Tuesday, March 09, 2010

A little controversy is a good thing

I gave a presentation on Lansing Literary Magazines at Ignite Lansing 3.0 on Friday night. I thought the presentation went well, and while I didn't bowl over the crowd (there were both more dynamic presenters and more socially engaging topics than mine), I kept up with the slides, presented some good information (no small job when trying to talk about 50+ years in 5 minutes), and even made the argument for people to get out and start their own lit mags a bit better than I expected I would. And there was only one moment of mostly-unintentional blue humor. [I'll link to video when it gets posted.]

Ignite got just a little bit of coverage in the local press, most notably a rather dismissive blog post from local columnist John Schneider. Schenider's post prompted some strong and thoughtful reactions, and he put up a semi/non-retraction this morning:
Some things I’ve learned in the past 24 hours:
- The presentations at “Ignite Lansing” are largely beside the point. The point of the gathering is the gathering.
- It’s not fair to judge the speakers because there are no standards beyond a willingness to stand up in front of a crowd and talk about something. Anything.
- The presentations aren't necessarily meant to introduce innovative thinking, provide a vision of the future, or move Lansing forward, although there’s no rule against those things.
- The fact that hundreds of people assembled to pay attention — to some extent — to those claiming their five minutes on the stage makes Lansing a better place.
- The Twitterati are good at mobilizing.

Beyond the fact that I'm a bit surprised that Schneider seems so surprised by the strength of the response—after all, participants in an event that posted a live Twitter feed of #ignitelansing tweets are pretty likely to read a blog post and have no problem commenting on it—I'm actually happy that the discussion is taking place, and I hope it gets people talking about the presentations themselves and not just that Schneider "missed the point," or that the presentations themselves are not the point of the event. I posted the following comment to Schneider's second blog post:

"As one of the speakers from Ignite, I'm not really comfortable if this discussion is leading towards the conclusion that "it's not fair to judge the speakers." (I don't think your summation of the feedback is off, John, I just think the feedback itself is a bit defensive after an initial seeming dismissal.)

"It is important to note that we (the presenters) were amateurs, but to say that it's not fair to judge us is to say that it's fine not to pay attention (which seemed to be one of the implications of the event.)

"The gathering was important, yes, and none of us were Steve Jobs announcing a new iPhone, but there needs to be a balance between the social aspect and the ideas and information that (in theory) the presenters are trying to share.

"It should always be a mixed bag, and it's okay if some are a bit dry, or inscrutable, or simply fall flat on their faces. But the good ones should start to be part of the bigger discussion.

"The last presentation of the night was a young architect taking about how to build a city that people will want to live in, instead of just a series of boxes or halfhearted, trendy derivatives. While I can make no argument for my own presentation other than that people voted for it, and so someone must have been interested, Francis Wilmore's presentation is one that deserved some coverage."


Jesse said...

Your presentation was excellent, one that I found educational and well-delivered. It's a shame John didn't stay a bit longer for some of the more engaging ones, but I can see Ignite not exactly being his scene.

Wilmore was fantastic. It's a shame he didn't win anything, as I think he had one of the more interesting topics. I think half the people had left by the time he spoke, unfortunately.

I truly enjoyed myself and am sorry I didn't get to meet you, but here's hoping there are more and better Ignites in the future!

Jesse Woodruff

Gavin said...

Thanks, Jesse. I'm still proud of my presentation, but it seems to have been one of the quieter ones, so the kind words are much appreciated.

Maybe we'll have to meet up at Ignite 4.0, if I can get a ticket. :-)

Daniel J. Hogan said...

Thanks for the RT about my friend's essay today and for mentioning my own presentation at Ignite :)

I enjoyed yours as well. I'm a big proponent of independent publishing.