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Friday, August 22, 2008

Clearly a free lunch dinner isn't enough for some people

There really is no pleasing some people. 

From the instant the J-Blogger's Convention was announced (heck, even when it was still in the rumor stage), people were already criticizing it for what they thought it was... as well as for what they thought it wasn't.

Apparently, having attendance (in person or on-line) open to anyone who cared to register wasn't egalitarian enough for some.  It seems these people wanted engraved invitations... and threw not-so-private pity parties and hissy fits when 'only' an informal email invite was sent.

Then there were those who complained (on their blogs and in the press) that the panels were overwhelmingly composed of right wing religious bloggers and that the conference's entire Raison d'être was to advance that demographic's sinister agenda.

Yet, as free as many were with their criticism, throughout the months of hard work that preceded the convention, none of these nay-sayers stepped up to offer their help or advice to the small handful of dedicated individuals who were tasked with pulling this thing off.

Nobody - not one person -  from among the critics made the slightest effort to bring sponsors on-board who might have influenced the conference's flavor or texture.  Think about that.  Stephen Leavett of WebAds, and a few other people, busted their humps to bring paying sponsors like Office Depot and Sun Microsystems to the table so the convention would have some gravitas... not to mention to ensure that Nefesh B'Nefesh wouldn't be perceived as holding the dinner check for ransom to their 'agenda'.

And while we're on the subject, what the hell is so objectionable about NBN's agenda?  The last I heard, bringing Jews to Israel was supposed to be a good thing.  Consistently bringing large numbers of well educated, fiscally-established Jews to Israel who can contribute to the economy in this generation instead of having to wait until the next, is an incredible windfall for the Jewish State.    Having more than 95% of such immediately productive and industrious Jewish immigrants actually stay in Israel is unprecedented!

One pundit accused NBN of screening potential immigrants so that mostly right wing religious Jews would make aliyah... and of encouraging new olim to eschew 'consensus communities' within Israel 'proper' in favor of settlements outside the 'green line'.  What utter nonsense!

Another blogger accused NBN of being "deceitful" in the way they selected the panelisst for the convention.  Aside from not asking him to speak, he felt that NBN had conspired to stack the panels with right wing Messianists.  Mind you, this accusation was leveled after the members of the two panels - containing a fairly eclectic group of bloggers - had already been announced and published.  Not only that, but several bloggers (including Dov Bear and Jack) who would have added even more diversity to the forum, had already declined NBN's invitation to fly to Israel for personal reasons.

I came home from the Convention full of both positive energy and constructive criticism. 

I thoroughly enjoyed myself, having met dozens of people I only knew from their writing.  I got to participate in both panels... and a former (and perhaps future) Israeli Prime Minister walked in during my remarks, shook my hand and sat down to listen to what I had to say.  Where I come from, that's a memorable evening!

But I also came away from the convention with lots of clear ideas about where things had not been well managed, and in some cases had gone quite wrong.

For instance, as much as securing the participation of a former Prime Minister was undeniably a feather in the cap of the convention organizers, they obviously didn't prepare him for the visit.  Mr. Natanyahu should have been prepped so that he could have crafted his remarks to be more inclusive of the incredibly diverse physical and virtual audiences he was addressing, instead of holding forth as though he was speaking to a Likud rally in Dimona.  He has both kinds of speeches in his bag... it was just a matter of a little advance prep on the part of Nefesh B'Nefesh.

The same can be said about the length and scope of Bibi's remarks.  He should have been told that he had 10-15 to talk about his vision of blogging's role in the Jewish and Israeli media landscape.  Full stop.  Again, he wasn't properly prepared by the organizers, and as a result, ended up using up time that most people would have rather seen allotted to the panel discussions and Q & A periods.

As I read the various post-convention blog wrap-ups, I became sadder and sadder... and most of my positive energy evaporated. 

One guy, who I'd seen smiling as he enjoyed an evening of free food, drink and entertainment among people he would not otherwise have ever had the opportunity to meet en masse, chose to title his morning-after post "The Failed 2008 Jewish Bloggers Conference".  He wrongly assumed that NBN's "...aim was to bring together 20 to 30 bloggers in order to discuss how blogging can be used to help with Israeli hasbara ("public relations")." , and went on to make a bunch of random criticisms of the event, less than 50% of which were even close to being fair or accurate.

Others were closer to the mark in their criticisms, but ignored the big picture; specifically that no matter how off schedule, disorganized or somewhat off-balance the conference may have been, someone (actually, a whole bunch of someones), had expended a lot of time and effort to make it happen... and it hadn't cost a single blogger a red cent! 

Nefesh B'Nefesh came into existence because a few people were troubled by the trends they were seeing in western Aliyah and decided to do something about it.  North American immigrants were arriving in dribs and drabs, ill-prepared by their well-meaning Israeli shlichim for the extent of the culture shock... and an alarming percentage of these brave, patriotic idealists were going back where they'd come from with their dreams unfulfilled and shattered.

