Pay attention!

Recovered from the Wayback Machine.

Sometimes I agree with Dave Winer, other times I don’t, and boy do I disagree with him and his concept of realtime blogging.

Consider this — you’re a speaker who has spent days carefully crafting a presentation, rehearsing it, creating the presentation materials, and so on. You step up to the podium, look out past the glare of the lights hoping to make contact with your audience as you begin to speak…

…only to be faced with a sea of silver with little neon-like apples blinking at you. And in the distance is this steady click click click of keyboards, with an occasional muffled curse because someone’s hard drive crashed or battery went dead. Punctuated with the faint thud of someone tripping over a power cord.

Realtime blogging — webloggers attending conferences and other events and weblogging the event as it occurs. Doc’s into this concept. He’s all agog with the possibilities of the new technology innovations based on this.

However, David Weinberger points to Halley’s summary of a talk he gave, demonstrating the benefits of not doing realtime weblogging. Halley’s coverage shows the time she took to organize her thoughts and impressions, to develop an overall understanding of the impact of the talk before publishing a note on it to her weblog.

Realtime weblogging isn’t the same as taking notes. Somehow when one takes notes with paper and pencil, you don’t try and capture everything – just key elements. For the most part, you focus on the speaker.

However, laptops allow us to record so much more quickly that people attempt to capture more and more of the presentation, to the point where they never look up. They never participate in the conversation that marks the two-way interaction of a good presentation.

Really, they might as well be home viewing the presentation over video. Or logged into seeing who just updated. Or exchanging flirtatious bon mots over ICQ.

Spring of 2001 was the last time I spoke at a conference, and this precedes the whole new “weblogging as realtime journalism” thing, so I’ve not been in a situation where I’m faced with laptops instead of people’s faces. And I imagine if I keep chastising folks for incorrect and inappropriate uses of technology, it’ll be a cold day in hell before I do get asked to speak at a conference anytime soon.

But if I do get asked to speak, the first thing I’ll say when faced with my audience is:

Ladies and gentlemen. There is one of me and many of you, but we’re still engaged in a real one-to-one conversation with each other.

You hear my words, you see the movement of my hands and the expression of my face, you view my materials – all of which are integral parts of what I’m trying to say. And I look in your faces, I view your body language, and you speak to me; I know when I should linger or move more quickly.

We are conversing.

I take it as a given that some care giver in your past has told you that it’s rude not to pay attention when someone is speaking to you. Based on this, I ask you to please turn off your cell phones, shut down your PDAs, and close your laptop lids.

Don’t worry. If what I say is interesting, you’ll remember it. If what I’m saying isn’t interesting, then give me the illusion that you’re interested while you spend this session’s time daydreaming about that hot babe or hunk you met last night.

Thank you.

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