absolutely terrible about listening to voice mail. I generally do so only about once a week. Now that I’m managing all my tasks via e-mail, I find myself just wishing that my voice mail could automatically be routed to my e-mail as an audio attachment. There are services like CallWave and K7 which do that, and SimulScribe offers a message transcription service. Trouble is, these services don’t work with landline voice mail — only mobile providers.

I’ve resisted getting a regular cell phone not just because I generally hate talking on the phone, but because I’m very wary of mobile providers and their billing practices. Those bills are some of the ugliest, most cryptic documents I’ve seen, and somehow you keep getting charged for indecipherable and poorly documents services. My goal right now is to reduce stress, and just thinking about cell phone bills is a stressor.

But I know ultimately if I make a good choice, it’ll be good for me. I’m just starting my search, so if you have recommendations for phones, providers, and deals, please comment below. Here’s what I want:


  • Easy-to-understand bills without a lot of unexpected charges
  • Easy-to-understand, reasonably priced plan for calls, text messaging, and web/data access
  • Intuitive user interface for all basic functions
  • Good coverage throughout US, especially in Colorado
  • A decent web browser, e-mail interface, and feed reader
  • Must synch with Mac iCal (and generally be Mac-happy)
  • A keyboard that won’t tie my fingers in knots
  • Decent camera (for still and video/audio, at least short movies)
  • Good battery life
  • Screen that’s easily readable in sunlight
  • Reasonably priced optional data plan for my laptop (tether the phone as a broadband modem)
  • Customer service that doesn’t make me want to become an axe murderer.

Ideas? Tips? Please comment! Thanks.

Definitely not just mobile “phones” anymore

I am totally not a phone person. I tend to use the phone only when I absolutely have to, or to call people I already know and enjoy talking to. Right now, I only have a crappy little low-end prepaid mobile phone because I only want it to coordinate with people when I’m traveling. Most of the time it’s turned off. And on my landline, I only check voice mail a couple of times a week.

But I’m fascinated by mobile technology, and I think within a year I’ll probably buy some kind of mobile device (either a tablet PC, smart phone, or something like a Sidekick) because they’re getting to the point that they can do reasonably well stuff I want to do on the go — like blogging, and research.

This excerpt from a recent talk by Google’s chief internet evangelist Vint Cerf helps illustrate why mobile is becoming so powerful. And I pity the media organization that doesn’t take mobile very, very seriously — especially outside the US, where mobile devices tend to be much more advanced and even more widespread.

Thanks to Liz Foreman of Lost Remote for the tip.