The hallmark of NBN's efforts has been their willingness to try new and untested methods, and to take calculated risks.  They found independent funding from non-traditional sources among American Christian groups who were Israel's natural, yet largely untapped, allies.  When the source of that money offended the sensibilities of certain influential parties, NBN went in another direction and re-framed the philanthropy of American Jewry for Israel from a paternalistic sympathy/guilt check for victims, to a venture capital pitch for building modern Israel one immigrant at a time.

Throughout its existence Nefesh B'Nefesh has been unafraid to try new things and explore new opportunities... anything, so long as it lined up with their goal of bringing American Jews - the modern incarnation of the wealthy, comfortable Babylonian Jews - back to Israel.  Where Ezra and Nechemia had been largely unsuccessful, NBN has far more tools at their disposal to try to dislodge North Americans from their comfortable suburban Diaspora.  And for better or worse, they are also unafraid to employ new tools... even when they don't fully understand them.

Several bloggers made the observation that the NBN staff seemed puzzled by the bloggers, and that they didn't seem to understand our medium.  This is probably true to some extent.  But NBN didn't try to strong-arm anyone, and to my knowledge never asked any of the panelists, moderators or participants in their flights to adhere to any 'party line'.  They simply said "Here is an opportunity to see what we do, from the inside.  Write what you feel."

Even the topics for the panels were left intentionally vague. 

The first panel discussion was designed to appeal to small and medium sized bloggers who wanted to grow their 'brand', build traffic and make a name for themselves.  I have no doubt that had Bibi's shpeil been kept to a reasonable length, the Q & A session for that panel would have brought out some excellent tips, ideas and strategies from both the panelists and audience members.  As it was, we only got to deliver our opening remarks and hear a token (3, if I remember correctly) number of questions.

The Second panel was called 'Building Israel one post at a time'.  Some took this to mean 'promoting' Israel (i.e. doing hasbara for Israel... or perhaps for NBN).  I took it very differently and crafted my talk accordingly. 

I understood it to mean that the sum of our blog posts - meaning not just mine, but also those of people who are very different kinds of Jews/Israelis - combine to create a large mosaic-like picture of how Israel appears to the outside world.  With that latter understanding, I honestly thought that the point of the panel was to dispel the idea that a single sort of blogging about Israel was right or wrong.  Rather, that the J-blogoshere, with its incredible diversity, was successfully presenting a rich, nuanced and above all, honest panoramic 'film' of Israel and Israelis.   In the past (by way of comparison), even Israel's most strident and well-informed supporters had only glimpsed caricatures of noble victim-hood and clichéd postcards from 'the holy land'.

It's now well past 4 AM... nearly a day and a half after the Convention... and I'm still more sad than angry over the uncharitable things people have had to say about the event.

Maybe Nefesh B'Nefesh was naive to try to embrace our 'hobby' or 'community' (whichever view you hold) before fully understanding what it is we do.  But that naiveté was never accompanied by heavy-handedness or demands for any kind of alliance or conformity. 

Someone pointed out to them that ten thousand conversations a day were taking place on blogs and comment boards related to Israel and Judaism, and they thought to themselves, "I wonder if these people realize the potential they have at their fingertips".

They invited us inside their world without preconditions.  The gave us an oleh-eye view of the most emotional and potentially traumatic part of their work, and asked us to honestly report what we saw.

They threw a party for us - without even fully understanding who we are.  They didn't place any conditions or restrictions on the attendees or press who showed up, and placed no demands on the panelists or presenters who spoke. 

They laid out a nice spread of food and drink for the people who showed up in person, and paid G-d knows what for the bandwidth to be able to beam the event out live over the web to over a thousand virtual attendees.  They arranged for an articulate member of the foreign ministry to address the crowd and even managed to have a former leader of our country show up. 

Bibi wasn't just Likud's Prime Minister when he was in office.  He was Israel's Prime Minister... just as Olmert, for better or for worse, is also Israel's leader.  Heck, if they'd gotten Yossi Beilin to show up, that too would have been a coup.  No, I don't agree with much of what he has to say, but he is a very bright man who I will likely never meet... and I would have welcomed the opportunity to sit in the same room with him and ask him what he thinks bloggers should be doing.

But for all the effort and planning that went into this event, it wasn't enough. 

Clearly things could have been done differently... almost certainly better.  But what about us?  As guests, didn't we have some responsibility to our hosts?

We all showed up, ate their food, drank their drinks, burned up their bandwidth, used their nicely appointed office to network and meet friends; old and new.  And when we'd had our fill and our fun, we went home, turned on our computers and proceeded to trash the only host that - purely because of who we are and what we do - has ever bothered to invite us out as a group.

They didn't expect any of us to 'put out' on the first date.  Heck, in dating terms, Nefesh B'Nefesh was the perfect gentleman... not even asking for a chaste peck on the cheek for all they'd done.  All they asked was that we show up and help them, and each-other, to better understand this quirky (qwerty) medium.

Clearly, that rarest of commodities; a free lunch dinner, just isn't enough for some people.

 

Posted by David Bogner on August 22, 2008 | Permalink

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I enjoyed watching you and others speak via the web. I also think that the next Blogger Con (if there is another one) will probably be better and more prepared, visa-vis "Bibi overtime".

Also, I didn't hear that much about concrete blogging tips.

