So I’m here at etech, and everyone in the audience has their laptop open (self included), and they’re tapping away (all these keyboards sound like waves of rain across a forest floor). But that’s pretty normal for most tech conferences these days. As one would expect, the alpha blogging O’Reilly community is pushing the envelope: as Joi sits up on stage discussing emerging democracy in Asia and Africa he is dwarfed by a live display, 10 feet wide by 6 feet tall. The massive screen is populated with IRC dialogue from members of the audience, Justin, Xeni, Howard, etc…all commenting on what Joi is saying on stage (as well as figuring out in real time where to go for dinner). Really something of a trip, for an old school conference dude like me. I remember doing something like this with IM at a conference in 1998 with Michael Schrage handling live input from the audience. It was a miserable failure, as I recall. This is…well, it points to some interesting things. And it’s quite fascinating and disconcerting at the same time as an audience member. Side note: two women here are in fact not online, they are instead … knitting. Somehow, it fits.