A Saturday at Stanford – BloggerCon and AC2004

I spent all day yesterday at Stanford going to the Accelerating Change conference and BloggerCon. They were right next door to each other, so I was able to go back and forth quite nicely. I was a “high school scholar” at AC, so it was free, and my essay was included in the front of the conference binder. I’m not going to post my detailed notes because tons of people were live blogging both events. But there were some highlights:

  • John Smart, founder of the AC foundation, repeated a quote that I hadn’t heard before but is very relevant to a spirited debate happening at school when it comes to politics: “There’s no such thing as an unbiased education, so the next best thing is a multi-biased one.”
  • The opening keynote speaker at AC was talking about robots but there were serious issues with the projector and her PPT not working. This is always the great irony of futurist conferences: so much time is spent talking about the future, when there are real and simple problems with technology today that need to be solved.
  • After a boring keynote on robots, I decided to sneak out and walk over to the law school where Bloggercon was. I caught the last 20 minutes of Jay Rosen‘s session on “Academia.” I wish I was there for the whole thing. It was awesome. Jay was quite impressive – consistent with his top-notch blog on journalism – and didn’t fall prone to gushing about blogs. In fact, he was skeptical on some points and admitted that there were still problems to be worked out. His overarching point was an intriuging one: people who have never examined an academic’s work before are doing so. The prestige system in academia depends very heavily on not communicating to the average layperson. The blog medium is destructive to an insituation that’s all about centrallizing knowledge. Academia has never been good about distributing knowledge. Hence, blogging is an attack on the DNA of an academic institution.
  • Scott Rosenberg of Salon led the next session on journalism populated by journalists from CBS, NPR, and others. This, too, was excellent. He started off by declaring that for purposes of this session bloggers are journalists. He made it seem like the debate on that has been beaten to death and now it’s a given fact. I must have missed the debate. Rosenberg used this quote to anchor the chat: “New media don’t succeed because they’re like the old media, only better: they succeed because they’re worse than the old media at the stuff the old media is good at, and better at the stuff the old media are bad at.” Check out all his pre-session notes here.
  • Jay Rosen chimed in during the journalism session with this very perceptive point: the traditional healthy information diet that journalists think of is Facts > Analysis > Opinion. That is, you get the facts, you read some analysis, then you read opinion pieces and hopefully form your own independent opinion. But, this can also work in the reverse. Exactly. In an argumentative world where everyone is on one side of the fence or the other, I would bet more and more people are first reading the opinion column, then maybe some analysis, and if they really care, they’ll check out the hard news.
  • I headed back over to AC and came at the tail end of Steve Jurvetson‘s talk on how they look at innovations. DFJ will never invest if there is anonymity amongst all the partners, that means it probably isn’t new or unique enough. It also isn’t a good sign if there are already analysts covering the given segment.
  • While I was getting lunch at AC I noticed Larry Page of Google was next to me grabbing his sandwich. People were going ga-ga over him and anxously trying to hurry up and sit at his table. I could have gone over and sat with him, but I did feel sorry for him. Every day he must get bombarded with people trying to get advice, money, whatever. So intead, sick of networking, I went inside the Stanford campus and watched some of the Cal-Oregon football game.
  • I met Aaron Swartz, too, and tried to better understand his life and why he dropped out of high school to homeschool and then go to Stanford. He’s not incredibly talkable but seems like a nice guy. His physical appearance and writing certainly belies his blog posts.
  • I finally went to Dan Gillmor’s session – I will cover this in a different post.

I’ve been at Stanford a lot recently, and it’s always so beautiful. And it is always a little sad, because I know with my current academic situation schools like Stanford probably will be out of reach. It’s the consequence of my choices – I could spend four years, play the game, be unhappy and unchallenged, and then go to an elite college and do it all over again. For better or worse, I’m doing it a little differently. 🙂

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