But ya know what? It is pretty damn cool that a former PM came and hung out with us J-Bloggers.

It shows that we are indeed a force to reckoned with and deserve some kudos for spending so much time online instead of...well, y'all can figure that one out :-P.

For sure, we need to have DovBear there next time or at least a dude in a bear costume.

Good Stuff.

Posted by: Jacob da Jew | Aug 22, 2008 6:25:22 AM

Dave not to ignore your post here - but I am waiting to hear the rest of the story you left off weeks ago about Aliyah and to hear all those great stories of people on your flight TO Israel (of course, including more Chiam ones.)

Nu ... ?

Posted by: jaime | Aug 22, 2008 6:35:15 AM

well said. there was never any secret that NBN has an aliyah/israel agenda. why wouldn't they!? frankly, no matter who i agree or disagree with, i just enjoyed the idea that we *are* a force out here on the web. this is just a nice start to help us find a way to harness the power.

or not.

and that's okay too.

Posted by: phyllis | Aug 22, 2008 6:44:47 AM

Wow, you seemed so laid back on the webcast... :-)

Yes, I would liked to have seen a little more variety in the panels as well, but on the whole it was a great experience. Most of the other bloggers I met in the convention chat room also had a good time. I think the people you're upset at are the more vocal minority. And as in the Haaretz article about the conference, the press tends to focus on the negative. That's par for the course.

And don't forget, it was a convention for bloggers. Not exactly a group of yes-men. They're going to be noisy and complain a lot. And yes, some may be unduly appreciative. But that's the blogging world!

Posted by: DYS | Aug 22, 2008 6:46:00 AM

I was delighted to watch via the internet nearly the entire conference. What a treat to sit here in Washington State and see everyone that I've been reading about for such a long time. The waffle iron prize was a nice touch. David, I thought you were articulate, to the point and a fine panelist. I completely agree with you about Nefesh b'Nefesh. What a HUGE task it was to put this together. Everything begins somewhere and they began here. Each conference (should they choose to be brave enough to do another one) will get better and better. It's just the way of world. We get more experience and can fine tune things the more we do them. I, for one, thought it was a great idea and I'm VERY thankful they did provide the bandwidth and the streaming video.

Posted by: Maya | Aug 22, 2008 6:56:08 AM

David,

I spent much of the day yesterday reading post-convention posts and some of them were really snarky. But I think those people are snarky and cynical about everything. I also think they believe they generate more traffic that way (one of them even trashed your advice to "be nice", saying that doesn't work for him--he gets more hits by not being nice). Some of these bloggers are "important" and "high traffic". Good for them. Among us little bloggers they don't have much influence--the people I hang out with in the blogosphere rarely, if ever mention them. And from what I saw at the convention, most of the blogosphere is made up the smaller bloggers.

And I'm also not sure why people hate Nefesh B'Nefesh so much. People have said they are deceitful to olim, making them promises they can't keep. NBN didn't contact me and say, "make aliyah". We contacted them, and they supported us. They actually warned us it would be difficult....I should do my own post about this. And others who have made Aliya before NBN seem to be totally jealous that they had to wait in lots of lines to get their aliya paperwork done.

It is what it is. People are people. Most of my chevra enjoyed the convention for what it was, whether they were there or watching it on the web. There were things that could be improved upon, and hopefully there'll be another convention next year to see the improvements.

And maybe I'll get to fly business class on the Aliyah flight :-)

Posted by: Baila | Aug 22, 2008 7:04:13 AM

I agree with this post. Also, as a side point, I loved all that you said when I was watching the livefeed (I actually watched today because I couldn't really watch during the actual time of the convention). And I really liked learning what Treppenwitz means. I experience that kind of thing all the time. :)

But, yeah. People need to just relax a little and look at the bigger picture. Not everything is about them specifically and in an event sponsored by NBN, duh it's going to follow the NBN agenda to some extent. If people want something completely different, they should have their own convention and find their own sponsor.

Posted by: Erachet | Aug 22, 2008 9:18:50 AM

Well, I had the good time that can ONLY be had by somebody who knows that she is nobody. I got to meet people who have been my heroes. I got to hang out with "smaller bloggers," as Baila calls us. (Really, Baila, there wasn't a one under 4"10.) I have new friends in Israel! I learned new things, and was served a delightful free dinner that included REAL salad and REAL beef. (Who can complain???) I got to be in the same room with a Prime Minister, who treated us as if he had nothing more important to do than to spend time with us. To cut it short, Cinderella did not have a better time at her evening out than I did, nor feel any more lucky to be there. Sorry for gushing; but sometimes even that is appropriate.

Posted by: rutimizrachi | Aug 22, 2008 9:29:05 AM

I am unabashedly Zionist and have been since waaaaay before NBN. I think NBN's way of encouraging and aiding aliya is much better than the way it was before. The results certainly speak for themselves. The idea of getting the bloggers together was brilliant. It really created an opportunity for personalizing the cyber experience.
I have always felt that just by being here and doing whatever you do is a constructive contribution to what NBN calls 'the dream'. Writing about it adds to that.
Too bad calling 'the dream' Zionism has gone out of fashion.
PS I really enjoy reading your blog.

