Howard Dean’s old campaign manager, Joe Trippi, was the keynote speaker the Digital Democracy conference I attended last Monday. He was interesting, but let’s forget about what he said for a minute. Let’s talk about IRC, which is a prevalent form of instant messaging that occurs at many technology conferences.
At a ‘normal’ conference, you would show up and use your cellphone to call people you wanted to hook up with. At a technology conference you take your laptop to the free Wi-Fi area and get on the IRC channel for the conference and find your friends, or make new ones, and then hook up that way.
At a ‘normal’ conference, people sit in the audience and listen to the speaker. If they are bored, they daydream or read the newspaper. At a technology conference the audience is armed with laptops which are tapped into the free Wi-Fi, and they talk about the speaker on IRC while he is giving the presentation.
Don’t expect to find my participation in the IRC chat. First, I didn’t know how to tap into it. But, even if I had, I don’t think I would have. I prefer to listen closely to conference speakers, unless of course they are boring, in which case I use my Wi-Fi enabled laptop to check E-mail or surf the web for interesting information.