Sep 25 2010
I know it’s odd coming from me, but I have to take a few minutes to defend the PCI Council’s decision to ban social media from the PCI Community Meeting this week and at every community meeting. Yes, a large part of the real reason for the ban is so that they can control the message and so that they aren’t getting a lot of criticism floating out from the sessions, but the reasons they state for the ban are valid as well; the Community Meeting is an opportunity for merchants, service providers and everyone else to comment and speak freely and the threat of being tweeted or blogged about would place a chilling effect on the conversation at the event and the questions asked in the meetings.
Let’s be honest, my letting loose with a few tweets during a meeting probably wouldn’t have any affect on the vast majority of the people attending, since only a few of them even know what twitter is, let alone monitor it. The thought of a blogger or podcaster sitting in the audience is a bogeyman to many of attendees, social media is something they’re aware of but don’t understand so they’re afraid of it. By stating that no tweeting, blogging or podcasting is allowed from the event, the PCI Council has made a large swath of the audience feel much better at the expense of annoying a very small, but vocal, minority. And in theory they’ve stilled the voice of criticism, or at least delayed the criticism until it’s too late for it to have any affect on the PCI Standards. The criticism will come soon anyway, but that’s beside the point.
The reason I do feel the need to defend the ban has nothing to do with the meetings though. Quite frankly, I think the majority of convention presentations at an event like this are worthless; most of the information revealed had been out and available for a while, or the hour long meeting could have been summed up in five minutes by saying “It depends” or “we’ll address that soon”. There’s really not that much that’s being said, it’s a sad, honest truth of most conventions, not just the PCI Community Meeting.
So why is the ban on social media important? Because of the meetings that go on in the halls between talks. And the conversations that are happening in the lunch room. And the drunken brainstorming that goes on after hours and leads to new alliances and relationships between individuals and companies. The PCI Community Meeting is no different than any convention in that it’s what happens in the interstitial spaces between the organized meetings is often more important than what goes on in the meetings. What is different is that sometimes these meetings lead to changes in the infrastructure of the the credit card industry or business deals that can move millions of dollars from one pocket to another. And you can’t have this sort of dealing going on when you’re looking over your shoulder to wonder if someone’s listening in, about to tweet what you just said
The group of people that meet every year at the PCI Community Meeting don’t have the chance to meet like this anywhere else and don’t have the direct access to the PCI Council and the card brands at any other time. So it really is important to preserve some of the expectation of privacy they bring with them. I don’t like the decision to ban social media personally, but I do see that it adds some value for the people who are paranoid about such things. And it does an excellent job of delaying the criticism as well, so it’s an all around win for the PCI Council at the expense of annoying a few folks like myself and Branden Williams, who’d tweet, blog and otherwise publicize the event if they’d let us. And speaking of Branden, take a couple of minutes to read his “Review of the 2010 ____ ____ Meeting“. His comments on a better way to treat social media at events like this is also worth a few minutes to peruse.