Gnomedex Freedbacking

Before you send me an email with constructive feedback for Gnomedex 6.0, I’d encourage you to post your thoughts in this page’s comment thread instead. I’ve listened to a lot of feedback over the past couple of days, doing my best to adjust on-the-fly. I answered a lot of questions one-on-one, too. Still, I wanted a semi-formal way to collect your impressions in a single thread – so that everybody can see what could have gone better, and what went better than expected. I should list twenty things we could improve upon for next year, but I’m really tired and want to sleep for a week first. Feel free to post anonymously if you want, or send trackbacks from your own site to this post. I know we could have done a few better, so it’s not like I’m only looking to hear about the “good stuff.” Ponzi might be putting together a survey soon, too. Until then, don’t hold back – what are your thoughts on this year’s Gnomedex while it’s still fresh in your mind?

21 thoughts on “Gnomedex Freedbacking”

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  2. Any chance of the Gnomedex discussions/presentations being made available as podcasts? Thanks.

  3. This was my first conference, ever(just graduated college in December), so keep that in mind when reading my comments. I have nothing to pair this conference up against in anyway. Anyway….. There wasn’t really a moment of downtime(breaks don’t count as downtime since so much talking is done during that time). I was busy from the moment I woke up to the moment I got back to my hotel room and went straight to sleep, which is a good thing. If I pay for a conference(and the flight from little ol’ Arkansas), I want to get my money’s worth, which I did. As far as the food was concerned, it was fit for a king. People waiting on us hand and foot during the meals, I doubt many other conferences are going to do it like that. Even though I’m probably used to a few more fried items in my meal, it was good stuff. As far as the speakers were concerned, pretty much everyone had something good to say and then discuss. Day 2 was twice as good as Day 1 in my opinion as far as the sessions were concerned(although I’m not saying Day 1 wasn’t great, Day 2 was just that much better to me). Basically, if there was 1 thing about the conference that I could change, it would probably have been the keynote speaker(Senator Edwards). While it was interesting to hear, I didn’t really hear anything new or feel like he was actually going to do anything about what he said. It was just too hard for people to stay on technology topics. Anyway, overall, I thought the conference was really great. Might I say that you and Ponzi did a wonderful job hosting. When things got off topic you did a good job of getting them back on track. You got a World Cup room setup(which was awesome of you to do). You did everything that could be asked for in a host. I’ll be back next year, that’s for sure. It was just really such a great experience for my first conference. Hope I didn’t leave anything out.

  4. 1) stable net access!

    2) continue to branch out and have more non-tech speakers like Edwards. This gives perspectives that a geek might not have. If we want to take this stuff into the real world, then we need real world ideas. Ethan Kaplan has a great post about this -, read the theory, much of what we want to do has been done by others, let’s learn from them. And they aren’t geeks.

    3) Work on not having, as JD Lasica put it, “Enormous Egos sucking the air out of the 320-seat conference hall.” Easier said than done, I agree.

    I had a great time, learned an enormous amount, made new friends and contacts. You did an excellent job. Get back to us all after you two have slept for a week.

  5. While the networking was top-notch, the show lacked an educational component. I traveled to Seattle from Connecticut to *learn* more about blogging, podcasting, and technology.

    Maybe a mix of the “unconference” sessions and educational sessions? It seemed like the speakers got 15 minutes to get things rolling, and then we had only 15 minutes to rev up the discussion — many ended way too early (and a few went a bit too long).

    Can we get somone with an airhorn if a speaker or commentor starts in on a sales pitch? 😉

    Awesome show. New York next year?

  6. You and Ponzi did a great job of getting a wide variety of discussion leaders with a wide variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise. Any good learning session should include points of view that might conflict with the point of view of the attendees.

    If people listen to those with a different point of view from their own with an open mind, they might gain a new perspective on the topic or reaffirm their own point of view. Either way, it helps them broaden their own perspective, and hopefully understand why other people think the way they do.

    One of the major problems facing the United States right now (and perhaps other areas of the world) is a lack of tolerance for dissenting opinions. Democrats don’t want to listen to Republicans and Republicans sure as hell don’t want to listen to Democrats! The key to maintaining our democracy is understanding that listening to (and actually hearing) ideas that may be provocative is an important part of the process and is something to be sought out, not insulted by.

