Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Blogs on Blogging at the BSeC Conference: Looking in the Mirror of Online Commentators

More on the Buying and Selling eContent conference in our Industry Events weblog as we get some airport time tomorrow waiting for the redeye, but for now a quick view of the proceedings. It was one of those conferences that started out with an uncertain tone, but which ended with a good amount of intelligent learning and sharing amongst the senior industry figures in attendance. One of the more interesting aspects of this year's conference was the presence of weblogging in abundance, compared to last year, where I was one of two people who raised their hands when asked if they had a weblog (Steve Goldstein, CEO of Alacra, was the other). This year not only did several people raise their hands when asked the question but there was a fair amount of realtime blogging going on, notably from Rafat Ali, founder and CEO of PaidContent.org (his coverage starts here), who kicked off the analyst panel with his insights into the content industry whilst preparing an audio of the proceedings for uploading into a podcast. Also weblogging, and responsible in large part for the ad hoc (in the general sense) wireless network that made it happen, was Socialtext CEO Ross Mayfield, who in addition to his realtime coverage (starts here, click on his home link for other conference entries) gave an excellent presentation on the capabilities of del.icio.us, a collaborative, wiki-like system for categorizing links to Web content. It's pretty easy to use, so I finally got around to adding some of our own stuff to it (take a look at the latest entry under 'aggregation'). Ross also demoed the capabilities of Wikipedia, the openly edited online encyclopedia with more a million entries, many times the entries of major encyclopedias such as Britannica (NOTE: many of these entries are valid only in the eyes of the contributors, such as separate articles on particular Bible verses, so take numbers with a Web-seasoned grain of salt). Ross demonstrated the self-healing capabilities of Wikipedia, blowing away a major article that was replaced within minutes with the original. I added our definition for content and for aggregation in content publishing to Wikipedia just for grins.

For all of these "new" content publishing capabilities being not only demoed but being used 'live' to publish content from the conference, you'd think that there would have been a huge "aha" from the attendees, but for the most part folks were pretty blase about the blogging and the wiki tools. Is it that in little more than a year weblogs have gone from being a phenomenon barely on publishers' radar screens at all to something that's taken for granted by the content industry? Or is it more a case of people thinking "Whoa, this is way too simple, let's go back to talking about content licensing"? I think that it's a combination of the two, but rather eerily like the reactions of publishers to the initial manifestation of the Web itself. Would that the mainstream publishing industry had been building some of these kinds of inexpensive and powerful tools all along to create more content value through universal publishing.
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