Bloggercon–Imagining conferences as affinities, tribes

Had lunch with a group of people who had diverse views about the sessions this morning ( bloggerconIV): some folks very angrily challenged the (un)conference and felt the format lacked value; others felt this was way so much better than what has come before.
The best part of the discussion though, was when we started to explore how many conferences (un, or not) are actually the gathering points for affinity, for tribes if you will, more than annual episodes for vendors and clients. BlogHer, Gnomedex, Bloggercon and perhaps the very new vloggercon all fit this model–one that assumes there is a persistent, engaged community that continues outside and independently of the actual event. This is an idea that seems extremely relevant to me–a post- Burning Man vision of conferences as tribal gatherings and flashpoints for ongoing action. (Note ,this is a profoundly non commercial vision, I know that), but isn’t the point here that high-end commercial conferences are delivering value to ever-smaller groups of people?
So think of Bloggercon–and its ilk–as a gathering of the tribe–a series of loosely joined communities than enable people to share power and learn from one another…and then question whether that characterization holds true–And what, if we wanted it to become true–would need to shift to make it so.