Disney Does Digital

By Steve Gillmor  |  Posted 2004-02-17 Print this article Print

Last year was the year of the Mac at Etech. Rendezvous, Hydra, the IM back-channel, were all internal communications forums constrained from the outside community. Wikis were not yet established as a reliable map for the fundamental themes of the conference. This year, the Wiki grew quickly, as collaborative Hydra transcripts combined with deeper insight posts by domain experts (SocialTexts Ross Mayfield, EFFs Cory Doctorow, and SmartMobs author Howard Rheingold). Last year, Dave Sifry huddled with Ray Ozzie in the corridor outside the session rooms. This year, Sifry walked a packed crowd through Technoratis paces, with overnight hacks like Top Products emerging from hallway and dinner brainstorming. In another session, Disney engineers matter-of-factly described a welter of RSS applications for internal communications and even peer-to-peer video enclosure transmission.
No one seemed to notice the irony of Disney promoting its use of patent-free contributed file sharing software on the same day Disney and Microsoft announced plans to collaborate on DRM strategies. But there was nothing ironic about the traffic numbers for ESPN RSS enclosures; Disney was looking for 500,000 users in one year, got 1 million within three weeks and have now reached 2 million.
Why then, does OReilly stop at the firewall? For starters, they dont. Although it was unannounced until the day of the event, audio feeds of the Digital Democracy Teach In were streamed, archived, and transcribed. So too were the keynotes on each day, but not the sessions. According to IT Conversations producer Doug Kaye, several hundred participants monitored the audiocast. Some joined a raucous IRC chat that in one session was projected behind the panelists for humorous effect. No doubt making Etech available virtually would undercut OReillys conference business model—at least the current one. A certain percentage of attendees might forego the interactive and networking opportunities to save money, travel and time away from more pressing work and family issues. But virtualizing Etech would have benefits not only for remote attendees but onsite communities as well. Next page: TiVo for Tech Conferences

Steve Gillmor is editor of eWEEK.com's Messaging & Collaboration Center. As a principal reviewer at Byte magazine, Gillmor covered areas including Visual Basic, NT open systems, Lotus Notes and other collaborative software systems. After stints as a contributing editor at InformationWeek Labs, editor in chief at Enterprise Development Magazine, editor in chief and editorial director at XML and Java Pro Magazines, he joined InfoWorld as test center director and columnist.

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