The Daily Kos party at Maggie Mae’s on Sixth Street – Photo by The Awful Truth
Meeting Mary Mapes over margaritas at the HuffPo/GQ Party. Watching Jon Tasini dance in a conga line behind a washboard player at a zydeco concert in the Daily Kos party. Marveling at Darcy Burner’s proposals on how the netroots can become even more influential without even raising money. Getting a chuckle out of Jean Carnahan. Sharing slices of pizza with Blue Mass Group’s Bob at a chance meeting (and getting a free book!)
Four days in Austin heat and Texas air conditioning with over 2,000 registered in attendance right smack dab in downtown Austin. It’s difficult to cram four days of nonstop activity into a post, especially activities as varied as hanging out in bars and earnestly jotting down notes in a panel. I’ll have some more specific posts in the days and weeks to come, because there were some intriguing ideas flowing out of the convention that I would like to keep some focus on.
But for now, I’ll just leave you with some more general impressions below the fold.
Convention attendees bask in the glow of temporary satisfaction after preparing care packages for US troops in Afghanistan and Iraq – Photo by Lindsay Beyerstein
This year was a thousand times better organized than last year’s YearlyKos in Chicago. Part of it was the location. Chicago’s convention center is a sprawling beast set away from any signs of nightlife or sightseeing. It sometimes took 15 to 20 minutes to walk from panel to panel, leaving no time for bathroom breaks or chatter between panels. And it took a cab or bus ride to get to a decent restaurant, let alone a bar or club.
Austin’s convention center is decent-sized, but all the panels were adjacent rooms and areas, making the trip from panel to panel a matter of seconds not minutes. The convention center itself is only a short walk from Sixth Street and the Warehouse District, with a range of restaurants, bars, and clubs of every variety and price range. And there were multiple choices of hotels within walkable distance from the convention center.
The selection of panels was also more streamlined and focused. Last year, I went as someone aspiring to learn as much as I could about state blogging, and saw panel after panel with similar information. This year, I went as a stateblogger and as someone consulting for a candidate, and I learned more in a couple of panels about each topic than I did in an entire day last year. Some of the small group sessions I attended were a state blogger caucus and panels on advertising, marketing and monetizing blogs, sunshine laws, blogs and House campaigns, and a special invite-only workshop with Larry Lessig on his new Change Congress project. Of course, I also covered Robin Carnahan’s appearance on a panel I might not otherwise have attended.
The keynote speakers, Larry Lessig and Van Jones in particular, were excellent. I’ll have more to say on them in future posts. Pelosi’s appearance was only decent – she’s not particular good at consistently answering questions to the point in a compelling way. If you hadn’t heard, Nancy Pelosi had agreed to speak at the convention not as a keynote speech with a short Q & A tacked on, but as a full fledged question-and-answer session bothwith questions solicited and voted up by the community in advance, and questions generated on the spot.
Here I want to disassociate myself with the comments of my colleague; there was no effort to quash dissent or prevent Pelosi from being heckled or jeered for a poor response. Gina Cooper announced at the beginning that any organized disruption would bring the Q & A to a halt and those responsible would be kicked out of the convention. That isn’t fascist thuggery; that’s making sure that a disruption doesn’t get in the way of Nancy Pelosi having to answer questions about FISA, the war, and holding the Bush administration accountable.
The Pelosi Q & A also yielded this memorable moment:
I’ll be posting more videos as they become available.