Posted by: Risa | Aug 22, 2008 9:31:16 AM

David, great post as usual. I agree with other commenters that there are some people who need to kvetch, and think that doing so will generate more traffic to their blog.

On the other hand, I don't think you should be too sensitive on NBN's behalf. This convention wasn't a personal dinner party - it was a wonderful and creative way to generate good publicity for NBN, and we bloggers were the beneficiaries. They had that in spades - I kept tripping over press people trying to go over to bloggers and introduce myself. I don't think the people who worked hard to make all of the arrangements will be hurt by a few people snarking. After all, they work with Jews all of the time! They are used to it!

Posted by: westbankmama | Aug 22, 2008 9:55:21 AM

Those Who Can, Do… Those Who Can’t, Criticize

Posted by: Jack | Aug 22, 2008 10:38:08 AM

Well said, David.

When it's all said and done, Steve and NBN organized a conference for us, free of charge. And while certainly not perfect, there were some major positives to come from it, including the chance to take our online shmoozing to the real world.

To extend your dating analogy, I will be hoping for a second date. And I am willing to wait a whole year for it.

And David, you are more articulate at 4 AM than I am at any time of the day.

Posted by: Aussie Dave | Aug 22, 2008 10:48:19 AM

By the way, David, there's a follow-up piece from Ha'aretz. And it's actually a fair and accurate report, free of smear and gratuitous references to Efrat (although Texas gets mentioned).

So I have called off Operation Screech ;)

Posted by: Aussie Dave | Aug 22, 2008 11:16:25 AM

Yeah, what's up with mentioning Texas, Aussie Dave? THEY HAVE AN AGENDA!!!

Seriously though, all the pre-conference "controversy" or whatever aside, it was just a pleasure to meet other people who share our collective passion for writing and Israel. Everyone was in a good mood and I had a blast. Yes, it's true-this fairly secular Tel Avivi was thrilled to talk to (here comes another label) "right-wing Orthodox" bloggers. Can that get reported please? At the end of the day, despite any imperfections, many of us walked out at the end in a good mood and excited about continuing to write. And happy, excited bloggers living in Israel probably correlates to continued good press and messages coming out of Israel. Ain't nothing wrong with that.

David, it was great to meet you and Zahava even for a few minutes. Benji

Posted by: What War Zone??? | Aug 22, 2008 11:24:56 AM

I asked the organizers, if they already had Netanyahu speaking, why didn't they balance him off with someone on the right, like Moshe Feiglin.

Anyways, they told me that Netanyahu was only asked to speak for 15 minutes to keep it on target and about blogging.

I guess that proves the old adage, "You can lead a horse to water, you can't pull him away from the trough."

Posted by: JoeSettler | Aug 22, 2008 11:31:29 AM

I'm not afraid to own up the contentious headline in question.

I think you should take a deep breath, because as strong a word as "failure" is, it's not the entire sum total of my article.

I'm sorry that it's sort of personal since you were a panelist, but the panel discussions didn't really amount to much of anything, and they were a great bulk of the time. The ONLY thing they accomplished was in attracting a large audience and showing a diversity of opinions on topics that were unrelated to the subjects at hand.

Is that a failure? I thought so. But from another perspective, it wasn't, if your aim was only to attract a large audience and show a diversity of opinions of many unrelated topics.

And failure is not a bad thing. As I added, it is better to try something and fail than not to try it at all. We learn from the failure, and are better prepared to make a better conference next year. Furthermore, the other aims of the conference: enabling bloggers to network, was successful, enjoyable, and fun.

NfN had no idea what it was doing, but tried anyway. It spent a lot of time setting up infrastructure and many things ran smoothly, but the panels didn't, the organization wasn't, and they didn't really understand what they were dealing with.

This is like the first time we sit down in my group to play a new board game. We see some rules, but we have no idea what strategic paths to take or why we should or shouldn't do things. The first game is often a disaster. But by the end of it, we understand how things interact and are ready to play a real game the next game.

In the same way, this first conference was a mess. But it was an important mess, if we see what happened and use the experience to make a better conference next time.

Providing a free dinner and laying out expenses: I'm appreciative, but that isn't the point of a conference, nor a review of a conference. If NbN had simply offered a free BBQ for bloggers to meet, we all would have had a good time and I would have considered the event successful.

But that's not what the conference was about. It was aimed at harnessing blogger's to promote the NbN agenda - which I think is a great agenda, and said so - but that didn't really work since it's not a blogger agenda. And it was promote discussion about blog growth, but that also didn't really work. NbN said that these were their agendas explicitly; just listen to the spokesman in the video and read their written schedule.

My comments were harsh and critical, but I felt they were constructively so. And they acknowledged good as well as bad.

I admit that I failed to acknowledge that they gave the bloggers free rein to write and say what they wanted. That is an important point which I could have mentioned.

Yehuda

Posted by: Yehuda Berlinger | Aug 22, 2008 12:08:36 PM

And by the way, I'm happy to help organize and contribute to the next conference, and I'm ready to take all the criticism that will come before and after the next one.

