Thoughts on the back channel?

Bill Deys setup a much-loved chat room during PAB2007, and many people appreciated being able to exchange in real time during the conference. In fact, he’s posted the chat log on his site. (note that the names weren’t verified, so don’t believe it when it says Mitch Joel thinks I’m a sex god. I mean, I’m sure he does, but that might not have been really him saying it..)


Whitney Hoffman
and others expressed concern that it was not really fair to the speakers to be chatting or twittering during the presentations. I opined that I thought it was simply the “law of two feet” being applied virtually, and that it was all good.

Further comments from people are making me think more deeply about this. The “real” law of two feet means that uninterested people can simply walk out of the room if a speaker or topic isn’t their bag without the speaker or anyone else being offended. It’s a wonderful concept we “borrowed” from podcamp and I fully agree with the spirit of it, why sit in a chair in a room being miserable – you obviously won’t add anything. So you leave, and stop being a presence in that room. In fact, we added additional conference rooms this year just so people would have a place to go if they wanted to leave – no one took advantage of them tough.

The thing with the “virtual law of two feet”, is that people are still in the room. We got comments about giggling, keyboard clacking and general noises coming from the back of the room – and that may not have been really fair or respectful to the speakers. Also, as is the case on line, some people took advantage of the anonymity to say hurtful things. There is nothing new under the sun, no matter what the occasion, people are still pretty bold when quotes can’t be attributed to them.

I saw some great stuff too – when a speaker would mention a site or something interesting, there were links up in seconds in the chat room adding value to the presentation. That’s what I love about the online experience – the sharing of information in real time – that can’t be discounted..

I’m of several minds on this – I mean, as an organizer of a tech-ish conference, I want to provide connectivity so that our audience can continue to be where they exist : on-line. Live-blogging, spontaneous photo uploads and such adds so much to a conference it’s definitely not going away from PAB.. I’m happy Bill put the chat room up, but I’m also happy that the chat room wasn’t ours and so we weren’t responsible for the content.

People were very interested in this though, I heard suggestions such as “have an official chat room”, project the back channel on a big screen in the front of the room, etc.. I don’t see us doing this, that’s not what we’re about – but we’re not about facilitating disrespect for people who volunteered their time to present either.. The only restriction we put out there was to please not stream the conference due to limited bandwidth, and those wishes weren’t respected either.

Far be it for me to tell people how they should or shouldn’t act at a conference, but I’d like your thoughts on this.

Should/could we have done anything different? Should it even be an issue?

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  1. Jim Milles says:

    I was more of an observer than a participant in the chat room, but I’m a big believer in this sort of online adjunct to conference participation. In fact, I would like to take it further next year and suggest that we organize a simultaneous Second Life streaming version of PAB2008. Jay Moonah, are you with me on this? Would you like to help me organize it?

  2. I really like this, actually. I didn’t get to go. So this gave me sort of a “liveblogging.”

    About the chatting versus leaving, I think the chatroom has to live. In PodCamp parlance, I’d probably say that everyone in the room owns the responsibility of policing the noise. The speaker, the audience, the typers. They can all police. It just comes down to community norms.

    This becomes a useful document, those chat logs. I mean, I’d love to have filtered out all the where are you stuff, but even that shows some data points. In fact never mind. I like it that way.

  3. Vergel Evans says:

    The chatroom back channel was pretty interesting: Throw in a couple of uStream feeds and you’ve an extension of a live event that would be “global”.

    I was just envious of the fact that people could talk about URL’s and sites worth utilizing during their presentation and people with laptops would pull them up right away… and talk about them in the chat. The potential collective intelligence of the event could be awesome. Or distracting if all those powers are used for ill.

  4. At the start of the conference, Julien Smith advised us all to close our laptops and listen. However, as the weekend passed, we got the best of both worlds – and I first heard about it on twitter from Julien himself.