    The term “echo chamberâ€Â? was mentioned many times over the course of Gnomedex. The concept of an echo chamber is alive and true not only in technology communities, but also in the political and governmental realms. People choose to consume only those “newsâ€Â? outlets that reaffirm their perspectives and demonize those that they disagree with.

    How can Gnomedexers, as technology leaders, encourage a diversity of perspectives that people actually pay attention to?

    My one recommendation for future Gnomedexes would be to ban the Mac “dripâ€Â? sound from the room. Do you know how annoying it is to hear dripping sounds all around you every 5 seconds, when you are trying to focus on a discussion?

  7. Ok, then … you asked for it 🙂
    (Slightly edited from email I sent to Chris last night…)

    First of, congratulations on another successful Gnomedex. You’ve done an amazing job … the venue, the amenities, the networking opportunities … all wonderful. I hope you and Ponzi are catching up on sleep in a big way.

    Having said all that I want to throw some criticism your way, with the goal of improving Gnomedex 7. (Remember, it’s all said with love … and I know you’ve been wonderfully open to feedback 🙂

    The “More Interactive” Format:

    This simply did not work for me. Here you get some really REALLY cool speaker up on stage, and rather than getting to listen to him or her discuss and present information that only he or she can, you ask them to be a discussion facilitator. Anyone can facilitate a discussion – using your high powered guests to do that seemed a real waste.

    Put another way – let your speakers speak. The facilitators varied in ability, but by and large the audience was allowed to take the discussion into uninteresting and repetitive directions. As someone said “bloggers love to bitch” and it really felt like many of the discussions degenerated into not much more than a glorified bitch session.


    The room simply wasn’t big enough to hold the egos of *****, *****, ***** and *****. They were consistently rude, arrogant and dismissive of not just each other, but of audience members as well. Each was a complete ass at one point or another. Again as someone said the conference seemed to turn into some kind of battle of ego.

    I know that these are really, really brilliant people who have a tremendous amount of knowledge and a track record of major accomplishments, but I hope, pray and plead that you un-invite all four of them. They ruined major portions of the conference for me, and for others that I heard from. (I know un-inviting is serious, and normally I’d ask you to “rein them in”, but the very root of the problem here is that they are not people who can be “reined in”.)

    Their presence is, perhaps, the single biggest reason I might not attend next year.


    Ditch the wandering microphones. It’s not working. People were not getting the opportunity to speak, the speakers were unable to see people at the back of the room, and several folks got very frustrated at being passed over time and time again. Not to mention the time wasted while we all twiddled our thumbs waiting for a mic to reach someone, or not being able to hear when someone was unwilling to wait for a mic.

    My recommendation is one, or at most two, FIXED mics that audience members would line up at.

    – Return to a more traditional presentation format with SHORT Q&A sessions following.
    – Move to a stationary mic or pair of mics for that Q&A
    – Ditch ***, ***, *** and ***. They’re just not worth it.

    When I told my wife that I probably wouldn’t go next year, she said “that’s what you said last year”. Actually it was the year before, but you then moved it to Seattle. But the sentiment is accurate – it didn’t feel like I really got as much out of it as I had hoped. I’m not sure I’ll be at 7. DEFINTELY comparing 5 versus 6 … Gnomedex 5’s “conference” that happened in the auditorium was better.

    In spite of those issues, obviously it was a major, major success and was incredibly valuable for a lot of people.

    Here’s to making Gnomedex 7 even more so.

  8. Chits – a few folks took advantage of the unconference forum to morph into complete windbags. I think it would be great if each person got say, 5 chits each day. When they wanted to make a comment, it cost a chit. When the chits are gone, no comments.

  9. I didn’t believe everyone who had said this about previous gnomedexes, but now I’m a convert. Gnomedex 6 was the best post-bubble conference I have been too. (The best conference was the first FlashForward in SF, but you can’t compete with the peak of the bubble, hot tub parties, open bars, and me being 23). THANK YOU CHRIS AND PONZI!