Yehuda

Posted by: Yehuda Berlinger | Aug 22, 2008 12:11:43 PM

I had a great time too (I might even go back to regular blogging again, it was so much fun to reconnect) BUT I agree with Yehuda 100% when he says what he says

the conference...was aimed at harnessing blogger's to promote the NbN agenda - which I think is a great agenda, and said so - but that didn't really work since it's not a blogger agenda. And it was promote discussion about blog growth, but that also didn't really work. NbN said that these were their agendas explicitly; just listen to the spokesman in the video and read their written schedule.

I made a point in my post-conference post that I'm more than happy to attend another such gathering, but only if it is labelled more honestly as an NBN-plugging conference... plus, I know that almost everyone there had huge issues with Bibi being invited there (as I would have if Beilin or any other politician closer to my "corner" had been invited, n.b.) - at the end of the day, we wanted to hear more from those of you on the panel! But of course it was a fun evening overall. Social and food, nu?

My good friend who works for NBN said to me, "Nu, 'Parrot', you gonna write nice things about us now?"... so I wrote nice, appreciative things about the lovely food, and didn't hold back on what else I thought. I honestly don't think we bloggers owe them *anything* beyond that, and a nice buffet and carefully crafted evening designed to provide them with huge publicity doesn't grant them immunity from my critique of their spin, IMHO.

Posted by: PP | Aug 22, 2008 12:26:09 PM

I'm still trying to figure out what all the hubub is about. Like any such convention, it had it's ups and downs. As you rightly point out, this was the first time and there were bound to be mistakes made. I imagine that the most vociferous and acrimonious critics came with expectations that were not met.
The convention was a success because it brought together in one room for a few hours the diversity that is the Jewish people. And it was pretty civilized too!

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Aug 22, 2008 12:31:59 PM

BTW I read some of the informational material distributed by NBN. And I quote:
"David made Aliyah in 2003 with his two children..."
No mention of Zehava. What is she, chopped liver?

Posted by: QuietusLeo | Aug 22, 2008 12:46:10 PM

David, as a former military person, you are probably aware of the "AAR" (After Action Report, although maybe the Navy uses a different term). Hopefully the conference organizers will scour the various blogs, as well as contact folks directly to get their feedback about how things went, and where things could have been better. I find if you are going to repeat an event, the AAR becomes a great source of information so you don't keep making the same mistake over and over again.

Are videos of the conference available yet? Hopefully on Sunday I'll be able to watch some of them. I've read various people's feedback, and some of the "live blogging" logs, but of course there is nothing like seeing it for myself, even if after the fact.

And like Jamie, I'd like to hear more about your NBN/Aliyah experience, and I hope to hear more about Danny as well.

Posted by: JDMDad | Aug 22, 2008 12:59:41 PM

Thank you for the great post. I was doing as Baila did, and reading up on different reactions to the conference. Yehuda's exoneration notwithstanding, I did feel the lack of appreciation and general negativity that you described here. His points about the conference still stand, but as is apparent from almost all of the commenters here: JacobDaJew, Phyllis, DYS, Maya, Baila, Erachet, RutiMizrachi, Risa, Jack, Aussie Dave, Benji, Quietus Leo, and even PP, we all had a great time meeting each other and spendingtime with each other. I think the energy in the room was terrific- upbeat, optimisitc, and excited. I think this conference answered that little urge within all of us that we feel when we sit down at our computers to hear what we have to say to each other today. There is that wondering within us as we blog, and ask ourselves, "Will the person I am agreeing with or disagreeing with, siding with or vehemently arguing against, outright contradicting but still respecting, will they respond positively to me? Will they give me the same credence and legitimacy as a person that I desire?" And then to come to the conference and to see hundreds of other bloggers who were just as excited to be there as you were, I think, validated the attachment that we all have to our baby, our J-bloggosphere, because let's face it- if it wouldn't matter to us, we wouldn't be here.

I personally was disturbed by Rabbi Student's statement that we J-bloggers are not a community, merely a collection of hobbyists who are pulled together by some vague and broad interest. I disagree. We are, as someone vociferously pointed out, Jews. As such, we share an unbreakable bond whether we like it or not. Some of us are mroe aware and mindful of it than others. But I think we all agree that the fact that we CARE enough to devote time, energy, thought, and heart to writing our opinions, responding to comments, attacking a point when we think it wrong, shows that we have more in common than we think. So we disagree? That's how we learn. I will say without hesitiation that blogging on the J-bloggosphere has taught me more about acceptance, tolerance, appreciation, sensitivity, and respect than has any venture that I've undertaken so far. And I do not say this in reference to myself. I say this in reference to the outstanding behavior I have seen from nearly all of us bloggers- the courteousness, appreciation, civility, and level of care shown by the bloggers to each other has made me respect and admire the J-bloggosphre community in a very large and significant way. I commented to my grandmother when I came home from the conference, that immediately when I walked into the room, I was able to tell that I shared a lot in common with these people. Why? All of bloggers, people who actually CARE anough about the world to try to save it :), who spend hours and hours writing posts, tweaking their website, gathering contacts, visiting other people's blogs, and engaging in comment wars, are poeple who are PASSIONATE about who they are, who are PASSIONATE about life and who CARE about the way the world is. This is why I was so looking foward to the conference, this is why I feel we all enjoyed being together so much, and this is why I feel we all continue to come back here, day after day, year after year, responding to every little nuance in a person's comment in debates which often can seem nothing more than hair-splitting and semantics. And this is why I feel Nefesh b'Nefesh did a great thing in bringing us all together, and why I personally, along with many of us, I have no doubt, am looking foward to doing this again in the very near future.