    For me, in the middle of it, the chatroom was incredibly useful. I did not think of it in terms of the Law of Two Feet. We were not all there because we weren’t interested; many of the comments were about how great the presenters were, or questions/confusion about the presenters’ points, which could be typed as they occurred to us, not waiting until there might be time for questions. Also, any other tangental questions could be answered by helpful fellow chatters straight away – I learned a couple really valuable things just from that.

    I don’t think the chat was mean-spirited toward the presenters at all. Possibly not polite at times, but certainly not mean-spirited. If anything, the chatters were the nastiest to each other, and gave as good as they got. I think we were grown-up enough to have in the back of our minds the likelihood of a log to haunt us later.

    Perhaps the greatest value of the chatroom to me was to reinforce the priority PAB had for people communicating with each other, being social and making those important connections. For good or for ill, I was better able to talk in a group among some of those people in a chatroom than I was face-to-face in a breakout room. Should I have not been so intimidated by some of the greater luminaries? Of course. But what matters is ideas (even if they involve pillows and pants-less-ness) are shared among as many different people as possible by any means necessary. I kind of thought that’s what you wanted.

    It’s true, though, that things might have gotten too noisy. A few times I typed to shush people giggling, and yes, the tapping might have become a bit much to people very nearby. Clearly, we must remember to stop being so bloody hilarious šŸ™‚ and seriously try to be quieter in our typing.

    But by the same token, this was a conference of people who, in this context, are defined by communicating with their computers. This is part of this social media thing that’s supposed to take us so far. The rules of a conventional conference no longer entirely apply. I firmly believe no one (including me) intended any disrespect toward anyone, and that this new element of the conference started organically to illustrate a need that itself should be respected. I don’t think displaying the log on a wall during the presentations would help with that. There’s a year to figure it out – or maybe more true to the spirit here, not figure it out and just let it happen.

    p.s. If the wishes to not abuse the bandwidth with streaming video were not respected, maybe that should be a big signal that other arrangements need to be made.

  5. Linda says:

    Bob, these are interesting observations and difficult challenges. I was in the chat room for a brief time; I went there to see if I could find out more about what was happening at PAB since I was unable to be there. (Baptized at PodCampToronto, I still assume everyone has access to the wonderful bandwidth treasure that Ryerson demonstrated that weekend.)

    After a while, without a clue of who was saying what from the podium at PAB, I left the chat and went to Jaiku to set up a channel for PodCampUK, in the manner of the #supernova channel Jaiku had for last week’s conference in San Francisco. On there (, bloggers were leaving snippets of quotes as they were listening to the talks, and people could comment on them; chances are that at some point folks from the outside could even propose questions to the speakers, although I didn’t see that happen while I was watching. Anyway, the Supernova attendees were also linking to the ongoing blogstreams from the conference. People were using the #supernova channel mostly to broadcast out from the room, even though there were some conversations limited to within it (such as, “does anyone in the front right section have a card reader that will work in a USB port?”, but remember that Supernova had a lot more participants than PAB). Watching that channel was not exactly like being there, but it was better than not being there at all. I’m hoping that when PodCampUK rolls around, we can use that channel in the same way.

    On Jaiku, of course, it’s not that easy to keep switching identities just to make a joke. If there were more up-front acknowledgment of all the participants – as easy as having everyone take no more than five seconds to say who they are and what their website is – at the beginning of a conference the size of PAB, would that be enough to make everyone aware of their colleagues in the room and thus increase the peer pressure to not be so overtly distracted by whatever crossed a laptop screen?

    I don’t know if that would help. I do know, though, that I’d probably behave better if I knew that a podcasting colleague or a potential listener could see over my shoulder as I carried on and reacted to separate electronic conversations with others.

    One of my colleagues at work has the most wonderful ability, honed through years of motherhood, to raise one eyebrow as a withering challenge. Rather than making another law, maybe we should all practice that!


