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Archive: August 2005

Satellite Choices

In keeping with last Saturday’s post on audiences, I’ll post today with a question for the audience.  Well, a segment of the audience, anyway.

It looks like I’m about to switch from cable to a satellite TV provider, partly because of economics but also because I’m just sick of propping up my local cable monopoly, a company I disliked from the moment they arrived in town.  (Hint: their headquarters are in Philadelphia.)

I’m interested in HD programming, since I have a massive new HD TV set up in the newly refinished basement, and I know both DirecTV and Dish offer HD packages.  They also both have DVR, in which I have some interest.  I’m looking to get the best combination of both, and to be with a service that will rapidly expand HD offerings as networks switch over in the next year.  Broadband is not an issue, since I have DSL through my other local monopoly and not through a cable modem.

So—which one would you recommend I get, DirecTV or Dish, and why?

Clickety-Clack, Move On Back

Everything old is new again: Jeff and Doug have been contemplating conference crowd behaviors in the presence of wifi.  It’s been a year or so since the last time this came up, so I guess we were about due.  I’ve certainly noticed the sorts of things they’re describing, and it’s particularly acute at SXSW.

In an unsurprising case of adapting to fit the times, there are those speakers who make use of the available network, opening IRC channels for parallel commentary or inviting instantly messaged questions, as Jeff does.  From the audience side, I’ve made use of the wifi to IM other people at the same conference in order to coordinate later meetings, or even to comment on the presentation in progress to friends in the room.  Typing strikes me as being marginally more polite than whispering, in such a case, though it’s probably rude either way.

There are potential speaker costs from this behavior, as Doug points out.  If the audience is unresponsive due to being absorbed in their work (or for any other reason), it can seriously sap the spaker’s energy, which leads to more audience apathy, thus starting a vicious downward spiral.  On the flip side, an engaged audience can charge up a speaker, creating a powerful positive feedback cycle.  It’s also the case that at some conferences, the only pay the speaker receives is the audience’s response.  Take away that response, and you’re taking away their payment.

Now, I will say that as a speaker, I don’t find wifi junkies terribly disturbing.  From the podium, there’s only a minor difference between people sending e-mail and people taking notes on the talk.  The difference is that the note-takers look up more often, and focus on me when they do.  The wifiheads only look up every now and again, and only do so out of a vague sense of social expectation.  You can read it in their body language: “Uh-oh, it’s been ten minutes since I acted like I was paying attention, so I’ll gaze in the vague direction of the stage while I mentally compose my next e-mail message.”

But this isn’t just about the speaker, as most of the real cost is borne by audience members.  While it’s certainly easier to ignore tapping keyboards than whispers, the fact remains that being surrounded by furious typing is distracting to those who really do want to pay attention to the presentation.  It’s not so much rude to the speaker as it is to other attendees.  When I’m up there on stage, I always focus in on the people who are really paying attention, but they’re often scattered throughout a sea of hunched typers.

So here’s my (hopefully modest) proposal.  Let’s collectively adopt a social convention where the people who want to actually pay attention to the speaker sit near the front of the room, closer to the stage; and those who are more interested in the wifi sit toward the back of the room, which is probably closer to the wireless access point anyway.  So you’ll get a stronger signal, and the folks up front won’t have to deal with the constant clatter of keys.  The speaker can focus on the people who are really interested, and if he’s smart, he’ll also open side channels for the wifiers to use as well so that they become more engaged.  Everyone wins!

I may well put up signs at the door of my next presentation suggesting this to people as they enter the room.  It would be very interesting to see if people followed the suggestion, and how it changed the room dynamic as a result.

Workshopping in Chicago

Remember how, back in July, I ventured across the Atlantic to give two full-day workshops on XHTML and CSS in London?  Well, this November the workshop is crossing the ocean: announcing “Professional CSS XHTML Techniques” this coming November 3rd in Chicago, Illinois.

Ryan Carson, one of the two founders of BD4D, is putting together a heck of a workshop series, as you can see by visiting the Carson Workshops home page.  There you’ll find my workshop listed, as well as seminars from Cal Henderson, Joe Clark, and Molly Holzschlag and Andy Clarke.  So far, they’re all headed to London, but given the past history of Ryan’s efforts, I think it’s a good bet some or all of them will be headed Stateside in the future.

As in London, your registration gets you a copy of the “XHTML / CSS Survival Kit”, a disc containing all kinds of examples, articles, tools, and so forth.  You’ll also get a whole day of high-tempo, practical instruction in CSS-driven design, with plenty of opportunity to pose questions and get answers.  I had a great time in London, and the attendees seemed to have just as good a time.  I’ll be doing an updated version of what I did there, so if you wanted to attend the London event but couldn’t swing the transoceanic airfare—well, here’s your chance to make up for it!

Addendum: you know, I was so excited to tell you that the workshop was going to happen that I completely neglected to mention that registration is already open!  So get yerself on over to the Carson Workshops site, click on through to my seminar, and sign up already!

August 2005
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