Posted by: Mindy | Aug 22, 2008 1:38:17 PM

I would have loved to have viewed the conference through the web, but was one of the many I suspect who got there too late to register. Please advise if, somehow, there is a way of viewing after the fact. Is it something you could "Youtube"? Thanks.

Reading the above comments, one element comes through strongly; your appreciation of each other as people and bloggers. It is helpful to do a post mortem on an event which was a "first", but only in so much as it helps the next time round. Please don't be hard on NbN or others who may have let the side down, for whatever reason. Hey, y'all are human, and we are ALL on a learning curve.

I can't wait to be at the next one, remotely.

Posted by: Noa | Aug 22, 2008 2:01:06 PM

The best tip on productivity came from you, David, and another highlight of the evening was meeting Zahava! I loved it, and I have to agree with Quietusleo: what's the hubbub all about? Okay, it's not the perfect conference, but then in my career I've never attended the Perfect Conference. And this was a "first" rather than a well-oiled long-established event. It was great to meet the Legends and many of the 'smaller bloggers' (okay, I'm 5'0") and match faces with all the blogs I've been reading before and after my aliyah. If there was an agenda, it wasn't a hidden agenda, and I think we were all free to adopt it, modify it or ignore it as we choose. Quit complaining and work to make it better next year. I personally loved the fact that we had sponsors and I didn't have to pay for dinner at this cash-short period of my life, thank-you-very-much. My biggest surprise? That there's SOOO many of us blogging!

Posted by: aliyah06 | Aug 22, 2008 2:24:01 PM

I enjoyed the experience of being part of the convention, even if only by viewing it online. Yet I think that there is some truth to some of the criticisms about the organization and presentations. But this was the first time and I hope it will have been a learning experience for the organizers as well. I'm sure a second convention will make some adjustments. Just one suggestion. Those of us not physically in the room responded to each other via chat. It would have been nice if some of our questions could have been picked up and asked of the "real" attendees. It would have been nice if the panel members had also come in to chat with us. Jbloggers are not used to being silent voices and perhaps some thought can be given as to how to include the online attendees at the next convention,

Posted by: ProfK | Aug 22, 2008 3:01:32 PM

i think the reason so many people have so much negativity towards nbn is because they didn't -- a. think of it themselves or b. didn't benefit from it (came on aliya pre-nbn).

you know, when we came here via nbn's very first flight, we were called "aliya whores" because of the grant offered. that still stings, some 6 years later. needless to say, but i will say it anyway, when the applications for that first flight were made available the majority of people who applied already had opened their tikei aliya and were well on the way to coming on their own. there simply could not have been enough time to do all the paperwork for both the sochnut and nbn and get on that plane as olim. the grant and the effort put out by nbn for us was a bonus as far as most of us on that flight were concerned.

and as far as bibi -- well, he seems to be the only one in the government who has consistently, from the very beginning, supported the efforts of nbn and the olim in a very visible way. the same thing could not be said of the man who was prime minister when historic flight #1 arrived, who was supposed to be there to greet us and speak, but didn't come in the end because he had "something else to take care of" that day. nobody back then thought nbn would be anything more than a "one hit wonder" including the prime minister from what i understood. bibi showed up instead and not only spoke to us but cried with us when they played hatikva at the end of our welcome ceremony.

with every passing year and flight nbn improves, learning from mistakes, how to correct them, and then be even better. they are willing to try new things and be innovative and not sit back and say, "we can't" or "but that's how it's always been done." that is what makes an organization succeed.

Posted by: nikki | Aug 22, 2008 3:16:39 PM

Next year, G-d willing, I'll come, and we'll stay up all night eating popcorn in an encounter group and discuss it. (anyone remember those?) I'm sure it was great, just networking and meeting new people.

Posted by: therapydoc | Aug 22, 2008 4:56:23 PM

1. I must be reading the "wrong" blogs -- most of what I read was very postitive!

2. I have lots of feelings about the convention, mostly positive -- I was glad I went and it was so cool to meet and hear other bloggers.

3. I totally appreciate what WebAds & NBN did to put this convention together. WebAds, especially Steve Leavitt, worked night and day putting together the panels and speakers, finding sponsors, and making sure that the content was geared to bloggers. NBN is great (I wish they were around when I made Aliyah!), they know how to get out the media and the big-wigs. WebAds knows how to get out the bloggers.

4. My negative feelings are mostly about the hour in the middle that was hijacked by Netanyahu. It's true, he speaks well, but I was more interested in hearing other bloggers! I might not have minded if I did not have to leave early, but I did. Think of it this way: I am more interested in hearing what you have to say for ten minutes, than what Bibi has to say for an hour. I'm definitely going to post on the Bibi thing -- I realize I finally have a rant that I'm willing to post!

