There is a sense of urgency and even frustration - that is the background feeling that I am picking up. Henry Becton (WGBH) opened the conference with a straightforward agenda for action.
I saw at least three elephants in the room both of which are being cleverly dealt with by Mark's agenda and speakers.
- That with over 50% broadband penetration, that the web has changed. It is now the most important tool in how people live their lives. Some are almost always connected now and soon most will be in this place. Time is running out for any enterprise that does not understand and act upon this new reality. There has been great supporting information to support this from Lee Rainier at Pew and Pam Horan from Online Publishers Association. I will post material later.
- That time is all but run out for those that hope that they can remain the same. David Sifry, David Weinberger and Doc helped the room see that the entire business model for Public Radio and TV will end shortly. Scarce bandwidth, scarce and expensive content, license protection and secure listening spaces such as the car will go away in the next few years. With so little time to find a new way of doing business, the risks are to be paralyzed by the fear of being wrong or not perfect or to try a mega project. Sifry made the case for finding your way into the future by the rule of 2 plus 2. 2 engineers given 2 weeks to do a project. This idea of starting small and working fast will be a recurring theme.
- That the direction of the future can be seen. It is in facilitating community. It is in acting sensibly to the demand for participation and creation. Again Doc, David S and David W in conversation with he room helped us see this as clearly as possible. Of course this clarity is not confined to this conference. Here is today's Mason's minute that throws down the gauntlet.
My hope is that by the end of the week, there will be some key work agreed on that will start to make real progress.
An important piece of advice came during an outstanding presentation by Scott Anthony of Innosight (A consulting child of the work of Clayton Christensen) - "More Kites less Death" (He showed a film clip of how the Wright Brothers tested out their ideas of flight using a kite and not a full scale plane in which the pilot would have died.)
What he meant by that was don't try to arrange mega projects to get you into the future, you will get them wrong. Go for smaller learning expeditions. I think that the greatest barrier for progress has been the idea that we all had to get together in big projects. There is just too much friction for that.
He also cautioned the room from allowing the latent power of the traditional to suck the life out of the new. Build a ring fence around the new and protect it was his mantra.
Later in the day we saw examples of people who were already good at "kites" that could help us all learn a lot. Susan Howarth at WCET showed us how Cincinnati is building a much deeper relationship with her local community using video. Al Bartholet at WKSU showed us how Folk Alley is building a community of interest in Folk.
I think that this is the right way to go - lots of small projects that can be showcased and linked up so that we can all learn how to get to the future in time and at scale.
More later today.