So a funny thing happened this week. After 4+ years covering events and blogging about them live, I attended Gnomedex, the Blogosphere's Conference, this past week in Seattle and I didn't blog a thing. More about why below. Gnomedex is an event I've always wanted to attend. I've known Chris Pirillo for years and finally met him and his wife Ponzi in person in 2003 at the first MSN Search Champs event. Every year Chris asks me if I'm attending and every year I've had one bad excuse or another for not attending. But after last year's event – a watershed moment in this conference's history – I resolved to make it to Gnomedex 7.0 no matter what.
How I got there is a long story – the short version is I made reservations while working full-time for a startup software company on the West Coast and by the time I got to Seattle last week I was engaged in working with a decidedly different, established, and successful software company based on the East coast. One of the big goals in attending Gnomedex 7, as it turned out, was to share with a number of my blogging buddies and software industry friends what I'm engaged in doing these days.
If you're the type that reads disclosure pages, you may already know that I'm consulting with Curl, Inc., a company I first learned about this Spring at the Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco. Jnan Dash, a good friend of mine, has been engaged with them for a few months in planning their relaunch into the North American market. He excitedly showed me the technology they've developed, born in the fertile ground of MIT in the mid-90's, for developing and delivering Rich Internet Applications (long before anyone had uttered the three letter acronym RIA).
Today, we've officially announced I'm working with Curl to design and launch a Developer Center and to cultivate a community of developers and information architects looking for a way to deploy enterprise-grade applications over the web. Curl has an impressive list of customers in Japan who have built more 300 of these applications, used by tens of thousands of people in organizations whose names are very familiar – companies like Toyota, Panasonic, and others. You can learn more about Curl at the company's web site and on the Curl blog where I'll be a contributor. InfoWorld just gave Curl 5.0, the current release, a stellar review and called it "the best development language you don't already know".
So back to Gnomedex and why I didn't do any event blogging. The content was generally quite engaging and ranged from marvelously entertaining (Guy Kawasaki) to poignant (a bedside chat with Gnomedex community hero Derek Miller who's battling cancer) to controversial (Jason Calacanis whose presentation ignited a very public argument about conference etiquette). When it was on, it was riveting. Between (and during) sessions, there were any number of ad hoc conversations going in the hallways and side rooms and in multiple channels online.
The thing that really jumped out for me was how integral the Twitter stream during the event was to my (and many others') participation. I did not attend South by Southwest when Twitter had its breakthrough moment but had been using it even before that event and have used it at all of the conferences I've attended this year as a way to locate and engage with others at the event and to discuss the goings-on with people unable to attend. But what happened at Gnomedex was on a completely new level. Rather than hanging out on the IRC back channel, I spent almost all of my time on the Twitter "front channel".
The real-time commentary and analysis was dramatically different from the often anonymous and frequently trollish commentary on IRC. And many of the people I follow and who follow me on Twitter were engaged in the proceedings in a way I've never experienced before. With a UStream live video feed and the Twitter stream, people around the world were "there" in a delightfully "in the moment" way. So whether the moment at hand was the standing ovation given by the audience celebrating Derek's heroic spirit or the spat that erupted between Calacanis, Dave Winer, and others in the audience about conference spam, there was a meta-dimension of discussion and commentary that was something like watching Bloomberg or CNN.
I think the way we interact with these events, whether we're onsite or participating from a distance, just underwent an evolutionary leap. I can't wait to see how this trend continues to manifest itself in the coming busy season for conferences that, for me, continues next with the Office 2.0 Conference in San Francisco and DEMOFall 2007 in San Diego next month.