In the comment section of our discussion this week on Social Media not being ‘social’, Robin Dickinson and I discussed the future of conferences, namely that the future could be a future without them altogether. Robin and I have been discussing this on Skype since July and his point is, ‘why in the 21st century are we still using 1950s conferencing models?’

Many of the ideas of Social Media, like engagement, conversation, friendship, follower, social and discussion, are based around relationship. That’s the whole point: it’s social and it’s relationship.

But I notice a few things that don’t line up that I’d like your feedback on:

  1. Despite all this talk of community, why do we still idolise content over everything else? Talk about hypocritical!
  2. Conferences are good becuase they allow people to make and strengthen relationship, but the conferences aren’t actually made for this. Should they be? Or should we be building relationships ourselves anyway?
  3. The idea of conversation, when considering Dunbar’s number of 150 friends is the max you can handle, means we have to enter into mass relationship. Can we have an ‘online gathering’ whilst still retaining connections? What if people get lost? Or is that their fault?
  4. How do we operate in a world where we have micro relationships and mass relationships? Do mass relationships just send us back to pushing content again?
  5. Some people say face to face is best, others say should evolved. How do you scale face to face into mass relationship?

Did you see what I said there? Micro relationships and mass relationships. It brings me back to this diagram from my article on Preaching to the Converted:


I’m unsure about where we go from here, and what the implications of mass relationship are. I’m hoping we can talk it through.

P.S. If you are wanting to get past content and into real connections with real people to really collaborate, you might want to read this.

Archived Comments

  • Robin Dickinson

    More specifically…

    ‘why in the 21st century are we still using 1950s conferencing models – to broadcast/disseminate information?’

    For example, I watched Chris Brogan’s presentation at LikeMinds from the comfort of my own office – 1000’s of kilometres away. In fact, I watched it several times, and then discussed it with my colleagues (online). Using that presentation as the example, what did I miss out on by not being there live, compared with the many benefits to me watching it remotely?

    Nice post, Scott.

    Robin :)

  • / Scott Gould

    I know we’re rediscussing what has already been discussed between us – but I’m trying to get more people to share their angles.

    What do you miss out on by now being there? The ability to communicate with other people more emotionally. The ability to enjoy the context. The ability to communicate with lots more people.

    But there are benefits to virtual participation. Less distraction. Less wafle. Less emotion – which can be good. It also means the message gets to you guys over there in Australia, India, America. Even those up the road who have to work that day.

    I’m keen to discuss this when we have our first Do-talk-do session… I’ve registered the domain name… :-)

  • Robin Dickinson

    Excellent. That’s great news.

    Robin :)

  • Josh Chandler

    Here’s the reasons I don’t agree with you:

    1) Virtually attending an event actually disengages you from truly participating in the conversations, each attendee gets to initiate a dialogue with others beyond a 140 character message.

    2) If people care about others and find their views informative why not show that by actively giving them your actual time rather then virtual.

    I just think your assumptions on virtual attendance being just as good are actually quite flawed.

    Would still love to discuss and hear further from you and Robin

    – Josh

  • / Scott Gould

    lol Josh – I’d be more tactful in your discussion rather than being so hostile if you want to build relationships and collaborate with people yourself!

    Robin is an exceptional thought leader in this area and we talk regularly. Many of our discussions translated into what you saw at Like Minds, and Robin has shared much of his life over the last 6 months with me.

    If you researched Robin’s blog or read any of his plentiful comments on this site, you’d see what he is saying is in the context of a 6 month conversation we’ve been having.



  • Robin Dickinson

    As stated earlier, I challenge the information broadcasting/dissemination aspects of such events as highly inefficient given the technology now available.

    ‘why in the 21st century are we still using 1950s conferencing models – to broadcast/disseminate information?’

    It’s an old way of generating revenue. A safe habit. It works and I guess that’s why it’s so popular.

    Time is time – virtual *is* actual. You reading this now is taking your valuable time. The fact that we are thousands of miles away is no longer relevant.

    I’ve ‘truly participated’ in many conversations with Scott and other thought leaders – none of whom I’ve met “live”. Is this ‘connection revolution’ really going to wait until we are all in a room before it gathers momentum? Why wait? Surely we can do better than that.

    This is not, I repeat not a call for humans to stop interacting at live events. It’s a call for some higher thinking – some more innovative solutions and better leveraging of “Like Minds” given the extraordinary technology now available.

    History has proven time and time again that the real iconoclasts – the Renaissance women and men – the pioneers of their day – could never been contained by the conventional way of doing things.

    Thanks guys for having the guts to even discuss this.

    Respect and best thinking to you, Robin :)

  • / Scott Gould

    I love that Robin – “virtual time *is* actual time”

    And like you say – this is a call for “higher thinking”

    When I consider the quality vs quantity debate – I think an offline event delivers quantity that is very hard to scale online.

    But online greats quality free from many distractions, and can become very deep. When I’m speaking to you online, I don’t have others asking for me. I don’t have a wandering eye (if I close my browser that is), and I save time by being there at my desk.

  • Kristian Carter

    Just a quick point on Dunbar’s number – my understanding of the situation was that he said that there *was* a finite number, and that other people have posited the number as being around 150.

    What of course that means is that the number is open to challenge, without rejecting Dunbar himself in any way. I’d argue that the amount of relationships we can meaningfully have is now greater because of the way we can access information about people more readily, to aid recall.

    Is a number of 150 appropriate in an age with CRM systems? ;)

  • / Scott Gould

    I actually find it really hard to has a ‘meaningful’ relationship, that I am actively participating in, with more than 50 or so.

    I have of course hundreds who I have a good relationship with, but it is not regular contact