Panel on New Media and PoliticsThis past weekend I attended Blog Indiana 2008, a conference by and for bloggers in the region, which I mentioned here a few months ago. Overall, I would call the event quite a success. For $50, participants had access to a weekend packed full of rich and informative sessions, great networking opportunities with friendly and good-natured people, good food, and a lot of fun - a pretty excellent deal by most measures, especially in the world of tech conferences.

I really appreciated that it was a "grassroots" conference, organized by Noah Coffey and Shawn Plew of Indianapolis, and not a big corporate conference organized by people trying to sell us stuff. Sure, there were corporate sponsors (Summersault was one of them), and there were some grumblings about session leaders spending too much time promoting their own products/services. But on the whole, this was a group of people who are passionate about new media and wanted to get together to see what else was out there, talk about some of the issues that come up, and just get to know each other better. Oh, and we also totally geeked out on Twitter.

I presented a session on Blogging Basics right at the start of the conference, and from what I can tell it was useful to the folks who were there - I think a few of them were starting blogs at the conference with some of my tips, which is great. As much as it was a technical talk, it was also a look at the culture and context of blogging in the Internet overall, and I really enjoyed spending some time looking at that.

I was also on a panel with Laurin Manning, Ruth Holladay, Joshua Gillespie, Steve Dalton, and Thomas Cook about how blogging and social media affects politics and the current election cycle. Things went okay, but we didn't really have enough time to dive into some of the more interesting issues, and it was more of an orderly rotation of monologues than a panel discussion. That said, I hope it started some other conversations, and at least now I can say I was on a political panel with the Director of Political Operations for a presidential campaign.

I'm going to blog more about this later, but there's something really great about remembering that, contrary to a lot of the messages out there about what it means to be successful on the Internet, you don't have to be a Silicon Valley star or national figure to feel like you're making a difference in the online world, and to some degree then, in the offline one. Travis touched on this nicely with his post about placeblogging - noting that it's the textures of our everyday lives that end up being most relevant and interesting, not how many times we're thrust into the spotlight in a sea of people who otherwise don't connect very well to our own experiences. I feel more grounded in my "place" in the world of blogging and new media for having experienced those discussions with people who were not only in touch with the technologies, but who are also connected to this geographical place in some way.

This was amplified given that I was joined at the event by Richmond bloggers Anna Lisa Gross and John Dalton, and finally got to meet Doug Masson from Lafayette, whose blog I already follow regularly.

What's next? Well, I hear that preparations for a 2009 Blog Indiana event are already underway. Locally, I'm hoping to be a part of producing a "New Media Summit" for Richmond and Wayne County, where we can explore some of these topics and do some of this education at an even more local level - stay tuned for more information on that soon, and let me know if you want to help make it happen.

Roundups and reflections from other bloggers:

Other related links:

And don't forget that the Richmond blogger community is alive and well - if you have a blog missing from my list, please let me know.