Dave Winer watched a star-studded Davos session on television last night and was thoroughly unimpressed.
I’m not surprised. If Dave harkens back to some of my rules about getting the most out of Davos, he’d remember that there’s an inverse relationship between number of people on the platform and quality. The session Davos watched had six speakers. I used to think the battle for a good session was lost when number of speakers was greater than three.
A second important rule is that the bigger the room, the worse the session. Year in, year out, plenary sessions are the weakest ones. Partly that’s because of rule one. But it’s also because the people that get to speak at plenaries are invariably old pros on the public platform. No surprises, no real conversation.
I also agree with Dave that 2000 is a long time ago. I’ve also moved to a belief in the value of un-conferences.
A possible middle way (although that’s perhaps the only middle thing about it) is happening in Porto Alegre at the World Social Forum. I spoke last night to a friend who is there and he described the opening “session”: a parade of some 100,000 people through the centre of Porto Alegre, ending in a park with a concert. Today the meat of the WSF starts with typically 30 simultaneous sessions on 11 broad themes happening all over the city. Sounds like a lot of fun, with tons of energy and only a modicum of formal planning.
“It’s the opposite of Swiss organisation,” my friend said, and he meant it as a compliment.