Last June I was fortunate to be able to attend NN12. It was my fist time at Netroots and I had never attended a convention that didn't involve comic books, D&D, music, at least one star trek cast member, and of course - James Marsters. I proudly wore my "First Timer" button pinned to my plaid shirt. I had chosen the shirt so that I would "blend with the crowd." Well as much as you can blend with long hair, and a solar panel on your backpack.
Since then I held off writing about my experiences there because I was still processing the information. The whirlwind of events that happened over those three days was incredible. For me it was an experience of a wide range of emotions - from feeling left out, to inclusive - from frustration to excitement - from pensive to eager and everything in between.
I was given the opportunity to go because another Kossack generously paid for my ticket and hotel room for three days. It was amazing! I got to open my room up room for Unaspencer, and Tim Pool from TimCast to share with me and pay it forward. Una and I became fast friends and made plans to attend several panels together, and visit Occupy Providence who had decided to camp outside the convention center.
One was Jesse LaGreca or MinistryofTruth and I tagged along after getting permission. I didn't intend to eat but I wanted to talk to some of the scholars because I was working on a radioshow for Pacifica called RadiOWS. The focus of our show was on healthcare and I wanted to pick their brains to get material for the show.
What struck me was the diversity of the group. People from all walks of life were selected and I interviewed four ladies painlessly in the quiet basement of the restaurant we were eating in. The diversity became even clearer to me when contrasted against the predominantly, white, affluent, older, and male crowd that I had seen milling about the center earlier in the morning.
Now we are not talking the Republican National Convention here. I saw many African American faces, a great deal of women, Hispanics (myself included) and a huge LGBT community. However most of the people able to attend were of middle class and privileged socioeconomic back round. Many were professionals from Labor groups (Union) like SEIU , NGOs, Non-profits, and were otherwise a part of the institutional left. There were students and a few folks from Occupy who were able to attend but youth was in absence generally. I sought out the DailyKos booth after snapping a few photos of the floor.
Now let me get to the Obliterate part below the fold!
I knew who he was then. I never got a chance to fully explain everything I thought that could be improved because time interrupted and we had buses to catch.
The scholarships needed to expanded. Not by 10, not by 20, but by 500 - 1000.
We need more students and activists.
Room after room after room had empty seats in them for the lectures. This is not because Netroots is under attended - It is because the people who are sent to NetRoots from the organizational left are more interested in networking then sitting for an hour and a half panel on movement building or educational policy. These are people that have already been keyed into progressive messaging and they have little interest in having that reinforced.
If this is made more accessible to students/activists then your speakers will not be addressing a room of 12 - 15 people. College students would jump a chance to attend something like this. It would be an opportunity to help build a progressive movement much like other progressively left countries do.
The Top/Down Structure of Panels Must Die.
However myself and others who I have talked to about this found the Top/Down structure of the conversations to be infuriating. While the panelists were for the most part very well spoken, and attentive - I found that in each lecture there was very little time allocated for questions. I was particularly irked by one of the Occupy panels that spent over an hour talking about how well Occupy & Labor were working well together and 20 minutes on addressing the heart of the issue of co-opting. I'm not picking on Jesse or anything cause he was on that panel - but it took a question from a union member at the end to steer the conversation to the right place.
Now not every panel needs be structured like this - but it will improve a great many of them. The following stems from the conversation I had with Una and a few other Kossacks.
1. Set up circle tables 6 - 8 chairs at each table.This would ensure a conversation and leave a lot more people satisfied about the experience. It is a huge change. It would be a meaningful change and ensure that people will attend again.
2. Have 1 - 2 panelists at each table.
3. Set a timer for 30 minutes.
4. The panelists can control the conversation.
5. At the end of the 30 minutes the participants would rotate.
The Selective Media needs to end.
At Occupy I saw many people working with the very latest in information gadgets. Livestreaming as a media tool for reporting became the new thing. Suddenly we were empowering citizen journalists and crashing the gate of what the established media reported. One of the things I found compelling about Livestreaming was that it established a personal aspect of the reporting. It brought you there. How many of you followed Tim Pool during the eviction?
Yet at Netroots (and I know this is due to contractual reasons with the convention center) we were operating in the Stoneage of the new platform.
What? How can that be? We were livestreaming most of the major events! Yes you were. However citizen journalists like myself were not able to livestream anything from the convention center or any of panel discussions. In fact when you connected to the wireless network provided by the convention center you had to agree not to livestream and that it could be a federal crime to do so. When I realized this i quickly deleted what I had shot on my cell phone on Ustream.
There is no reason why we should not be empowering people to use new technology to share and report at the convention. Tim Pool left after the second day because there was no point in him staying cause he could not broadcast.
Whatever is negotiated with the next convention center should allow broadcasts from it for Netroots nation. Why deny yourself an audience?
Those are my top three things that should change at Netroots. It may be to late for 2013 but Netroots14 would benefit from adopting these ideas. The movement would benefit, Dailykos would benefit, and progressives overall would benefits from a place to share ideas.
I was struck when I was at NN12 that I had to explain to a great number of people what exactly Dailykos was. I had felt disconnected from the community and I would like to thank Horace, Commonmass, Una, MoT, Lefty, Priceman, Cedwyn (great hug), and IAMNOTAKOCH sucker for making the experience a truly positive one.
I am excited about NN13 and want to go back. I would be ecstatic to be going if any of these changes were adopted.