I haven’t been following much about Les blogs, until I heard about a problem with backchannels. I gather that the official backchannel for Lesblogs was more than a bit disruptive at times, resulting in Mena Trott calling one of the more disruptive participants, Ben Metcalf, an asshole during her talk on being civil in weblogging.
(The post I linked has a movie of the event, though it’s hard to hear Mena’s response. There’s also a transcript of the backchannel, though it seems to be incomplete.)
Very savvy marketer Tara Rogue likes backchannels:
We come to conferences to learn stuff, sure, but first and foremost for many of us, we come to connect. Speakers and panels kill networking time. Kill it. And really, since the advent of the internet, many of us would sit in our seats with our laptops pointing towards our email or Skype or the like, where we would be socializing with people back home rather than the very people we came here to connect with.
Elisa from WorkerBees disagrees:
Seriously I don’t think it says much for the program content if a chat about the WIFI being down and the need for more coffee is more fun than listening to the speakers! And I sure hope to avoid spending the hundreds and hundreds of dollars it typically costs to fly somewhere, stay in a hotel and pay a conference fee only to essentially IM with my buddies.
Some folks were upset at Mena for calling Ben an asshole during her session on civility. I think she was just being disruptive, and since backchannelers live for being disruptive, they should commend her rather than condemn her. I, personally, commend her because not only was she being disruptive, she was doing so in front of the stage rather than in back of it. Unless, of course, in this brand new world, speaking behind one’s back is considered much cooler than speaking directly, face to face.
My views on backchannels are well known. However, I have to consider that this is a brand new world and new ways of communicating at conferences are the norm now. If a backchannel occurs at our SxSW session, I have to accept this is the ‘new’ way; if four strongly opinionated women technologists debating differing views on a controversial issue can’t hold audience members’ attention, a backchannel will occur and the sound of clacking keyboards will be heard throughout the room.
Of course, I reserve the right to deal with disruption in my own way.
By the by, are Apple PowerBooks waterproof?