CH-CH-CHANGES. The first...

CH-CH-CHANGES. The first Yearly Kos conference in Las Vegas had two basic story lines. For conference participants, it was, "Wow! So that's what you look like in person!" And for the press it was some mix of "Geez, these people are so much more normal than I expected!" and "Huh, maybe they are a little quirky after all." The conference hotel was the Riviera in Las Vegas, which could not have been seedier, and the Las Vegas Convention Center where the sessions were held gave the whole thing an air of slightly menacing grunge.

This time around, the conference is being held in the beautiful, modern, sparkling McCormick Place Convention Center, and the hotel is a nearby Hyatt, sleek and boutique-hotel posh. All this dusts the proceedings -- and the conference attendees -- with a more established air, and elevates the proceedings aesthetically, much the way a white cube gallery in Chelsea can make people seem more elegant than they appeared while on the subway on the way over.

More importantly, this conference does not feel as grassroots or exciting as last year's. It feels like a cross between the annual Institute for Politics, Democracy, and the Internet conference in Washington (which draws a who's who in political technology circles), a Bloggingheads.tv marathon viewing session, and a bunch of National Press Club press conferences by liberal interest groups. It's possible I am simply following the wrong track and going to the wrong panels at this conference, and that I'd have gotten a very different impression if I'd been attending the local bloggers track, or doing a goofy "mock track" (my -- joking! -- designation for the exact series of panels you could attend if you wanted to write a story making fun of the conference, from the Knitting Caucus to the "Mock Iowa Caucus Workshop"). The conference hotel cost more this year, too, which may have led to a slightly different group of attendees. But there are so many more blue sports coats and pleated beige chinos here than last year -- as well as so many of the regular inside-the-Beltway suspects -- that I feel like I'm still in D.C.

--Garance Franke-Ruta