  6. Bill Deys says:

    I like that something I was involved with is getting the attention! I agree there has to be some policing, and I know that I myself is guilty of laughing out loud when it was probably not appropriate but that’s just me. I agree with Valerie that some people function better in a chat room then they would face to face. I do have a hard time sometimes getting a conversation going in a break out room and find it far easier to chat in a back channel, even if I’m at the next table. There is also things that other people can share that has great value, the log’s are one way to share that with those not fortunate enough to be in the chat live. That log was thrown together and there is a ton of room for improvement on the model of a back channel, I suggest using the log on the Meebo site ( for a long as it’s up. I can’t see being able to stream it on uStream, BlogTV or SL anytime soon, I doubt the hotel will upgrade their service for one event a year and I don’t agree with a change of venue. They have been good to us and it is a great location. We just consume too much damn bandwidth, as anyone who talked to me for more then a few minutes can attest to that is something I am used too. One last thing, if your looking to get traffic that is one way to do it! Over the two days my stats were 10 times what they were before and are still double. That room will always be there if anyone wants to use it anytime and you can of course follow links to get your own. Thanks Bob (and the rest of the organizers) for the great event and to everyone there, virtually or otherwise, for making it a great event!

  7. Well, I can say that through much of the panel I was part of I suspected that few people, were listening. Now one could say I have evidence that my suspicions were founded.

    I found the constant typing distracting. I found the group giggling disruptive (and believe me, I know disruptive, I teach University students…) I figure if you would not say something to someone’s face, then you don’t type it in a chatroom or in an email. That is just me.

    I am not saying that I did not talk to people around me during a couple of sessions, but, hopefully, I did it quietly. If I was at all distracting I sincerely apologize.

    People, of course, are free to do what they want, and I realize this was not one of my classes. That said, I found it distracting.

    In sum, it makes me feel like the work I put into my talk was a bit of a waste of time. (For those of you that gave feedback later on thanks).

    As I mentioned earlier in another thread I really enjoyed PAB and assuming there is another, Isabelle and I will be there

  8. I think I need to clarify a bit. I had a lot of fun participating in the chat room at PAB, and the comments on my blog were just thoughts about the pro/cons of this- If a bunch of people left the room while I was speaking, I would be somewhat offput, but in the end is this more polite than giggling in the back? And during some speakers who grabbed all of our attention, the room was silent. Interesting. The burden may be in part on speakers to engage the audience fully, and have more of a conversation and less of a lecture. Maybe not.

    I don’t know the answer, but it’s something I need to think about while planning PodCamp Philly. Are these things silly and fun, or do they subtract from things? Like school, do you make the trouble makers sit in the front of the room instead? Do you ask people to move around from day to day to facilitate meeting more people rather than sit with the same group for both days?
    It’s an emotional thing and a risky thing to speak in public before your peers, and to plan a conference with sessions everyone want to attend.
    I really enjoyed PAB, appreciate all the hard work that both you and Mark put into this, as well as all the speakers. And I certainly don’t want to be labeled as the boring Miss Manners of Podcasting, or as being hypocritical because I was participating in the chat as well. But I do think talking about the issue in the open is important, to make sure we remain a close knit community.

  9. katherine says:

    The only problem I have is with the argument that having the chat forces a speaker to engage the audience — just because you’re not interested doesn’t mean there’s not someone else out there who is, and who *is* engaged by the speaker and his/her presentation.

    I found it kind of amusing that folks questioned whether I should be knitting or not when they were busy typing into their computers. Ironic, that. Though my bubble was burst — I’d actually felt that folks respected me as a fellow podcaster until I read that stuff. It wasn’t mean or hurtful, I’ll say that, but it did make me think that unless I were hip enough to be chatting on the back-channel I wasn’t really part of the crowd.

    And Bob, if you really would like a knitted pop screen, I can make you one.

  10. I do appreciate Julien’s birthday wishes in the chat…

    I think it is far more polite to up and leave. Though, it is hard to tell if you are going to like a talk or not simply based on a short abstract.

    The whole thing reminded me of two things:

    1) People talking on their cell phones in restaurants.