For the record, I feel like JoeSettler: "why didn't they balance [Netanyahu] off with someone on the right, like Moshe Feiglin."


Posted by: Rivka with a capital A | Aug 22, 2008 5:31:11 PM

I'm a bit speechless.


Posted by: a. | Aug 22, 2008 5:55:14 PM

So basically you are complaining about all the complainers.
Most people who complain do so about everything and nothing is ever good enough.
For me, if it's funny or if it rhymes it has got to be justified.

Posted by: Child Ish Behavior | Aug 22, 2008 5:56:34 PM

Just chiming in to say that I really enjoyed being able to watch the webcast.

Posted by: SaraK | Aug 22, 2008 6:21:19 PM

You can watch the video here.

Posted by: Jack | Aug 22, 2008 6:30:04 PM

Sheesh.

To go and meet all these people from Treppenwitz and Zahava to Aussie Dave to TAFKAPP (and Baila, and WBM, and Chardal and Gil and Jewlicious and a million others) -- that for me was well worth attending.

Anyone who can't appreciate a free venue such as the convention is simply a social misfit with no hakarat hatov.

I had a great time...and you did too. Don't let the negative posts sap your energy from a otherwise fun evening.

Shabbat Shalom -

Jameel (a.k.a Wafflicious? Need to plan a new blog name since my anonymity is shot?)


Posted by: Jameel | Aug 22, 2008 6:30:11 PM

It just goes to show that you simply can't make 100% of the people 100% happy 100% of the time.

No matter how well planned out this could have been - there would have been complainers. It's life.

I enjoyed watching it and chatting in the chat room with everyone. (I loved it when you asked Zahava to call the kids!)

Being a first of it's kind conference, it was bound to have it's bumps in the road - but we all try to learn from those bumps in the roads and perhaps those things will only help to make future conferences even better. For a first time, I say kol hakavod.

Posted by: orieyenta | Aug 22, 2008 7:52:39 PM

What I saw (via webcast) looked like a simcha.

Ever been to a beautiful, elaborate, and open kiddush, where a couple of "regulars" in back complain about the lack of creamed herring?

Or hear from non-attendees grumble about the content of the divrei torah, heard second hand?

Have you ever been at a wedding, where guests complain about a typo on their place-card?

You were great, the conference was great, and I'm eagerly anticipating next year's event.

Shabbat Shalom

Posted by: Juggling Frogs | Aug 22, 2008 10:23:30 PM

Did you say FREE FOOD? Damn, I might have to take up blogging for real.
Dave, after your years working in the Music Biz, are you surprised by the response of the kvetchers?

Posted by: jordan Hirsch | Aug 22, 2008 11:04:06 PM

I agree with you that to call the conference a failure is too strong. I enjoyed it, I picked up some interesting tips, and heard from some interesting people. And even though I'm no Likudnik, if I had been in your position vis-a-vis Bibi Netanyahu, I would have been honored, just as you said you would have been had it been Yossi Beilin.

Posted by: Lena | Aug 22, 2008 11:20:12 PM

Hmmmmm.....

Okay, I am going to be the one to disagree. While I did very much enjoy meeting all of my online frends, and while I would be happy to attend another blog conference, I stand behind the critiques/complaints/bitching & whining points I listed on my blog (http://myshrapnel.blogspot.com/2008/08/very-quick-and-woefully-unedited-post.html -no idea at all how to turn this into an actual hyperlink.)

A free meal is nice, but it is not quite enough to cover selling my blog or lending lip service to an agenda I do not necessarily agree with.

Put another way, I would be happy to have paid for such an event, eaten less fancy food, but had more time to listen to and network with bloggers and a bit less time listening to people tell me what I *should* be doing with my blog. (Steve--if you are reading this, you can hold me to it if you set up another bloggy conference that 1) costs and 2) has as an agenda giving us bloggers the chance to meet other bloggers and become better bloggers.

Posted by: Gila | Aug 22, 2008 11:38:11 PM

What a sweet guy you are, so glad I got to see you and hear you speak, have a great Shabbat.

Posted by: Joan | Aug 23, 2008 2:16:51 AM

For what its worth, I'm proud of you, my friend.

David makes a speech
David and Former Israeli Prime minister

:-)

Posted by: Rami | Aug 23, 2008 4:11:24 PM

Is this a constructive idea that can ber promoted:

the next level is a website
highlghting 10/20/50 of the very good bloggers, by which, I mean, is that together they form a tapestry/mosaic of comments and information on one big topic and in addition, an ongoing (rolling/scrolling) list of
selected blog sites for backup. I am not sure - and in my esteemed opinion, the time has come for some major Jewish organization to fund a
serious study of Jewish blogs: how many people, that is, different people go on, patterns of linking or going one to another, picking up
on stories, patterns of aggregation, and what not - but if a medium-sized niche can be found, it would attract more attention and notice. And there could be serveral of these, making it eaasier for people to hop around the blogosphere as the other sites have hunderds of listing and people get lost.

