Jeff Jarvis Delivers Open Source Keynote at Syndicate Conference


Jeff Jarvis is giving the opening keynote at Syndicate NY. He's the speaker I'm most excited about hearing from 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 on what to talk about.

It reminds me of the studios' early experiments 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 brilliant guy like Jarvis talk about what he thinks is interesting.

Great storytellers are guided by their internal compass. They create fictional accounts that they find interesting.

When marketers get involved, and focus groups become the decision-makers, the integrity of the experience gets diluted cause everything is boiled to widespread 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 it's early, and I was hoping for a passive experience, where Jarvis would tell us what he thought was interesting rather than asking us what we think is interesting.

Jarvis trusted “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 Goebbels in the seduction of a continent and justification of genocide by understanding the crowd's mind.

Goebbels was a student of Le Bon, and both understood that in crowds, people tend to sacrifice their individuality to the crowd's mentality, 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 be true.

Individuality is good, and mob rule is not always conducive to human development.

At the end of the keynote, he asked for a show of hands on who liked his keynote format versus who preferred a standard format.

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 others in the room shared my opinion but had sacrificed their individuality to the crowd's mind.

Photo by Robert Scoble.