Future of the Conversations Network

As recently announced by Doug Kaye, the Conversations Network is embarking on a new phase. The existing channels, including ITConversations and Social Innovation Conversations, will continue. But rather than creating more such channels, the Conversations Network wants to help individuals and organizations capture and publish their own spoken-word audio, mainly in the form of events that are experienced only by attendees but that could be experienced by anyone, anywhere.

This new mission dovetails with PodCorps, a matchmaking service that connects event producers with volunteer stringers who can record those events. When it launched I wrote:

There’s a huge opportunity here to transform communication patterns in a fundamental way. Checking my local events calendar, for example, I see that the following event is scheduled for tonight at the local college:

Mon., Apr. 16
7 to 8:30pm
Pond Side 2 located on Bruder St – Keene State College

Building Smart – Highlighting Local Best Practices

Come and join us in discussing the challenges and successes of implementing innovative building materials, technologies, and design solutions into the built environment.

The information exchanged at that meeting, and at countless meetings like it, has historically been available only to those who attend. There are a million reasons why local folks who might want to attend nevertheless cannot: no babysitter, schedule conflict, etc. And of course remote folks have no opportunity to attend, even though the information exchanged might be highly relevant to them.

Assuming that more of these kinds of events become available, how will we find them? Doug writes:

We will do this using a social-networking model, which allows anyone to post links to recordings he or she finds, to build collections or playlists of their favorite recordings, to share those playlists with others, and to rate and comment on playlists or individual recordings posted by others.

In other words, Webjay for spoken-word audio. It’ll be interesting to see how this unfolds.

In my interview with Webjay’s creator, Lucas Gonze, we talked about some of the reasons why the curatorial model that Webjay promoted hasn’t yet succeeded. One of them, amplified in this comment by Greg Borenstein, is the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that pervades any distribution of — or even just linking to — MP3 files.

That kind of FUD shouldn’t be an issue for spoken-word audio that is explicitly free and legal. So I hope that we can evolve a culture of uninhibited collaborative curation. We’ll see.

I’ll also be curious to see what kinds of new channels and shows may arise from this effort. That isn’t the primary focus. Rather, the idea is to capture, share, and find recordings of events that have already been planned, organized, and held. The Conversations Network mainly seeks to enable the curation of those events. So someone might, for example, assemble the best recorded material in the alternative energy genre, from a variety of sources. I’d like to subscribe to that curator.

But there’s another kind of curation. It’s what I do when I select, from among the many people and ideas that I encounter, those I’ll feature on my two series of interviews: Interviews with Innovators and Perspectives. The world is full of interesting people and ideas, and we may also see the emergence of curators who select and highlight them in original ways. I’d like to subscribe to those curators too.

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2 thoughts on “Future of the Conversations Network

  1. Very well said, Jon. Your final point about curation is a cornerstone of The Conversations Network. One reason we publish events is that we’re leveraging the curatorial efforts of experts. Why should we produce a series on, for example, ‘mobile technology’ when the folks at O’Reilly Media are working hard to recruit the best speakers and experts on the topic? They’re the curators, and with a single acquisition effort we get access to perhaps 25 great sessions per event. The same is true for Interviews with Innovators. You do all the work. :-) In Phase 2, we’ll be crowdsourcing curation, giving us leveraged access to virtually everything and the ability to help people find and share the very best of spoken-word content on any topic, no matter how obscure.

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