Snow Fooling, Blog Walk Chicago was Amazing!

In our last installment, I was about to drive to Chicago with Matt Homann for our combined law firm retreat (more on that in a later post), do some prep work for LexThink! Chicago (more on that later, but invitations are out and the Catalyst Ranch space we have could not be more perfect for what we want to do), and attend Blog Walk Chicago.
We got into Chicago a short time before the biggest snowstorm in three years hit. We met up with the multi-talented and multi-blogual Fred Faulkner for a drink after work and then walked over to Bandera’s for a fabulous dinner.
We woke to a snowy Chicago morning and went to visit the Catalyst Ranch before cabbing it up to Blog Walk. The Catalyst Ranch dazzled me, and I put a hold on a room there for the March 30 ABA TECHSHOW 2005 Blogger Dinner. Now, I just have to convince the rest of the ABA TECHSHOW 2005 Board to confirm the reservation. If we can do the Blogger Dinner at the Catalyst Ranch, it will become even more of a must-be-there event than it already is. (By the way, there will be opportunities to sponsor this event, provide giveaways to attendees, et al., as part of the ABA TECHSHOW 2005 sponsor/exhibitor options. You can contact me for more details.)
We were a bit concerned about being able to get up to Northwestern University for the Blog Walk, but the roads were reasonably clear, at least until we hit Evanston. Then it got to be more interesting. We rewarded our cabbie’s performance, both driving and trying to persuade us how difficult it was, with a big tip and waded through the snow to Blog Walk.
We were late and walked into the middle of the event, but found, to our delight, that Blog Walk agenda was organized using the “Open Space” method we want to use at LexThink! Chicago. We got to see it in action and we were very pleased with the method.
You can find other reactions to Blog Walk from other attendees (pictures here and Lilia’s post points to other commentary and resources) and on the Wiki, but here are a few of my observations.
1. I feel like the world’s biggest blogging fan. It was a thrill to meet the other bloggers, some of whom I’ve read for several years, and get to say, “I subscribe to your feed and I want to say thank you for all that you’ve done.” I resisted the urge, but there was a part of me that wanted to go around and collect autographs. (I’d still like to get this picture of Lilia, Jack, Steve and me autographed).
2. What a rush it is to be a room with a group of people with that level of talent, intellectual firepower AND generosity. You felt welcome. The discussions never lagged, the ideas flew and I noticed that people were always sharing suggestions, tools and ways other bloggers could do things better and easier. Matt said something about there easily being 500+ great ideas that floated around the room. I agree with that. I have a lot of notes. I was greatly energized.
3. What about the walk part of Blog Walk? There was an amazing snowstorm going on, but there was a memorable walk that was part of my Blog Walk experience. Matt, telcom guru, Martin “Telepocalypse” Geddes and I walked five blocks to the train to get back downtown. I’d guess the temperature was in the low teens (that’s Fahrenheit), with a steady wind driving the snow and gusts that were in the 20 to 30 miles per hour range (you can do your own wind chill calculations – I’m afraid to find out). We just missed a train and then had to huddle in a small shelter for about 30 minutes for another train. After a long ride, with many delays, Matt, Martin and I warmed up with another great Chicago dinner and a long conversation.
4. At the end of the day, Jack announced that the shares of the costs came to $20 each. What an incredible bargain! Matt and I were talking on the way home that any organization who paid $250,000 to get this group of people for a day or two to discuss their problems and issues, strategies and future directions, would be getting the bargain of the century. All of us there (see the list at the end of this post) got an incredible level of insight and help for the cost of splitting the food (great pizza) we shared.
5. I enjoyed the fact that I was able to have significant conversations (some short, some long) with everyone there. If you are fans of these bloggers, I can tell you that they are all cooler and even more brilliant in person than even what you see on their blogs.
6. At the end of the day, Mark Bernstein (Tinderbox!!!) said something to the effect that blogs should be changing the world. What I noticed in every conversation was that no matter what area you might start with in discussing the impact of blogging, you shortly found yourself asking fundamental questions about what we are now doing. For example, I was talking with the amazing Steve Dembo (a teacher/blogger to whom I give my greatest compliment – he made me wish that he was one of my daughter’s teachers) about how blogs might be used in elementary schools. Before long we (and others) were talking about what skills should be taught, how we should them, what education means, and whether the current system works or will work for our children. I summed up my thoughts with the three questions that were running through my mind – Are blogs revolutionary? Is blogging revolutionary? Or, are blogs simply another tool? I’ve recast those questions as I’ve thought more about them. Where I’m at now is: Are bloggers revolutionary / world-changing? If so, what should we be doing together? If not, why not?
An interesting synchronicity: for me, the most important, thought-provoking post that I read at the end of 2004 – one that I knew would have a big influence on me in 2005 – was called “Giving Up Traditional Blogging?” The author was Stuart Henshall. On Saturday, I got the chance to talk at length with Stuart. What value has blogging brought to me? Amazing value, in many unexpected ways.
Read these blogs and subscribe to their feeds. Read the people they read. Think about where you want to go next and what happens as blogging becomes less of a solitary effort. May you one day be as amazed as I am, perhaps as early as LexThink! Chicago.