May 30, 2007

In Sunny London...

Arrived into Heathrow yesterday afternoon. I was pretty lagged, so I took a quick nap before a dinner meeting at the Wolseley in Picadilly. The Wolseley was fantastic, honestly, it's like London arguing persuasively that you don't need to take the Eurostar to Paris.

I'm here for Developer Day, Google's new global (and hopefully annual) developer event. So as you might imagine speeches, press work and the like are in my immediate future. I still find speaking to be incredibly fun and satisfying, but I'm starting to disengage from panels. I only have one scheduled (as an adjunct to a keynote I'm giving in China in a few weeks) and I think that I'm not going to do them much anymore.

I've written about panel participation in the past, but I think that I'm not getting much out of them and I'm honestly not sure what the audience is getting out of them. Let's lay it out, shall we? A 60 minute long panel has:

1) 15 minutes of lead-in, intros and av messing around.
1.1) Divided among 4 panelists and one moderator + intro, so figure 2 minutes of any individual panelist.
2) 30 minutes of lead-questioning from the moderator
2.1) Divided among 4 panelists, so 7.5 minutes of any individual panelist.
3) 15 minutes of audience Q&A
3.1) Divided among 4 panelists, so 3.75 minutes of any individual panelist.

So then each panelist can expect just around 13 minutes of speaking to the world. I've spent more time on this blog post, and I didn't have to fly, drive or whatever to do it. It also reaches more people than a single room at a conference. But at conferences I reach people who don't normally subscribe to my blog, so that's something.

Is this an indictment of any one conference or conferences in general? No. I think the personal interaction parts are actually quite valuable, but they come at a high cost with regard to time, travel expenses, and here's the really important reason, time away from my family. Some events matter enough to justify the time and expense and I'll add in ancillary Google work to further justify the time away from Google HQ and my family.

But bringing this back to general panels, I'm not likely to do just panels anymore. Please don't take this personally.

But, greetings from London! If you are here for Developer Day or would like to intersect, find me at the conference or email me. If I miss you, know that I'll be back again in a July for Lug Radio Live, Guadec and a variety of Googley London things. See you soon!


stephen o'grady said...

what if, post 2 minute (capped) intros (8 minutes), the panel was more or less immediately turned over to the audience? would that make a difference?

i'm no fan of moderator led questioning, either as an attendee, panelist or moderator, but i do like panels which are turned over to the audience. i get value out of them.

Chris DiBona said...

That can be better, sometimes, but worse, others, depending on the audience. Also, this tends to focus the panel on the most present or prominent member and less on the others. In which case, a proper presentation is likely called for vs. a panel.

stephen o'grady said...

interesting. hadn't thought of it that way, but i can see your point.

fully in agreement that it depends on the audience - some are just very taciturn and difficult to engage. as for the panel being dominated, i agree that's a concern, but one that i think can be mitigated with the right folks.

having had astor, mickos and olson on a panel, as an example, led to a pretty fair discussion.

Andrew said...

It really sucks to be away from your family so I understand completely. I am from England but right now I am living in Thailand.

I wish you good luck and hope you enjoy only the best of what England has to offer.. I don't know what that is exactly but.. whatever...

Wendy M. Grossman said...

While I agree about panels like the ones you describe, I hope you'll make an exception for the ones at CFP, where the intention is to choose panelists who would not normally speak to each other - either because they approach the same topic from different disciplines or because they disagree violently enough to leave blood on the carpet.


Stuart said...


Thanks for Thursday! I too hope it becomes an annual event. It was great fun meeting Google engineers, highly informative, and a privilege to be at the new product launches.

Anonymous said...

A bit off topic here, but I think Google should make a search feature aimed specifically at crime!

It would be like having the FBI database at your fingertips, from anywhere in the world.

I think that website is a good example of how it could work.