Wow, the speed media moves sometimes is just… well… shocking. Over in the SF Chronicle Verne Kopytoff has a piece this week called ‘Lobbyconners’ crash tech conferences to schmooze, cut deals. This is of course the idea that the surrounding elements of any given conference are more interesting and valuable than the conference itself because the reason we all go to these things year after year isn’t for some groundbreaking panel discussion, it’s because all the people you want to talk to are in the same room together and that leads to interesting things. The Chron article makes it sound like this is a little know thing that has been growing so much over the years that it’s finally been given a name and even pass on some tips in case you want to try this crazy things yourself. Of course it’s not new at all and as Nancy Friedman points out it’s something I’ve been talking about since mid-2004.
That was the first time I used the words “lobbycon” in a post and it was after attending and speaking at the BlogOn conference in Berkeley that summer, though as far back as February I was talking about lobbies at conferences. We even had a LobbyCon Wiki set up with the goal of helping coordinate conferences without the actual conference – just getting all the people you’d normally only see in the lobby of a conference in the same room together and skip the whole scheduling thing. In fact when the first BarCamp was held a year later, organized by several of the folks involved in this initial Lobbycon discussion it seemed like the logical middle ground between a full blown conference and sitting around in a lobby. This isn’t a hard idea to figure out honestly, the value of any of these events it the people that are in attendance and the less things you have distracting those people from interacting with each other (such as sessions and keynotes) the more those people will get out of the event.
A quick look at the people who contributed to this wiki and commented on this post shows that it wasn’t only a passing idea, but that some rather influential people were taking it very seriously. Unfortunately the Chron piece makes it sound more like a few random folks who either didn’t want to pay to get into a conference or were too booked up with meetings to justify actually buying a ticket and that’s simply not the case. It’s a matter of people looking at an event and seeing what value they are getting from each part of it and focusing their time and attention on those parts with the most value and skipping out on the parts that don’t do much for them. Googleing for “lobbycon” shows that it’s been used quite frequently by many folks for the last several years and I’m a bit disappointed, though maybe I shouldn’t be, that it seems no one at the Chron considered looking it up on their own and talking to any of the folks who helped shape the idea.