blogorlando — Partial Recap

Posted by on September 27, 2006 at 9:04 am.

I was asked by some to summarize my experiences at blogorlando. Unfortunately, I was closing an investment the same day so my observations are limited. I’d welcome and appreciate sharing from others.

I will start with some kudos for blogorlando sponsors:
Hyku organized, co-hosted the event;
Rollins College for helping host the event;
Blogzerk for providing the domain name (and schwag); and
Jeremy Harrington for the logo design.

The three sessions that didn’t lose me to urgent deal-closing items were Legal Issues, Off the Record and Media Blogs.

The Legal Issues session, led by Andrea Weckerle highlighted a number of questions facing bloggers, from copyright infringement, to parodies, to even Polk county, FL enforcers going after web publishers regardless of geography. My key takeaway is that few issues are black-and-white. Whether something is infringement or fair use has a lot to do with the context of that use. A claim of parody can shield many questionable references, but some obvious flameblogs have taken that excuse too far.

A nuance I haven’t face yet is how comments play into liability. This seemed particularly important to the corporate bloggers in the room, but it applies to everyone. The basic question is “if a comment creates liability, is the blog publisher liable?” As with most of these questions, I heard a bunch of “it depends”. However, there did seem to be a bright line between purely arms-length third-party comments versus those that are prompted, endorsed and/or embellished by the publisher. For example, saying “I agree with commenter X, Sponge Bob Squarepants does purposely promote devil-worship and the creator did steal the entire show from my grandmother” probably gets closer to the publisher-liable line. Comment moderation adds a twist of complexity because allowing a comment to publish could have implications as it relates to DMCA safe-harbors for service providers that are not editors.

The Off the Record session, led by Josh Hallett went better than expected, with plenty of lively conversation. Anytime you start a session with “let’s talk about the things nobody likes to talk about”, there is a risk the whole session will be a dud. I shouldn’t share too much here, but I think one discussion is worth relaying without attribution: the stalker discussion. It was an eye-opener for any blogger who has wondered about how much/little to share their family/kids via their blogs. At least one blogger in attendance had to be careful about stalking ex-husbands, while others shared an open-book policy regarding their family. This is a very personal decision, based upon style, trust, paranoia and audience. One thing that is clear is that public blog posts are NOT a private conversation with a small circle of readers — they become the very fabric of the web, found by plenty of people you don’t know and may not want to know.

The Media Blog session, led by John Cutter of the Orlando Sentinel was pretty interesting, because John wears the hats of both professional journalist and blogger. He shared that the Orlando Sentinel now has 26 blogs, including tips, political, crime and entertainment topics to name a few. Although they launched blogs as an attempt to get more involved with their readers, they’re surprised at how few comments they get. The traffic impact has been substantial, resulting in 70% growth in uniques to their site since launching blogs. I asked about how they measure success (and/or justify additional expense/marketing for blogs) and it sounded like there isn’t a lot of science behind their efforts yet. They focus on enjoyment (bloggers and audience), news tips, story ideas and customer loyalty. On the whole, it was an informative session and blogging (and participating in conferences like this) really does present a more friendly, cooperative face from the newsroom.

So there you have it, only a few sessions for me, but well worth the time. It sounds like I missed some really fun debates earlier in the day — read some other recaps here. I look forward to similar events across the state and comments from others in attendance.

[NOTE: please join the FVB Community and leave comments so we can all start putting some faces to names…thx!]

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