At the recent Emerging Technologies 2002 conference in Santa Clara, California, some of the chatter in the halls among the delegates included the biological frameworks for computation (using ants’ brains), hackers beating entrepreneurs, and the future of ideas. The kinds of discussions that emerge from a gathering of intelligent and technologically savvy people who like thinking about the future.

But I’m afraid, dear reader, that I’m about to disabuse you of any suggestion that I was actually there. I wasn’t. So how do I know what went on outside the conference sessions; what the juicy gossip was over the lattes in the mid-morning break? One word: blogs.

Blogs are usually a Web page filled with someone’s thoughts, rattled out as if they were scribbling notes on paper while adding hyperlinks to Web sites of interest. Some blogs are about business. Some are personal. But blogging was largely popularised after New Yorkers with blogs posted their experiences during the September 11 tragedy.

Blogs are the most recognisable online manifestation of what has been described as a new movement, dubbed “Journalism 3.0” by the respected commentator Dan Gilmour of the San Jose Mercury News. He described how ‘some day soon, there will be a major, newsworthy event in Japan and there will be 400 photos taken of it in the first minute by cam-equipped cellphones – and we will have 400 visual perspectives of that event from the ‘former audience’. How do I know he said that? I just flicked through a blog about it, put up by a delegate who heard him speak.

It’s this kind of delegate and speaker interplay which shows up ET2002 to be almost a model for the way not just future conferences will be run, but how loud the clamour of blogging has become.

With virtually every delegate carrying a laptop with a wireless LAN card, and most of them writing a daily blog, you couldn’t help but get almost immediate audience feedback. Even before a speaker has sat down, half the audience might blog some questions, which are replied to literally in minutes via the speaker’s own blog.

Of course, nothing can replace the good old-fashioned question from the floor. But the newest tech conferences, and blogging in general, could be said to be creating the kinds of conversation talked about in the Cluetrain Manifesto, the book that took business by storm when it was published in December 2000.

In it, markets were now ‘conversations’. The Internet meant broadcast, and PR could no longer rule the dialogue between consumers and business. In fact, you might say the conversational blog is now the manifestation of that prediction.

Are blogs by experts in market niches like technology, who offer their thoughts to the world for free, harbingers of a changing relationship between business and markets? Perhaps it’s too early to stamp the humble blog with the moniker ‘corporate giant-killer’.

But as blogs proliferate, the time is coming when many of us will be turning them before Bloomberg or the BBC.