    My favorite part of the conference was the diversity of both discussion leaders and audience. To have programmers, musicians, politicians, marketers, entrepreneurs, VCs, attorneys, and more, all interacting with one another, was awesome. I think keeping things technology-oriented, but not neccesarily technology-focused, was key to getting this crowd, and hope that continues in the future.

    My biggest complaint was with the egos. Opposing opinions can be a good thing and lead to greater discussion, but some of these comments were just immature and plain rude; the kind of thing that gives geeks the reputation of social ineptness.

    I was most disappointed by the comments at Blake Ross’s presentation. I know that the talks are audience driven, but it was clear he was trying to focus on the marketing aspect, and the spread firefox campaign, yet he gets attacked for not telling us users about the new features of the next version of the browser. Obviously there was a lot more history to the person in the audience and blake’s relationship, but it was just stupid and got the whole session off track and the room into a really negative and hostile mood.

    I think, with that said, next year I’d like to see speakers and topics published. That was the agenda can be clear from the start. Let the speaker talk uninterrupted for 10 minutes to introduce the topic, etc.. then open it up to the crowd, and try to keep focused.

    Fwiw, i also agree with the stationary mikes. Besides being easier to see and coordinate, hopefully the effort of getting up and walking to the mike will force people to think before speaking.

  10. Alright, this is also from emails sent to Chris and Jake. I wasn’t at Gnomedex was was watching and listening through the streams and chatting in #lockergnome with a bunch of
    people who were there or listening the same as me.

    Day 1:
    “I’m really enjoying the gnomedex coverage but since the video stream
    was cut in day one the audio had this HORRIBLE static the entire
    time.. (And someone kept tapping the mic, that was annoying.) If its
    possible at all PLEASE give us the video stream back for Saturday. I
    didn’t enjoy it half as much with just audio as I did the video”
    Day 2:
    “audio was much better the 2nd day. (it wasn’t at the
    beginning of the day and I actually started listening again after a
    couple hours and it was much better then.)”

    (In response to the cost of streaming video the entire time.)
    “I’d pay for video …****… Actually, it was the video that was convincing me to possibly attend next year. The buzz was very annoying though, I’m glad it cleared up a lot on the 2nd day (I couldn’t notice it.) Someone on the first day after lunch was really loving to tap that mic though, it was worse than the buzz.. I couldn’t guess as to who it was though, didn’t notice any of that the 2nd day either.

    Overall I think you did a great job with the stream, I enjoyed it and who knows, maybe I’ll attend live next year.. assuming there is one next year.. “

  11. I’m still hoping you’ll have an “arena” off in a room with a baby pool filled with mud so the participants/dicussion leaders can settle any differences they may have once their session is up in the main room.

    I would have loved to see a three way death match with Steve and Dave taking on Blake. Of course, it would have lasted about 4 1/2 seconds…but the photo op would have been well worth it! 🙂

    The show ROCKED! You and Ponzi KICKED TOTAL A**! Ponzi-OH MY GAHD…teh food was wonderful! I’m very impressed with both of you. Thanks for the wonderful memories. I’ll be back next year.

  12. We discussed Gnomedex as the exemplar of unconferences in our unworkshop on informal learning yesterday. A remote participant said things were hard to follow when she didn’t know who was speaking; it would be great if bio information and/or URL for the speaker at the time were clickable by someone watching the stream.

    Another idea surfaced. How about taking an occasional question from outside? The outsiders haven’t paid but, as Arlo sang long ago, “If you want to change the world and stuff….”

    Chris and Ponzi, thanks for a wonderful experience.

  13. Chris and Ponzi deliver the most gemütlich, guest-oriented conference I have ever attended. Great care and attention paid to the agenda, the tech support, and the food and beverage. What’s more impressive is that you kept things loose enough to accomodate spontaneous requests (world-cup TV, second-life demo). You worked at keeping the cove-folks engaged with the main room. All outstanding.

    You set a great example for all developers and marketers by keeping your focus on continual improvement and serving your customers.

