I want to congratulate Chris Brogan, Chris Penn, Steve Sherlock, Sooz, and the other PodCamp organizers for having the vision and creating an incredible PodCamp. It was an amazing setting in the heart of Boston. It was inspiring that an un-conference could be held in such an beautiful space. The scheduled sessions were wonderful, and plenty of room was given for impromptu meetings, gatherings, and mingling in the hallways. The organizers did a spectacular job and deserve a round of applause.
With an event of about 400 attendees, it’s easy to feel like this is a regular conference, and not one where I can directly make contributions. However, I need to remember that while the organizers have experience with these PodCamps, I need to not sit back, take an active role, and share my insights. So rather than expecting others to create the perfect PodCamp experience, I need to pitch in and help. Here are ways that we could create an even better PodCamp:
When I arrived on Saturday night of PodCampBoston2 in October of 2007, just in time for the after-party to be winding down, I saw a live PodCamp twitterstream projected on the wall. The information was eye-opening. Even though I had starting using twitter in a regular way a few months prior, this was still profound. I had never seen it used at an event before; I had only used it at my home or office. I could see, right there on the wall, how campers were talking to each other, saying where they were going for dinner, for drinks after, what sessions they were looking forward to tomorrow, etc. These folks had been using twitter in this way for a while, but as newbie, I had not.
I was surprised that the camp’s twitter stream was never projected anywhere during the PodCampBoston3 weekend. The session on microblogging might have been a good time for it, but it didn’t happen there. Because we all agree that we want those new to social media to get up to speed, an important idea to remember for future PodCamps is to project a live twitterstream in several places. It would have been cool to have a live twitterstream going 24/7 in the upstairs breakroom/dining area and in the main hallway on the ground floor. We could have also shown the camp’s twitterstream during breaks in the auditorium. Another possibility would have been to show it during the conference wrap-up. (I’m sure that would be amusing.) We could have also had a twitter channel dedicated to lunch, dinner and party meet-ups.
There is no better way to get newbies up-to-speed on social media than to show them such a twitterstream, never mind the actual insight that they would get by watching it for a few minutes. For folks new to it, seeing a twitterstream like this is eye-opening. Even if you had heard about twitter, and were starting to use it, you would not have access to a stream like this, simply because you don’t yet know who to follow. This being my second PodCamp, I assumed that all attendees already knew about Twitter, but I was reminded that that is definitely not the case, when someone asked “what is this whole Twitter deal?” in the VERY LAST session of the entire weekend! Imagine how much connecting and knowledge people in that category, (and I’m sure it’s surprisingly large percentage) missed out on!
Not only should we create a spot to project the camp’s Twitter stream 24/7 during the event, we should also create some type of sign-in poster for people’s twitter handles, so that folks can exchange those during the conference. It would of course be voluntary. But I feel there is no faster way to create a better sense of community between veterans and newcomers to PodCamp than to connect them up via the social media tools that we are all here to discuss, n’est pas?
Since, as the PodCamp has matured, we have both veterans and first-timers alike. I think the success of social media and PodCamp is going to be measured by how many more people, especially professionals, come on board. One way to insure both the veterans and newbies are taken care of at an event is to indicate for which audience sessions are intended. Veterans tend towards the hallway and impromptu sessions while newbies go for the scheduled sessions. But both veterans and newbies alike will find value in the rooms and in the hallways if they know what to expect there.
Another way to connect people coming to the camp is through CrowdVine. It’s kinda funny that I first discovered the benefits of CrowdVine via BarCampBankSF, and not PodCampBoston. This Bay Area company has a site than anyone can use for free, to engender connections and networking leading up to, during, and after an event. I assumed that the PodCamp organizers knew about this tool, and had good reasons not to use it for PodCamp, but I am probably erroneous about that.
While Twitter is an amazing way to make connections and friends, I don’t want to have “twitter-level” intimacy with everyone. There are some people, who, brilliant as they are, just tweet too much for me. For those folks, Facebook is the right level of closeness. I can “check in” with them virtually once in a while. Therefore, I would love to see the Facebook page of the PodCamp event be used and populated for friend-connecting, even though it’s not the official site of the un-conference.
One more idea: I know it must be tough to try to capture the combined output of 400 social media types. And while there is an official PodCamp tag (pcb3), I still think it would be worthwhile to set up a central wiki where everyone who has blogged, photographed, recorded, uttered, podcasted, slideshared, etc. from the event could supply their links. I’m amazed already at how many different and wonderful perspectives on the event that I’ve seen, just from the people who I met and connected with. But I connected with less than 1/4 of the campers. My knowledge would be broadened if I had a way to view what others have thought and captured of the PodCamp.
These notes are not meant as criticisms to the PodCamp organizers. Thank you, Chris, Chris, Steve, Sooz, and other organizers. You did an amazing job, and all campers thank you for an unforgettable event. PodCamp is a large undertaking that you deserve to be proud of, and was a success for everyone who participated.