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Syndicate Conference in NY Opens with Jeff Jarvis Keynote

Jeff Jarvis is giving the opening keynote at Syndicate NY. He’s definitely the speaker I’m most excited about hearing from here at the conference. He started with a list of topics:

  • Media and syndication
  • Money and syndication
  • Technology
  • Conferences suck
  • None of the above

Then he took a vote, looking for guidance for what to talk about. It reminds me of the early experiments the studios did to produce interactive movies, where the audience chooses the ending. But movie audiences wanted to be entertained, and the collective mind of the crowd was no match for the great cinematic storytellers, and people went home unfulfilled.

Right after the introduction, Jeff started passing around the mic and asking people in the audience to share how they use syndication to make money, or their frustrations concerning measurements and the like. He was trying to create a conversation, but the format of a keynote — at least in my opinion — doesn’t seem to work as an open dialogue. I’ve seen others try to do these before and I must say, I’d rather see a really smart guy like Jarvis talk about what he thinks is interesting.

Great storytellers are guided by their own, internal compass. They create fictional accounts that they themselves find interesting. When marketers get involved, and focus groups become the decision makers, the integrity of the experience get diluted, cause everything is boiled to popular consensus.

I struggle to follow these unconference-like formats. Maybe because it’s not what I was expecting. Maybe because I’m too inflexible myself. Maybe because its early and I was hoping for a passive experience, where Jarvis would just tell us what he thought was interesting, rather than asking us what we think is interesting.

Jarvis trusted what he calls “the wisdom of the crowd” to guide the discussion. But I wanted to see Jarvis, the individual. In the early 1900s, a French philosopher named Gustave Le Bon wrote a book called “The Crowd” which proved extremely useful to Joseph Goebbles in the seduction of a continent and justification of genocide by understanding the mind of the crowd. Goebbles was a student of Le Bon, and both understood that in crowds, people tend to sacrifice their individuality to the mentality of the crowd, which obviously, has very dangerous connotations.

Call me antisocial if you like. I’m definitely on a rant here. But I think we are butting up against the dangers of social media without keeping sight of what we already know to true, individuality is good thing, and mob rule is not always conducive to professional development.

At the end of the keynote, he asked for a show of hands on who liked his keynote format, versus who prefers a standard format. I think I was the only guy who raised his hand on the “don’t like the open source format.” Most people voted for the conversation format. I wonder if there were others in the room who share my opinion, but had sacrificed their individuality to the mind of the crowd.

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