    2) Students chatting on MSN or Yahoo in my classes.

    There is no need for regulation, we are supposed to be adults. I think people ought to perhaps consider the feelings/thoughts of those speaking. I am a big boy, and if people were bored during the panel I was on they should have left.

  11. Katherine, excellent point. It seems there were the cool kids and the not as cool kids…

    I was always one of the not so cool kids in school, so, plus ca change…

    I know Bill announced the address for the chat before our panel, so there was no attempt to be exclusionary, but, one would have had to have brought one’s laptop to play with the cool kids.

    People will say nasty things when they are anonymous. When I was on todbits on Friday night someone posted the wonderful quote on the site while Tod was recording, ‘hey albino, do a trick’. Nice eh. I wonder if that person would have said that to my face? (I really enjoyed being on Todbits BTW, that was one of my highlights).

  12. wait a minute, katherine. i don’t think those comments show any lack of respect at all. we were playing in some pretty absurd waters there with sarcasm and sillness, but no one was making fun of your right to be there. i just don’t understand that reading of it, i’m sorry.

    and dave, there were more than a hundred people in that room, and nowhere near half of them were on a laptop, much less in a chatroom. so i’m not buying that “few” people were listening. that also brings in an erroneous assumption people in the chatroom were not listening to a panel or presentation. i could’ve sworn i said something about that in my previous comment, but maybe stuff gets lost in a flurry of words.

    anyone who feels hurt or feels that work on a presentation was a waste of time…well, I’m sorry, but that is your choice, and it’s an unfortunate one.

    this all also serves as a warning to anyone reading that log who was not in it at the time: what gets said in chats can be taken way out of context days later. i didn’t think that was true, but i guess it is, and i’ll have to remember that next time my name comes up in something like that.

  13. Bob says:

    First of all thanks to all of you, I asked for your thoughts and I’m thrilled to see the discussion here. There’s lots of food for thought – don’t let me stop you..

    I just sent Katherine an email explaining my comment – and how no disrespect was meant, but you know – I think I said a similar line to another knitter named Guido (from the “it’s a Purl Man” podcast) at Podcamp Boston. We’re at a podcasting conference, I make comments, and often they deal with podcasting. Had I walked by and seen her knitting I would have probably said the same thing out loud, and the context wouldn’t have been lost.

    If someone had been painting I’d probably have suggested they paint a version of “The Scream – featuring Mark Blevis” or something equally (un)clever.

    Arthur Masters said it – “Context is King” and a chat log loses the context, and interpretations will change over time.

    And Dave, I saw that comment on blogtv too – and cringed, my only hope was that you somehow had missed it, and I stepped between you and the screen when I was holding the lamp. Guess I wasn’t successful.. Just awful..

  14. Bob, no worries, and I do know a few tricks…

    Valerie, we have a finite amount of attention. We then divide it. People’s ears prick up when they hear certain things, (like penis…) but they pay less attention to both things when attention is divided.

    Like I said, I am a big boy, and I think folks really ought to go when they do not want to pay attention to a talk.

    I guess if the chat was more about the actual talks, well that would not bug me in the least.

  15. julien says:

    that said, onto solutions.

    although my recommendation to bob originally was to make sure never to have an official chat room– that way things people say that may be cruel or taken out of context can never be fully associated with the conference organizers or the conf itself, i think i may now change my mind.

    with an official chatroom, there can be moderators who can pay attention to what’s happening, and make appropriate decisions based on the occurrences. at podcamps with sizes in the thousands (podcamp NYC comes to mind), this would be necessary, but here, it would certainly be convenient to have a way to solve these problems of disrespect towards the speakers.

    i think the days of old conferences, where people had no distractions is gone. with twitter, chat rooms, email, and in-world conversations occurring, we have a lot of things we need to look at if we want to ensure that the speakers in any given conference volunteer their time again for the following year.

