So I went to this "Podcamp" in Philadelphia a few weeks ago. I'm a huge fan of getting together with geeks outside of the Internet (in real life!) to talk about the technology, communities, and practices (let alone skills and ticks). Indeed meeting people in the real world, is often a great way to advance and promote whatever it is you're doing on the Internet, but beyond I often find the experience of having "really geeky" conversations with people in real life to be rather refreshing. So much of the geeky things we (I?) do are pretty solitary tasks, and it's fun to have space and time with other people who get it.
On this premise I went to this podcamp thing. I went to a BarCamp last year that I enjoyed a great deal but I was somewhat intimidated by the flock of staff members from the National Center for Supercomputing Applications (ok, so there were only two. or three. In a small room. Oh, and a guy who signed the Agile Manifesto. Right.) And while it was great, and I learned a ton of stuff... I'm a writer, and an a critic, and not exactly a programmer, and while I write about programmers and technology a lot I think it might be useful--sometimes--to have separate conversations.
Right? That sounds reasonable.
So here's the thing about Podcamp. Well the things:
New media isn't anymore. Sure its still a useful distinction given that the "old media" (e.g. book publishing, magazines, newspapers, network television, and radio) are still around. Indeed they remain an incredibly relevant component of the "media ecosystem" both globally but also online. Having said that "new media" like social media, podcasts, and the like have been around for 4-5 years at this point, and it's mostly mainstream now: old media like NPR consistently tops the iTunes podcast charts, CNN is on twitter. and so forth. And lets not even get started about blogging.
On the frontier of any new media, anyone who is stubborn enough and the first person to stake out a claim to a niche has a pretty good chance of finding success. Four years later or more, success is something that's much more difficult to parse or assure.
The Search engine marketing *thing*, hasn't, as I would have hoped, died in a fiery and epic death. This shit is all over the place, and everyone seems to be talking about pay-per-click advertising and not the fact that what really matters is word-of-mouth. I'm so incredibly frustrated by all the crap that gets generated both in sport of "SEO" and in service of it as well.
I can tell when you write articles that are designed to get voted up on reddit and digg, and I throw up in my mouth a little when I see them.
I got through a day of that, and I couldn't cope with any more.
Everyone was talking about how to promote a venture, and how to do marketing in "this brave new world we're in," but no one was really talking about how to develop and make something online that works. The marketing thing takes works and there are a couple of non-obvious aspects of the marketing effort, but it's not rocket science. Sometimes, figuring out what is likely to work online and how to present things in an effective way is by far the largest challenge.
I'm not sure that hybrid-un/conferences work. And I'm pretty sure that the space didn't work. Unconferneces are great: they let you get what you want out of a meeting, like the Internet they help deconstruct the boundaries between presenter and audience. Here's what didn't work for me with the format at this podcamp:
The talks were all in these rooms, and the door was at the front of the room. So unless you sat by the door, you had to walk between the speaker to get in and out of the room in the middle of the talk. Which you're supposed to be able to do. Awkward.
The opening session was entirely self-congratulatory, and a general waste of time. Better, I think to have let presenters in the morning sessions talk for a few seconds about their session. There weren't that many sessions.
I'm not wed to the idea that people have to determine the programing on the spot in the morning of a camp, and sometimes preparation is a good thing, but if you're going to have multiple parallel "tracks" there should be some sort of thematic unity for a given track, and some organization around that. Randomized conference schedules don't provide attendees value.
In an effort to provide hyper-accessible content for people, there were a number of topics that I'd consider to be "hot" like, free network services, content curration, microformats and semantic web stuff, the real time web, and so on and so forth. Instead there was a lot of "get a facebook account and sign up for google analytics."
So yeah. I hear there's a BarCamp in philly in november. We'll see how I'm faring, but it might be cool to talk with people about Sygn at that.