I'll Be Home for Cisco Live

Only local press and analysts attending conference onsite in San Francisco

Queue up Johnny Mathis -- I'll Be Home for Cisco Live.

The event, to be held at the Moscone Center in San Francisco in less than two weeks, is only open to local SF press and analysts. I can only presume that Cisco is doing this for economic reasons. A company spokesperson did not immediately reply when I e-mailed inquiring about the reason for the exclusivity, but we all know the state of our economy and that Cisco's trying to shave its own $1 billion in expenses...

And I'm not complaining. The weather is very nice this time of year here in Buffalo. How come we never make the national news when the weather is good? It's one less time consuming and stressful cross-country plane ride for me and more time with my kids. More quality time with friends after work too.

And I get to attend Cisco Live virtually! I get to be a guinea pig in the virtual world that Cisco envisions for how we live, learn, work and play. Only, this is without the play part...

Learning might take a step back too.

Jayson Blair might disagree, but I think readers know the difference between covering an event on-site or from afar. When you're at the scene, you can take people aside and get their viewpoints. You can meet with them after the day's sessions and share thoughts, opinions or interpretations casually, in a relaxed manner, off the cuff and (if agreed to) off the record. You can read body language and facial expressions. You can get valuable face time. You can add color to your coverage by noting the ambience or environment in which the event takes place -- like the customer appreciation event with KISS.

You can deviate from the script.

This is all lost when you're not at the scene but "attending" virtually. You go from Being There to Not Being There, because there is no "there" there (apologies to Gertrude Stein). There's no casual sideline or background talk to gain perspective; there's no soaking up the atmosphere or ambience to set the stage for your coverage; there's no deviating from the script; there's little to no opportunity for a reporter to add value or differentiate coverage when they are not actually at the event.

Cisco's banking big on virtualization changing business models and driving demand for its gear. It's hard to argue against the benefits of virtualization -- reduced travel, reduced cost, better time management, more time for family and friends, etc. But it doesn't work in all instances.

In journalism, virtualization doesn't work -- not if you also have the opportunity and resources to attend physically. It washes out color. It denies peripheral vision. It limits perspective. It deprives the reader a sense of being there because the writer was never there.

Virtual may be real-time; but it's in black-and-white.

My first hope for covering this event virtually is that Cisco has worked out all of the kinks in order for me to "attend." There were some snags in "attending" the Cisco Partner Summit virtually two weeks ago, which meant missed dialogue and potentially lost coverage opportunity. Granted, I was allowed to attend this event physically, but it fell too close to Interop to loosen up additional travel dollars.

Second, let's hope extending virtual-only invitations to the press is not the Cisco trend going forward. I can appreciate the fact that the economy is in a recession and Cisco would rather not pay for me to have breakfast, lunch and dinner on their dime. Or take up a reduced rate hotel room when it would be more beneficial to house a customer in that room. But last time I checked, my company paid for travel, meals and rooming at Interop...

And in this job, there's nothing like actually being there.

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