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Netroots Nation Warms up in San Francisco with Packed New Media Summit

BY Sarah Granger | Saturday, April 18 2009

Yesterday, in the city by the bay, Netroots Nation hosted an information and idea-packed New Media Summit in part to gather Bay Area locals and also to convene progressive activists in preparation for the Netroots Nation conference coming in August.

The half day program, followed by a party, began with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, ended with candidate for CA Attorney General, Kamala Harris, and contained some fascinating panels on different aspects of new media in politics and activism. As always, Markos Moulitsas (Daily Kos) drew interest from the full house, as did Clara Jeffery (Mother Jones), Karl Frisch (Media Matters), Cheryl Contee (Jack & Jill Politics), Gina Cooper (Netroots Nation founder), and speakers from Digg, Facebook and Ning.

The feisty exchange between Moulitsas and Jeffery probably received the most attention for the day as they sparred on the topic of "The Evolution of Journalism." Where Jeffery took the tone that serious journalists need to be paid, Moulitsas essentially said that if people want to volunteer their time to provide quality investigative reporting, why not let them? That was only part of the debate and It's an ongoing problem yet to be solved in terms of where journalism is headed, but the panelists agreed that it still needs to shake out. (And later in another session, there was a question about where local readers will go if major newspapers die - to the blogs or somewhere else?)

Following that plenary, I sat in on "The Wisdom of Crowds" led by Cooper, and was impressed by her detailed presentation on where crowdsourcing began, what examples we have to date of successes done by organizations and within government, and where we need to go next. Simultaneously, sessions occurred on socializing video and podcasting. After the break, Jim Walsh of Wired for Change explained how their system works for campaigns while ZeroDivide, San Francisco Magazine and Salesforce.com discussed "Social Media for Social Good" and Chris Kelly spoke about Facebook fan pages.

For the final parallel sessions, I was on the "Creating Community Online" with Moulitsas, Contee, and Jason Rosenthal of Ning. We discussed our various experiences with online communities and the discussion turned to blogging, growing blogs, and challenges with blogs as evolving communities. Moulitsas made it clear that he's taking a gamble putting Daily Kos on a new custom platform to be released toward the end of the year, but he's hoping it will pay off.

While we told our stories, a "Rapid Messaging" session took place featuring Twitter, Digg, Flickr, and SMS. Reading the #nms tweets after the fact, that one looked like it had some great information, and the other final session was led by Justin Kan, live stream founder of Justin.tv.

Overall, the event definitely whetted my appetite for more events like these in the Bay Area. Luckily those discussions already began a couple of months ago, so expect to hear more about that soon. Although some of the speakers at the New Media Summit came in from the East Coast, most were local to the Bay Area, leveraging the vast wealth of knowledge we have on the West Coast.

In my unofficial role as West Coast correspondent for PdF, next week I'll write about the Nonprofit Technology Conference being held in San Francisco, and in a few weeks, I'll be covering the Tech Policy Summit. The Tech Policy Summit takes a different angle looking at policy more from the technology companies' perspectives, but also in relation to the new administration. It will be especially interesting to hear what those speakers have to say now that we have both a national CIO and CTO.

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