There's an ulterior motive to opening an official backchannel at a tech conference. It pulls all the dissenters into a virtual room, where they disseminate their snide remarks safely away from the real discussion.

If the conference jesters were encouraged to speak up, instead of letting yes-men and weak devil's advocates dominate Q&A sessions, would boring one-sided conference panels turn into real discussions?

Of course not. That's not how a conference gets speakers to come back, and we snarkers are too passive-aggressive to ask anyway. But this is what the class clowns should have asked the speakers at this week's Supernova conference.

  • To Sun CEO Jon Schwartz: "The host just said he hopes you're at the company for a long time. How long will four to five thousand Sun employees be at the company? Until before or after lunch?"
  • To AT&T exec Eric Shepcaro, who just said, "Our strongest asset is security" (honestly): "Eric, do you mean 'Security, except when the NSA wants to look at your data'? Is that how security fits into today's announcement that customer data belongs to you and the NSA?"
  • To IBM exec Linda Sanford: "When you had this values discussion you talked about, did that involve whether you'd work with Nazi Germany again?"
  • To Craigslist founder Craig Newmark: "How are the birds in your backyard doing? Cool. See you at Reverie tomorrow? Cool."