    From a show-biz stand-point–where heat is worth more than light–the dust-up between Dave Winer and Blake Ross was outstanding entertainment, though a bit surreal and uncomfortable. Fortunately the two of them discovered the morning after that they were both on the same side of most arguments. At the conference they were managing to agree with enormous vehemence and animosity. Now they’re buds, proving once again the action-film credo that all’s well that begins with a fireball and explosion in empty space.

    Would love to have post-show access to the vids of the conference.

    It was a little tiresome to see the same dirty-dozen grabbing the mike again and again during the discussions. But then again, they usually had something cogent to contribute. (They don’t become a-listers for nuthin’)

    Will a Talk Ticket economy change this? Maybe. Before you go forward, do the math. How many question slots are there in a two-day conference? If you issue two tickets per attendee, won’t you flood the market?

    Despite the fad for discussion over presentation, two of the best sessions were much more presentation than discussion: namely Phil Torrone and Ethan Kaplan.

    I love this conference. I love the energy and care that you and Ponzi bring to it. I love how openly you and your discussion leaders share with your audience.

  14. Chris & Ponzi:

    I was thisclose to sending you an email with feedback but then I caught your post in my aggregator. Here goes (in no particular order):

    1. Gnomedex is still my favorite conference. Period. You and Ponzi throw a better party than any freshman year kegger. You guys were engaged, working the conference, playing peacemaker, ringmaster, masters of ceremony and a hundred other jobs behind the scenes we didnt get to see.
    2. Both your parents rocked (especially Mrs. P who kept everyone honest with time)
    3. Wifi was a problem (duh – we know you are dealing with it for next year).
    4. Unconference format –
    4.aThere were too many of us there (I am not sure the unconf format scales to 300+ people). Last year seemed more effective
    4.b The discussion leaders needed to be prepped more as to what you expected from them – some spent too much time pimping their stuff, and in other cases they treated this like a QA sesstion instead of a big discussion. They needed to lead the discussions more. They need to understand that the Discussion Leader sets the topic for discussion at the beginning and then hands off the discussion to everyone (with the DL moderating of course). This setup should be a minimal 5 or 10 minutes so we can spend the rest of the discussion discussing the issue. Pud spent 20 minutes on his discussion before the crowd got hold of a microphone, others spent considerable time talking about their company before we got to participate. They are taking our time when they go over their time.
    4.c The duration of the discussion killed me. Last year my only complaint was that the sessions ended too quickly and the conf was only 2 days long. This year ,1/2 hr per discussion was not enough. The half hour was too short and the DLs were treating this, in some cases, like a QA session. I would almost like fewer, longer, more focused discussions. The topics this year were great, but in some cases we only scratched the surface.
    4.d There needs to be a member of the audience representing the IRC (and the IRC needs to know it) – there were some good points from the IRC (other than asking Edwards about balls) that could have been brought up.
    4.e There needs to be a mic stand or moderator in the cove so those guys can participate.
    5. The food was outrageous. I thought last year was great – this year blew it away.
    6. The parties were awesome – all three nights. You guys outdid yourselves this year.
    7. The networking in the hallway was great.
    8. Need more coordination with the RSS feed for all of the attendees (the gnomedex 05 is still running – could you add the 06 list? is there a seperate one for 06? I didnt make it to Kosso’s OPML).
    9. The IRC was good – but there was a lot of “where is the backchannel?” at the start. If you could have posted a slide with the backchannel info, rss, wiki and stuff at the start it would have cut some of that down.
    10. Breakout sessions were great (especially the Second Life in the MS game room). More of those would be great (especially at Lunch)
    11. Missed Om – was def looking forward to seeing him run a discussion (maybe next year?)
    12. Getting a hold of the MP3s and video from the conference would be killer (I think the video from Gnomedex 2005 was put up in December). I would like to share the event with folks from work (see my blog for notes from bloggercon).
    13. The shwag this year was great, especially the gnomedex tshirt – you guys outdid yourselves.
    14. Your attention to working with the attendees (especially getting me help when I had connection troubles) was totally appreciated.
    15. The giveaways were awesome.

    Thanks to you both for putting on such a great show. Now go take 2 weeks off on an island in the Carribbean.

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