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View Diary: A look inside Netroots Nation's panel process (62 comments)

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  •  I'm hoping... (6+ / 0-)

    to come.  What I'd like:

    1.  More panels on legal issues in particular that are pitched at a higher level rather than just Scalia/Thomas--EVIL!  Most of the actual panels I've been to at the two NNs I've attended have been very good in the panel section, but the Q&A section has been more of a mixed bag.
    2.  Less outrage, more policy.  A lot of NN panels are outrage-based, rather than addressing the follow up "and what do we do about this?"
    3.  Less backpatting.  There are tons of panels of "we're the netroots, we're great, we're changing the world!" and decidedly less self-reflection about how we are not as effective as we could be as advocates.
    4.  More ideological diversity.  Daily Kos and the Democratic party are both big tents, but the panels often seem to be very much in one corner of that tent.
    5.  PLEASE find a new Q&A mechanism rather than "whoever gets to the mike first"--be it submissions via e-mail during panel, note cards, or something.  This avoids the "filliquestion" (person who doesn't want to ask a question, but just talk about whatever their point of view on it is), the question with tenuous relationship to the panel's actual topic, or the "I'm smarter than you!" recitation of random factoids.  I know that's been adopted for plenary sessions (in part because some speakers may not want the random mike rush), but I think it's a better experience.
    6.  Make sure rooms are well-assigned and that no panel is either overpacked or in too big a room where possible.  (This was a real problem in Pittsburgh, where some panels were in the barn of a main hall.)

    •  Good comments (5+ / 0-)

      Re point 6: Pittsburgh was the last year we used the big plenary room for panels. There was more of a marquee stage in Vegas, but it wasn't cavernous. Generally we'll do our best but it's hard to determine what will be popular and what won't.

      We've had panels with stars on them that have been sparsely populated before and we've had panels on niche topics that have been packed out the door. So it's a guessing game at best and we try and refine the science as best we can each year.

    •  IIRC (5+ / 0-)

      The other issue with Pittsburgh was that the main hall was where C-SPAN was set up, so any panels we wanted on C-SPAN had to be there.  (Also, of course, that was such a schlep from the main drag.)

      On #5, questions need to be phrased in the form of a question. Period.  They do not require a personal narrative.

      •  The problem... (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Raven Brooks, texasmom, Spedwybabs

        with a question is how you police it.  Sometimes, you do need a little bit of narrative/background to set it up, and often, it's very hard for a panelist/moderator to get a word in edgewise without being rude.

        And the problem isn't just length--At the first NN/YK, there was a panel being moderated by Matt Bai of the NYT about media generally.  One question from the audience was "how does it feel to have blood on your hands because you work for the same publication as Judith Miller?"  That was brief, but not appropriate.

        •  on questions (4+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          texasmom, mp, Spedwybabs, Populista

          This is definitely a topics that could use some community feedback, maybe we'll solicit ideas in a future diary.

          Having people submit cards or something solves some problems. But then it removes some of the access people feel like they have by going to panels. Because some NN volunteer or staffer or even the moderator is putting a filter on the questions.

          I'm all for trying some new stuff on the Q&A front and increasing its prominence, but it's a delicate balance.

          This played out with DK4 here, but it plays out for even the smallest changes we make to anything each year.

          So any and all ideas for now would be great to hear.

          •  My advice is... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Raven Brooks, Julie Gulden

            ...never never never hand over the microphone.  Someone, the moderator, or someone at the audio controls working with the moderator, should always have the ability to take away or shut off a mic.

            Demonstrate control of the event and people will benefit and enjoy the event.

            Typically people only have to see such control is "in play" and they will think harder about forming appropriate questions.

            Are you a Proud Progressive running or thinking about running for office? Visit

            by mp on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 12:27:19 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  While it may remove some access (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Julie Gulden, mp

            having a Q and A section that is actually worth listening to far outweighs the negatives. If there was some way to have all the submissions in public that would be fine, or if Adam could police every panel. But really, as with most political meetings the Q and A sessions are dominated by a few people that don't provide a whole lot of value for the rest of the audience. Anything to make the questions shorter and more relevant would be fantastic.

    •  I disagree with not allowing (0+ / 0-)

      people to ask their own questions.


      Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is doing it to whom.

      by Chacounne on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 12:47:14 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm going to expand on that ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Raven Brooks, texasmom

        a question that may not be relevent to some people, may be VERY relevent to others. Having the audience submit notecards is the worst form of censorship, in my mind, although not technically because the government isn't doing it, because it puts the choice of questions into the hands of the moderator.

        Let me give you an example:
        On the third anniversary of my husband, Dan's, death, Colin Powell was going to be in town. I was determined to ask him a question. I dressed in a suit, and went to the site, looking for opportunities.

        When I got there, I saw the media table and realized I could cover the event for my college newspaper. So I approached the table and told them that I was covering the event for the paper and was given a press pass. Then I was ushered into the room where he would be holding a small press conference before the main speech.
        I was able quietly and with strength to ask him the following question: "General Powell, my name is Heather and I am a student at ..., I am also the widow of a US Vietnam vet. Dan suffered from his injuries for over thirty years, until his fatal heart attack three years ago today. I would like to ask you why you did not, and will you now tell the American people, the American government, and the world what you know to be true, that waterboarding is torture, that sleep deprivation is torture, that sensory deprivation is torture, and that human contact deprivation is torture ?"

        His answer went on for about ten minutes, like some one who has been caught doing something wrong who is trying to talk their way out of it. I made my point, which was very important, because he needed to be confronted.

        At the end of his main speech, questions which had been collected on note cards were read out and he answered them. The moderator got to choose which questions he asked of the ones submitted. Imagine my surprise (NOT!) when, inspite of the declaration in all the ads for the event that no question would be out of line", none of the questions asked were controversial, or tough. At the end of the question period, some Iraqi immigrants, realized their question about depleated uranium wasn't going to be asked, and one of them spoke up loudly and was ushered out of the room.

        A VERY important question went unasked, because it was politically incorrect in the setting, and because the moderator had the control to not read the question.

        Now, do I think NN is going to censor tough questions? No, I don't, but it an extremely bad precident to set, in my opinion.

                          Just my two cents,

        Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is doing it to whom.

        by Chacounne on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 01:10:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  a good point (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          texasmom, Scout Finch, Chacounne

          And while I don't think anyone at NN would be openly hostile to a question like that. There are degrees of difference.

          Let's say there's a panel with an elected leader or admin official. What if the person managing note cards doesn't want to criticize the admin or democrats in general? Now you're in the same situation even if that wasn't the intent of the event or panel.

          There's still a pretty wide spectrum of folks that attend and we don't want to inadvertently shut out points of view.

          •  ((((((((((((((((((((Raven))))))))))))))))))))))))) (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Raven Brooks, texasmom, mp, cacamp

            Thank you ! Exactly :)

                               With gratitude,

            Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is doing it to whom.

            by Chacounne on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 01:18:47 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

          •  There's usually... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            texasmom, mp, ramara

            a diplomatic and an undiplomatic way to ask a hard question.  Unfortunately, all too often, the folks who get to the mike the quickest are the folks who want to ask a hard question undiplomatically, which both demeans the seriousness of the conference and means you typically get a less interesting answer.  

            Example--let's say there's an administration official on the dais for questions--which question is going to get a better answer?

            "Why do you feel the need to engage in hippie punching and throwing progressives under the bus at every opportunity?"


            "Many progressives are disheartened by the lack of committment to pushing progressive policies.  What concrete steps is the administration taking to push such policies?"

            •  well true (3+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              texasmom, Chacounne, ramara

              But I'd say the first question is very netroots. I could see that even being asked by notable bloggers like Atrios.

            •  Excuse me ????!!!! (0+ / 0-)

              Yes, of course, we must remain at all times diplomatic. (Insert eyeroll)

              Do you realize that all we are likely to have gotten by way of an answer to the second question is a list of laws and policies, the same list we can get in many places ?

              The second question is, I believe, the one that would elicit a much more interesting response.

              Sometimes, in order for things to move forward people have to be a little undiplomatic. Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks weren't diplomatic about demanding their rights.

                                       Just my two cents,

              Torture is ALWAYS wrong, no matter who is doing it to whom.

              by Chacounne on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 02:12:02 PM PST

              [ Parent ]

          •  If that is your concern, maybe... (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Raven Brooks

            ...I should volunteer to filter questions.  Anyone who knows me wouldn't have that concern.

            Are you a Proud Progressive running or thinking about running for office? Visit

            by mp on Tue Feb 22, 2011 at 01:22:24 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

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