  16. julien says:

    and to add to my above comment:

    the world of new media remembers everything. i think pretty much anyone who is seen doing or saying some shit is going to remembered as being untrustworthy… that’s true IRL as well, but with logs… well, it’s basically a given.

    don’t say anything you don’t want to be remembered by! šŸ™‚

  17. katherine says:

    And I wrote back to Bob to note that I’d forgotten a smiley, and I completely understood his comment (and understood it just as he explained it in the comments here).

    Valerie, I did say here (and to Bob) that I didn’t feel folks were being disrespectful to me personally, but I did feel kind of helpless reading it. Your point that it’s all too easy to take chat out of context is a very good one, and I did try to think about that as I wrote my comment. As others have said here, and as I wrote to Bob, context is really important. I’m actually not offended, because I don’t think (based on having met some of you) any offense was meant, so maybe I was uncomfortable by the potential for it. Which, of course, means I’m being entirely too sensitive šŸ™‚

    What I also said to Bob privately is that I could see the advantages of having the chat, and how it could be used as a powerful tool. I’m glad Julian has considered the possibility that an “official” channel might be a good thing to think about. In fact, I’m also glad Bob raised this, because I’m reading *all* the comments with interest.

    I promise, I’ll working on the “being too sensitive thing” šŸ™‚

  18. John Meadows says:

    I’m coming a bit late to the conversation (and hopefully I’m not flogging a dead horse, but it never stopped me before)

    I did think the noise at the back of the room did get a bit loud at times, and I did feel for some of the speakers; having done this kind of thing before, unless you are a truly gifted orator, (which I am not), public speaking is not easy; I led a three hour workshop earlier this year, and afterwards I was as tired as if I had been hauling bricks for 10 hours. This is not easy stuff!

    I think an official channel would be a good idea; those who are using the back channel as a “virtual two feet” rule should, I respectfully submit, use the “real two feet” for a while.

    And now, to seemingly totally negate what I said before — new means of communication (cell, texting, chat, twitter etc. etc. etc) makes it a challenge to redefine etiquette, and what is considered appropriate, especially when in the midst of a “traditional” means of presenting (person(s) up front, with PowerPoint, KeyNote, Impress, whiteboard). In a sense it’s a social experiment we are witnessing.

    As for people’s feelings, we may be at Web 2.0, but we are still at Humanity 1.0, and people still have feelings. Let’s all do our best to live up to the values we aspire to in the podcasting community.

  19. One of the reason’s I bought a laptop was at Podcamp Toronto, I felt left out because 1/3 of the conference was happening online. I had the chatroom in the background most of the weekend. I’m still trying to decide if having the laptop with me brought me more into the community experience or separated me from the real people around me. I think it’s a little of both. One of the reasons the chatters may have gotten out of hand was that I feel the program was a little too dense, with presentations one after the other every 30 minutes. I would have appreciated 15 minute breaks between presentations to facilitate more socializing time.

  20. Ken Bole says:

    There seems to be some irony in the fact that I am am in the midst of a meeting with 2 other people right this minute, and yet I am so engrossed in this discusion, thanks to an email tip alerting me to the fact that it was going on, that I’ve tuned out the people I’m beside so I could catch up on what’s being said about bad manners and the real vs virtual world – dam, they’re talking to me!

  21. Mitch Joel says:

    Great discussion thread.

    Public apology for anyone taking I said “seriously” as I was using the chat room to goof around… not to hurt anyone. I know I did not type one single line of “serious” – ever.

    Let’s focus on the POSITIVE! We raised some great money, donated tons of books and we all connected, learned and networked.

    We can’t moderate or control this. If it wasn’t the chatroom, it would have been Facebook, twitter or a Blog posting. This is the new reality – I’m used to it as a speaker and an attendee.

    People should be sensitive to those presenting, and as a presenter, I am comfortable knowing that some (sadly, sometimes more) are just going to tune out and do their thing.

    So again, apologies to anyone who took the chat room seriously. I think those involved (like me) just saw it as a way to muck around.

