I went to NN13 in San Jose because I live relatively close by, and because somehow I got caught up in some NN13 fever in a "New Day" diary some time a few months back. It was my first, and I'm glad I went. I thought I'd say a few things from the perspective of someone who has never gone before, so perhaps some of you may think about attending next year.
On the sociability scale of one to ten, with ten being the highest, I'm probably about a three. I'm pretty good at responding when people start conversations, but I'm terrible at starting them myself. How, I wondered, was I going to manage with all these activists?
The first smart thing I did was tell my son that his Luddite mother was ready to advance to the world of text messaging. Oh sure, I had an antiquated cell phone that I would turn on when I had to call someone when I wasn't home (when's the last time you saw a phone booth?). But that was it.
So a week before I left for the convention, I started to use an iPhone 4. What a change, from using a dumb phone to a smart phone. One of the first things I did was get the app for NN13. Don't laugh, but I was proud I even figured out how to download it. It listed all the sessions, and was a real help.
Go below the magical orange embroidery to see what happened next.
I arrived on Wednesday afternoon, registered and got my nametag and started out at the Cheers & Jeers/New Day pre-convention dinner. This is where everyone tries to see who you are by reading the nametag and then there are often delayed hugs when they realize that they "know" you. I was glad I listed "Lorikeet" as my "business" when I registered, so it appeared on my tag. Just as Navajo said, they actually did do separate checks, and that was no mean feat.
I did some volunteering at the Netroots Nation booth, handing out "swag bags" and pre-ordered T-shirts, and also at the Netroots for the Troops booth, putting together the boxes we later filled for our "care packages." There were so many sessions to choose from. The main thing I can say about the sessions is no matter if it was one I had chosen and was eager to attend, one I grabbed at the last minute because they didn't need me to volunteer, or one that I didn't really feel like attending, but was the only thing available at the time, they were uniformly informative and interesting. Most of them were panels with presentations by each member, discussion, and questions from the audience.
Some of my highlights included:
"The Year of the Woman: Moving the Needle Forward for Feminism," included a discussion of the "yes buts" (Yes, I believe in xxx but I'm not a feminist). The question was asked whether there was a group organizing over women's issues to be able to do mass mobilizations, and that's where I found out about Ultraviolet, "Equality at a Higher Frequency."
One session that I attended unexpectedly turned out to be one of the most interesting. It was a report from the Laborers International Union about their training programs for the large solar projects in San Bernadino County. Through their agreements, they have been able to provide well-trained workers who earn a livable wage with benefits. They showed some interviews of workers, and showed how having a job like that transformed their lives. Part of the interesting discussion in the audience occurred when a representative of an environmental organization asked why the Laborers were supporting an "all of the above" approach to energy, not just renewables. The Laborers responded that they were interested in jobs. But then the environmental representative was asked why, when pushing for solar energy, for example, the environmental organizations never insisted on solar energy with job training or solar energy with jobs at a livable wage. Will this lead to anything? Who knows, but I was glad to see the conversation started.
The session on "Lessons from the Least Horrible Super PACs of 2012" was also very interesting. The panel included someone from Stephen Colbert's "Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow" PAC, which was used to educate us about super PACs using satire; someone from the Credo PAC, which was an "upsidedown" PAC, using their money to pay for boots on the ground instead of TV spots; and someone from Friends of Democracy, whose super PAC is interested in getting rid of super PACs by opposing candidates who stand in the way of reform.
The session on "How We Used the Internet to Help Win the Presidential Election" discussed how Twitter, Tumblr, Memes, etc. were used, and gave some "inside information" on the decision making that went on.
The session on "Never Too Early: Q&A on the 2014 Elections and Lessons from 2012 featured the editors of Daily Kos Elections, who took audience questions about various races coming up, and were as informative as they always are.
Of course there were a lot of other sessions including keynotes, and some of them will be archived on the Netroots Nation site.
One other thing that I enjoyed was the two women who ran into each other in the convention restroom, discovered they were in similar areas, and traded contact information. It was the first time I ever saw networking in the ladies room. Yay!
As for suggestions for the future, Citisven and I were talking on the train back to San Francisco, and we remarked on the lack of recycling opportunities at the hotel. Granted, we come from San Francisco, where we have all been trained to recycle everything, including paper plates, plastic forks, water bottles, soda cans, and so on. I don't know what possibilities might exist for better recycling opportunities at these hotels, but I hope in the future the question will be raised.