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May 30, 2008

eState Wrap-Up

Dscf1052 This is my last post about the conference I went to yesterday, which I've been calling the eState Symposium, but which was actually called Fulfilling Vermont's Potential as an e-State: Building Community in a 'Connected Age'". Try saying that five times fast.

I just read Bill Simmon's wrap-up post, and I agree with pretty much everything he said, so I'll use his summary as a starting point.

But before I get into the particulars, I want to thank the Snelling Center for putting this together. It was, as Bill said, "the right idea." It was fun and inspiring to be surrounded by lots of very smart, motivated people gathering to discuss how we can use the web to build community here in Vermont. And the Snelling Center — with help from Champlain College and Everyday Democracy — pulled it off in just a few months, which was impressive.

And Champlain College was impressive. The meeting rooms, the dining hall, the students and faculty who participated — I thought they were first-rate. I was talking with a woman yesterday who marveled at how classy and high-tech Champlain had become. "I thought it was just a small school with a few old houses," she said. Nope, not anymore.

That said, I want to echo a few of Bill's points. And yes, I was on the organizing committee, so I guess I'll take my own concerns under advisement.

1) The conference definitely needs a shorter name and better branding.

2) We raised a lot of big, weighty questions, and we needed more time to digest and discuss them. I wish we'd had two days instead of one.

Dscf1053 3) We needed more time to hang out. Bill said the best conversation he had all day was at lunch. I think some of the best conversations I had were in my small group, when we had time to just talk and see where the discussion took us. It was great to have a chance to meet and talk with people outside of my group of usual suspects. I wish I had gotten more time to talk — and listen — without having to stop for structured brainstorming. In fact, I liked these folks so much, I took a picture of 'em.

It was odd that in a conference so focused on social capital, there weren't more opportunities to build it. I think we were all so focused on getting measurable results that we neglected to cultivate the informal social/networking connections and brainstorms that — in my mind — are the biggest benefit of events like these. 

I think next time around, I'd like to see a two-day event in some other part of Vermont — possibly at a ski resort? And maybe on a Friday-Saturday.

Thanks again to everyone who planned and organized this event. I'm definitely looking forward to the next one.

UPDATE: Here's another good wrap-up post, this one from Elaine Young.

Cathy, you may find it interesting that when Governor Douglas made his note-worthy State Of The State address on e-commerce, I saw an opportunity to establish a Vermont portal and set about securing a domain name. was already being squated upon and not being used. The cost to purchase it from the cyber squater? $40,000.

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