    Do you really think “orange” is my safety word šŸ˜‰

    Let’s move this conversation on to what we did get done: personal growth, great new friendships, lifelong learnings and making a difference in the local community.

    Way to go Bob, Mark, Cat and Andrea!!!

  22. Mitch, point taken.

    Yeah, the positive surely outweigh any negative from PAB which was small to begin with.

    I will use lan anecdote from teaching intro psych a few years back. So there were maybe oh 100 or so students in the class. They were a fairly unruly group (the 2003 first year at Memorial was an odd bucnh, dunno why….) and they talked a lot. Now one expects that in a large group.

    One day I was doing my thing and I heard a conversation, rather clearly, about a girl a guy picked up in the bar the night before. I stopped the class and asked him what she was wearing….

    OK, another anecdote, same class. I actually was teaching about divided attention. When we listen to two conversations at once we usually cannot get the content from the unattended one. We cannot even tell if the language changes (cool result, replicated a number of times). So I was actually teaching about that. I am (functionally) bilingual, so I switched into French. Now NF is not noted as a province of French speakers… Most of them had no idea I had switched.

    When they talked about what I was talking about I never got distracted.

    I also once told them the human eye was filled with a rich caramel centre, but that is, alas, another story….

    Thanks for this post and discussion Bob.


  23. Bill Deys says:

    Wow this blew up! I’m totally with Mitch on this. As the one who threw up the chat I did have control on banning people from it but I don’t personally believe in that. I, of course, was there and understood all the comments in context and didn’t see anything wrong with them. Even if I did I probably wouldn’t have moderated in a open chat room like that. Maybe the community would have rose to the task if it had have been needed, I don’t know. We do have to remember the only way to stop any sort of back channel is to make people check cell phones at the door and not have WiFi! If it hadn’t happened in that chat room, or people didn’t like the moderator (me) they would have found a new place to chat under their own control. Lets face it anyone can try and stop this but, just like the new media/podcasting movement we will not allow anyone to silence us. Good or Bad it’s just our nature!

  24. isabelle Michaud says:

    Hey, of course this is “the new reality.” Everyone knows that. I totally could have brought my laptop (I decided not to) and participated in what you were doing and I would have been just as happy doing it. Some people chose the “clickaty click” and some people chose the traditional way of listening. Your choice is valid in any case. However, after reading the chat log, I pretty much decided that my choice was, indeed, the right one for me. There wasn’t anything informative in the chat…hahaha…was just a bunch of stuff about Mitch glasses and mild flirting (as usual.) So,fine, if that’s what you choose in your life, to talk about Mitch glasses…go ahead! We’re all free and this is “the new reality” as Mitch said. I don’t have a problem with this then… I am happy with my choice, though, to listen the old fashion way.Alright…this is it and that’s the way it is… Everyone can adjust their own way then…and make their own choice.It was a good thing to talk about it, I see that everyone has a different take on it. I would say to just let it go and accept that it’s the way it is and move on. If I ever present, I will know that people on the “clickaty click” aren’t listening and I will present to the ones who are listening. No problem…I do that when I teach. The ones who listen are the ones I care about more anyway…so…it’s all fine and good. If you want to pay X amount of money to be sitting there and goof off, it’s totally your choice. All work and no play makes for a boring life eh? So play away! Go ahead! Have fun! Life is too short. My personal choice is to be engaged with my two ears and eyes and heart with the people there. Your choice is to be engaged in the chat at an other level.Maybe the traditional social interaction of the conference (meeting people, shaking hands, meeting new people) is making *some* people feel shy (?) and the computer allows them to relax and mingle in a way they feel comfortable (?) Maybe they’re used to this and that’s what they want to do…It’s fine. It definitely was a learning experience for me to witness this behaviour. I never saw this before. So…now I know better. And it’s fine with me. Mitch was right it would have happened anyway, so, may as well get used to it. Oufff… alright… Sorry if I upset anyone. I just wanted to get this off my chest. It *was* an excellent conference. I loved my time there and I admire Mark and Bob, and Andrea and Cat for *all* that they do. Bill Deys did a good thing bringing the back channel and perhaps in the future it will evolve into something completely different…who knows? Maybe we’re all going to be on the ‘clickaty click’ with special mind devices…haha one day…like the matrix. Maybe the conference will be one giant game or one giant orgasm or one giant puzzle…. alright…should I send this? ok here I go…

  25. Bob says:

    what an awesome discussion! you guys continue to rock!


