RSS Winterfest

I “Attended” most of the RSS Winterfest and it was an interesting experience on many levels.


First, some thoughts about the content itself. It was interesting to hear some of the uses of RSS. I personally think that it would be more interesting to have heard more about the technical implementations of some of the uses of RSS rather than chatter about how cool it is and how well it was being adapted. By virtue of attending the conference, we were by definition the proverbial choir that was being preached to. As a result, I thought that most of this was wasted. Bill French of MyST gave one of the more interesting talks because he talked about actual uses of RSS and how it helped solve problems outside of the realm of blogging and news syndication. In that same vein was Greg Lloyd of Traction Software who talked about using RSS to fight drug gangs in San Diego. This is not obvious at first, but if you start thinking about getting the right knowledge out into the hands of everyone who needs it about the latest gang intelligence so that they can more work efficiently – RSS is the obvious answer.


Some of the things that were interesting were the discussions on how to make the business case for RSS and the discussion about advertising. The short version is that since most of the RSS feeds are for free and businesses want to make money off of them, they don’t see the value of them. As a result of this, some of people are looking at the value of advertising in the feeds as a way of generating revenue.


Second, I want to talk about the virtual conference experience itself. On the whole it was a decent experience. I got to sit in the comfort of my home and listen to the whole thing with my own coffee (rather than the cheap junk that they usually try to pass off as coffee), my own food (same as the coffee) and so on. That part of it was really nice.


However, there were a couple of things that I found less than appealing… No, I’m not talking about the lack of swag on the exhibitor floor because I speak at enough conferences that I’m sick of the cheap t-shirts and pens that were bought at $10.00 a thousand. Mainly, I missed the personal contact with the speakers and other attendees. Yes, there was the Wiki and so on, but I could really get to know anyone or corner a speaker after a talk for half an hour to really get to know him and ask him about the talk. From a speakers stand point, it would be hard to get a read on the crowd to know if you’ve lost them or not. I mean, how do you know that the Wiki is not just 10 people that are interested and the other 1000 people are tuning out because you’ve lost them.


The last point on the conference itself is that I was rather unimpressed by the pushing of the powerpoint and so on. It would have been much more engaging, I think, to have a more traditional web cast type of setup where the audience could see the speakers. At a minimum, it would have been nice to have photos of the speakers on the page so that we could see who they were and put names/voices with faces.


I’m really interested in comments on the virtual conference idea here as I’m always looking for good ways to reach people. I’m just wondering if the virtual conference is the right media.