I'm hoping to make it into Manhattan next week for the Tools of Change conference. The idea behind attending any conference (unless you have a corporate job and see it as a free vacation) is to learn something new. O'Reilly has always done a tremendous job spotting new technologies and trends well before they hit the mainstream (or miss the mark), and if I do attend, I'll try to post about something I've learned each day rather than pointing out what I don't agree with.
The sticking point for me at the professional conferences I've attended over the years is the speaker selection. In general terms, I find the speakers who are hands-on managers or the principals in their publishing businesses well worth the listen. Unfortunately, the many of the speakers at conferences tend to be consultants and opinion makers (read "social bloggers") who are strongly vested in maintaining their point of view. Consultants often force fit the world to match their credentials, and social bloggers generally calcify their positions to satisfy their readers and maintain their position in the blogosphere vis-a-vis other social bloggers.
I've never posted a blog roll, I don't subscribe to any blogs, and there are only two blogs that I check on anything like a regular basis, Tools of Change and Matt Cutts. That make me an antisocial blogger, and since the blogosphere is known to reflect life with 99.94% accuracy, I'll may as well admit that I'm no social butterfly. But I still think it's important to go out and listen to other people's views when I can, and I usually learn something despite myself.
It's not that I'm proud of making mistakes, like the one I corrected in the video above, but I've gotten better at figuring out when I've made a mistake without having to go to the wall over it. The great thing about a conference isn't that you may hear one brilliant person that will change your point of view, that's for children of all ages seeking a guru, it's that you can listen to and meet dozens of professionals in your field who all have a little piece of the puzzle to contribute. After you're back home, you can put all those pieces of the puzzle together and pretend that you came up with this great new idea working in a vacuum. Without having yet attended, I can declare that the true tools of change at the Tools of Change conference will be the people, not the technology.
And in a few cases, I may even be tempted to say about of a presenter, "What a tool."