Project [R]Evolution

A few thoughts on the recent The Project [R]Evolution conference.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dan Neely from the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office – his points about responding fast, but accurately in a crisis resonated with me. It takes some maturity in an organisation to get on social media and say “we know there’s a crisis – we’re still finding out what’s happened, but we’ll let you know when we *do* have news.” It’s a reflection of today’s ‘always on’ society that Dan, like me, probably sits on his couch of an evening with a sneaking voice in the back of his mind saying ‘I wonder if something’s going wrong?’. Ahem.

Conference regulars Brown, Brislen and McDonald held an entertaining panel – there was refreshing honesty, and I enjoyed seeing panellists who didn’t completely agree on every point under discussion.

Alec Ross, Hillary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation was everywhere in his time in NZ, on the telly, radiogiving interviews and mixing it up with the locals on Twitter – impressively, showing up in conversations he wasn’t even taking part in. He stepped on stage looking like he’d just popped in from the set of the West Wing – his Powerpoint with huge ‘Power’ and ‘$’ slides created a slightly OTT and surreal feeling. His content was heavy on the history but light on the war stories from the Obama campaign, which the crowd (well, me) had come to see, but still, I enjoyed seeing a guy on top of his game present. His killer lines (“it’s a bad time to be a control freak”) were delivered with relish and style. Things got slightly lively in the Q+A with a Wikileaks question and half hearted heckle, but Ross handled it like a pro, defining the terms on which he was going to address it, then addressing it and moving quickly on. He’ll probably run the world one day.

I missed the most part of day two, but pitched up late afternoon, just in time for Christopher Barger – like I tweeted, I found much of what he said affirming and common sense, and I thoroughly enjoyed his tough guy myth busting shtick. If you were a largeish corporate business who’d never attempted social media before (are there any left?), his preso would be an excellent place to start.

Richard MacManus and Emily Banks were the ‘future web journalism’ one-two to end the day. Richard, who I imagine gets asked by checkout operators and service station attendants what hot new web publishing platforms they should be checking out, talked us through this blog post mainly, neatly summarising the developments that are slowly creeping up on our monitors and mobiles. Banks talked us through how Mashable approaches the new journalism landscape, as well as some more nefarious approaches. Which were, um, really intriguing. I’ve ordered a copy. Interestingly, she chose the ‘Coldplay’ clip from opinion-dividing The Newsroom to illustrate the ‘first’ and ‘not wrong for long’ pressures modern news outlets face.

Overall, the conference had a great tone, loosely based around change through technology, as well as a broader, historic perspective. Presenters like Michael Jones and Tim Forseman offered much food for thought. Jennifer Duval Smith‘s panel and the quickfire speakers (yay!) gave a board range of local angles. Refreshingly, social media was part of the mix, but not the focus. Which is better, I reckon. We *may* be at the point where we move beyond ‘hey, the internet exists, isn’t it awesome?’ and talk about what we do with it next. Well done to all the organisers.

As usual, the number one highlight of the conference for me was catching up with folk I don’t get to talk to very often, and meeting folk I felt like I knew already from the Twitter and that. It was a great turn-out.

PS: Here’s the slides.

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