I was reading the outrage expressed by the MIT Technology Review editor, Jason Pontin.
Wait...stop there...yes, before I begin, that is why I think the Tech review sucks, they have absolutely the wrong person at the helm. If I want Business 2.0, I'll read flippin' Business 2.0. If I wanted Red Herring (which Jason ran during the silly period) I'd read that, if it is still in business. The tech review was great, once, because it assumed the reader had a brain and was willing to learn new things. It wasn't a breathless review of the LATEST! BUSINESS! MODEL! AND! FUNDING! ROUND! which made red herring so very tiring. Mind you, even during the boom, I considered Red Herring unreadable. But this isn't about that....this is about his disagreement with D3's policy of no web/laptop use during speeches.
I speak and have spoken at a lot of conferences, and I'm curtailing it for a number of reasons: 1) I'm very busy, so only a few conferences 'get' to have me (not that this is a huge privilege, mind you). 2) speaking at conferences is really a huge waste of time in a way that it didn't use to be. I have no desire to compete with an 802.11b connection, that's it. If people can get better information/have a more rewarding time online....great! That's awesome. Just do it somewhere else. That is what the lobby or speaker room is for.
I was at a Usenix conference 4 or so years ago and was watching a really cool talk on wireless network stability. As part of the talk, the presenter disrupted the wireless network with a 'simple' hack he had come up with to shut down the network. You knew -exactly- when he did it because every person who had been surfing/iming/etc almost simultaneously looked up. We had a good laugh, but by question was this....what were these people doing here? Go outside! Stay home!
Yes, I'm speaking from hypocritical experience, I've done this, and I've gotten less out of conferences than I should. Thus lately, I've taken to killing off im and wireless when I'm doing something. Multitasking is a great thing for chips, but it means that you only get a shallow experience when it is your own attention you split. At Google, my fabulous employer, we are very lucky in that we have 2 or 3 amazingly cool presentations a week (tech talks, natch) about amazing topics in machine learning, random computery goodness and Google specific technologies. I've never worked in an environment where I can learn as much as I can here. To waste that opportunity on email or im should be criminal.
Honestly, I'd prefer the ability to kill a wireless network while talking. In fact, if you come to the O'Reilly Open Source convention and attending my talk, plan on using your laptop for notetaking, I'm going to try to find that program the presenter demonstrated at usenix and will use that. Or maybe I'll just unplug the access point. The great thing about this is that it will totally raise the stakes for me being a more entertaining, knowledgeable speaker. And lord help the person who fails to shut off their cell phone. I'm going to get way aggro about that.
I'm also changing how I use presentation packages, switching to a photo album of visual aids and no more bullets (or at least ones that the audience sees, anyway, they're fine as guideposts for me privately). See you there?