Posted by: Yisrael Medad | Aug 23, 2008 10:35:38 PM

I didn't and cannot be bothered to see everyone's post, so I hope everyone will see what I write here:

1. With all due respect (eem kol hakavod sounds better to my 30-years-in-Israel ears) to people who wanted to hear about getting better traffic, Bibi was giving us an opportunity to squeeze a headline out of him. Politicos like him go to all sorts of events that only interest the people in attendence (like graduating ceremonies of some high school) then take questions, and if the right one is asked, it gets a scoop answer, and gets replayed over and over on Galatz. May i remind you all that the Desengagement was launched / announced at such an event?

2. And while I'm a feiglin supporter myself, to a]expect Mr F to be given equal time is unrealistic. As much as F and his supporters would like, he's faar from Bibi's league. and b] Beilin would be a more fitting contra, especially with what Bibi was talking about (has ANYONE mentioned his excellent history lesson?) but that wasn't the point.

3. I'm glad I was there, that I got a free t-shirt, and that this convention is the new bar that has been raised.

4. What about myaliyahidea? Anyone comment on that ?

5. other things I cant think of at 2 am

Gidon

Posted by: Gidon Ariel | Aug 24, 2008 1:57:05 AM

I don't know where the negativity came from or the criticism. NBN put on an amazing show. Was it perfecct? To be honest, I didn't consider what they should have done, only what they did. I took it at face value and appreciated every minute of the opportunity to gather with other J-Bloggers and to really get more acquainted with a world that I have dabbled in for some time without realizing it was such a big world.

I started my blog for exactly the reasons you stated in your opening remarks. In my case, it was because I didn't want to drive my soon-to-be soldier son crazy and so I began a blog describing what it was like to be a soldier's mother. The other side of the issue was that I wanted to show the world more of the boy/man behind the soldier image they may see.

I went to the conference to meet others and to learn - both goals were accomplished. Was Bibi too political - I don't know and I don't really care. I enjoyed the opportunity to hear him, laughed and enjoyed much of his comments (no one can question that he's an excellent orator) and felt the panels were enlightening.

I've put on large conferences - they aren't easy and coordination can be a nightmare. NBN handled it all fantastically well - from check-in, through the free food, to the simultaneous webcast and the intros and panels. Yes, I would have liked to see it end on time - but only only only because I'd promised my soldier son that I'd bring him pizza and I couldn't stand being late and so I left on time...even though the panels continued and I missed people I wanted to hear.

I'm willing to bet - no matter how much anyone complains - that they'll be back next year for the next conference because its overall success was so so much greater than any minor things that might not have been perfect - this time around.

Posted by: A Soldier's Mother | Aug 24, 2008 2:04:29 PM

From those like me who were stuck on a plane and had to miss it, thanks to David, Jameel, Muse, RivkA, and everyone else for all your reporting on the conference.

We all know the rotten truth: Some people will ALWAYS complain, or let their suspicions outweigh their good faith. We can do better... we agree to disagree in our blogs, and -- dare I say -- as a nation. (Heck, our very code of law is nothing but a running argument, over history). So let's just make all of this disagreement into the constructive and nation-building process it was meant to be. After all, isn't that what the conference was aiming at?

ALN

Posted by: A Living Nadneyda | Aug 24, 2008 2:31:45 PM

Netanyahu (spell check) is one of a handful of people I have heard speak; this was back just after his first tour as PM. He had a hand in crafting my current political stance(s) and I loved -- for better or worse -- his unapologetic attitude about his beliefs. 'Grats to the J-Bloggers for securing his attendance at the event, although -- I can see it pretty easily -- with a fellow like that (or me, for another example) you'd have to give him a time limit and a topic to start with. After that, I bet he could hit on all cylinders pretty easily, and clock in at a reasonable time.

Glad that a good time was had by some! As for the others? Welll... meh.

Posted by: Wry Mouth | Aug 25, 2008 4:13:55 AM

Although obviously everything wasn't perfect this was a very important first step. I just hope all the negative feedback doesn't discourage NBN from planning a second bloggers convention!

Posted by: Hadassah | Aug 25, 2008 8:06:19 AM

Gila,

I definitely plan to do some more events and conventions. See you there.

Thank you everyone who participated and had something to say (positive or negative).

Posted by: Steve | Aug 25, 2008 5:59:24 PM

A bunch of bloggers got together and much of the resulting feedback was negative...

Why would you be surprised? Haven't you seen what is the typical post on most blogs?

-micha

Posted by: micha | Aug 26, 2008 5:26:45 PM

I have benefited from NBN's services and think the organization is a lifesaver for those interested in aliyah & new immigrants.

The conference allowed the bloggers to take the online world offline and for that - Kudos. It was truly a pleasure to meet the bloggers in person. If that was the goal for the conference it was not a failure.

I was not belittling time and effort spent on the conference in my post. My issues are with the content of the conference and for that reason alone I spent the time and energy posting my suggestions to better the event. i would be more than happy to work with NBN to better the next conference.


Posted by: ahuvah | Aug 26, 2008 7:53:31 PM

Gideon,

Though I saw you in the backround in the video. Glad to see that I was right and that having not seen you for 18 or 20 years, I still recognized you.

Posted by: dys | Aug 26, 2008 10:00:12 PM

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