  26. I know I’m getting to be a little late here, but I’d like to throw my couple of pennies in none the less. I’ll try to stray away from the interruption side, though, as it seems to have been well covered, and focus more on seclusion.

    Both Bob and Mark made a comment on the fact that people had moved to the front tables on Sunday morning, and I was one of the people who did so. It wasn’t because I felt sorry for these poor tables, all set up and not used, but because I was tired of feeling outcasted by sitting near the back without a laptop.

    On Saturday, there were multiple times I wanted to introduce myself, or simply say hello, to people nearby, or even at the same table, but because they were participating in the chat, I felt as though I would be interrupting them. I wouldn’t interrupt Bob talking to Mark, and I wouldn’t interrupt him if he was that active in a text-based conversation to him, either. I ended up having to wait until the conference was done for the day to simply say hello to the other person at my table.

    And while I said I would avoid discussing the interruption side, the decision to move to the front was based on this: If I’m not going to to be able to meet and network with the people around me, I might as well sit at the front, alone, to take in the speaker’s presentations.

    Now, all of that said, I am on Mitch’s side. Things like this chat room and Twitter conversations, and IMs and Facebook discussions and forum threads are going to happen. It’s a reality of the world we’re in these days. I can see the value in having them around (Though, unofficial of course) and can see the value in not. I guess I just, personally, wasn’t expecting it to be so obvious and clustered together.

    I’ll be back next year, likely laptop-less again, and with or without a back channel of sorts.

    Thanks for the great times.

  27. Bill Deys says:

    Regarding the group at the back, sure it was partly the trouble makers in the “back of the class” but mostly just for the power! There was an extension cable and power bar set up between the two tables. In a place like Ryerson that is set up for computer with “workstations” (power and network) that happens less.

  28. Mark says:

    I’m just waking up from my post-PAB haze and I am finally able to jump in on this conversation.

    Most of what I want to say has been said, so let me just highlight some of the key threads in this discussion:

    1) Julien kicked off the conference with the suggestion that people close their laptops and open their minds

    2) The new reality is a social network that extends beyond physical limits, and people invest heavily in keeping those networks alive and the discussion alive

    3) There is a certain amount of respect/decorum that is expected when people are presenting and others listening

    4) IMing that assists people and adds value to the community has a place in extending the reach of the conference and its participants

    5) Treat others in an online world they way you would treat them in person

    Did I capture it all?

  29. Bob says:

    My last thoughts on this are to recommend to anyone coming to PAB2008 or any tech conference to have/borrow/rent a laptop to participate in the back channel, to blog, to post pictures, to stream (bandwidth permitting, of course) – there is great power there. But don’t let it get too much in the way of human interaction, that’s why we’re there. I’ll do my part for PAB by helping speakers and attendees understand that these channels are a part of tech-ish conferences, and forcing people to turn things off may not be the way to go.

    We need to embrace the new tools, but leverage the fact that this is the only time in the year where a lot of us are physically in the same area. I’ve got some ideas on this, as I’m sure you do…

    Also, I’ll do my best to have A/C at more tables, to make sure no one is left out..

  30. julien says:

    tommy: interesting. didn’t realize it was preventing introductions. i wonder how many people feel that way.

    mitch is right, we can’t really ‘fix’ this because there will always be channels. but it’s about the conference taking ownership of the channel to ensure it all works smoothly. possibly even get a guy who will monitor and take care of it.

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