WordCamp and journalism conferences

This week­end Alex and I drove up to Word­Camp Seat­tle. It was the third Word­Camp I’ve been to and while dri­ving home I started relat­ing those Word­Camps to the jour­nal­ism con­fer­ences I’ve been to over the past few years.

Word­Camps ground them­selves in soft­ware, so an iter­a­tive approach is a nat­ural fit. They are about answer­ing the ques­tion, what are you work­ing on right now to make things better?

That ques­tion is not lim­ited to code. The writ­ers in atten­dance focus on con­crete tips for mak­ing their writ­ing more engag­ing, their com­mu­ni­ties more active, and their pub­lish­ing busi­ness more suc­cess­ful. Aaron Hock­ley, for exam­ple, gave what sounded like a really great talk about the basics of mak­ing money with your blog.

The code-focused speak­ers were cov­er­ing every­thing from approaches to using AJAX in plu­g­ins to Swiss Army Knife-style theme options pages. Each talk gave you a tool you could take home with you and imple­ment in your next project to make it better.

The jour­nal­ism con­fer­ences I’ve been to have been decid­edly dif­fer­ent. In the past cou­ple years I’ve been to the Asso­ci­ated Col­le­giate Press Con­fer­ence, a cou­ple of SPJ con­fer­ences at the Uni­ver­sity of Ore­gon, and other smaller con­fer­ences and pre­sen­ta­tions around Portland.

With the excep­tion of the talks Mar­shall Kirk­patrick gave at the SPJ con­fer­ences, these jour­nal­ism con­fer­ences are far less about doing things. They are filled with self-referential dis­cus­sions about news. I’ve come away with a strong sense of what’s bro­ken but not a good feel­ing about what is being done to fix it.

When you speak at a jour­nal­ism con­fer­ence I want to hear about what the top idea in your mind is. I want to hear about what exper­i­ments you are try­ing, how you are mea­sur­ing them, and how they are affect­ing your success.

At the end of the month I’m head­ing out to Philly for Bar Camp NewsIn­no­va­tion. I’m excited, it should be a great WordCamp-style jour­nal­ism con­fer­ence. We need more of these dis­cus­sions to iter­ate and make the news infor­ma­tion busi­ness better.

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