Yesterday, Saturday, I attended Northern Voice 2006 in Vancouver, a conference on all things blog. I will be sharing details of what I learned directly with my coworkers in the near future and I'll be implementing changes here based on what I learned - once I have time, wassat? - but, for now, I'll just share my own personal experience of the day rather than review each speaker, etc.
It is only thanks to a couple of co-workers who covered for me yesterday and this morning that I even have time to do this entry. I am so grateful for them going above and beyond for me.
Wow. Where to start?
I am a late riser and tend to work late so getting up at 5:00 a.m. was a whole new adventure to me all by itself. (Yes, I need a life.) I'm used to seeing sunsets. What the heck was the sun doing on THAT side of the valley? Driving towards Vancouver, the moon setting in front of me, the sun rising behind me, startlingly clear weather, the lights on Grouse Mountain's ski hills still glittering against the snow.... siiiiigh. I love traveling to faraway places but I truly love the beauty of my home base. Driving, listening to music, nostalgic for those mornings of traveling to Vancouver Airport to fly to my love, pleasant memories of all those memories throughout childhood and my sons' childhoods of early morning drives to ski hills. Very nice.
Thanks to mapquest and detailed directions from Northern Voice's site itself I found my way to the conference, early of course. No problem. EVERYone I encountered there, from the volunteers who had put it together and greeted us and facilitated each session to the speakers to the other attendees were very friendly and gracious and welcoming. Just about every session was attended equally by men and woman and there were a lot more people of around my age (45) and older than I'd expected so I didn't feel like a fish out of water.
Hell, it was just good to get out of the house for a day.
Grabbed some free buttons (well, I DO love to blog so why not advertise it?) and flyers and pens, was provided with a name tag on which I had to add some 'key words' about myself. They want me to think this early in the morning? Okay, done with my lame keywords ('music lover' was one of them *gag*) and here I go to the first of seven sessions.
Julie Leung was our first speaker and started things off on a high note. She spoke on the power of stories and, looking at my notes now, I see a gazillion quotes from her (including "Stories help us stay healthy" and "Be content with the imperfect") and those she references as well as a list of websites to look at for how others have found and used their voices.
And the quality was maintained by all the speakers throughout the day. Some were more about the nitty gritty technical aspects of blogging, how to get started, the tools, the stats (stats whores abounded), splogs and spings, tags (I suspect I'm going to become a tag whore myself) and feeds, etc. Others were more about the ideas, the potential, advocacy, citizen journalism, the power of blogging, both personally and globally.
And then there was Nancy White. Not only was she articulating all the things I believed about community (I found myself constantly nodding like one of those bobble-head toys), having worked with online communities for a decade, she is a chocoholic and - get this - she SHARES her chocolate! Now this is a speaker I can get behind! (The chocolate she shared were those little Dove chocolates within wrappers that have little sayings for you, kinda like fortune cookies. Mine said "Love without rules." This is advice I don't need. I have no problem doing that. What I needed was "Love wisely", something I've yet to accomplish. *sigh*) I was just sorry that Nancy's "Snow White and the Seven Competencies" was only an hour long, far too short a time to bask in her delightful delivery. And in the midst of all the fun, she packs in a LOT of great information.
Next, an excellent session on blogging and how it is changing journalism and then lunch break. I hit the wall in my FM pain and fatigue and almost left in tears. But I'd come all this way and didn't want to give in to the pain so I hung on by my fingernails, got through the break and dove into the afternoon's sessions.
I stuck mostly with the technical aspect of things in the afternoon and was very glad I stayed for them; they were well worth it.
Some background on me: I'm one of those nerds who fondly remembers when Pong, then Space Invaders and PacMan came out. I bought Intellivision way back when. When my sons were born (they're now grown men, one of whom is definitely a geek) we started with computers, DOS ruled and imaginative learning games were part of their growing up. So I've been surrounded by computers and gaming for decades. When I first went online and began working online, I spent years with a gaming company based in Seattle (and became an avid gamer myself). I have fond memories of all the people I encountered, the creative and eager young men who kept lego models of Star Wars ships in their cubicles. The excitement of that often male-dominated world was just plain fun and though I love my women coworkers, I've sometimes missed that male energy.
So walking into the Geek Out conference and some of the others, with speakers that included Robert Scoble, was a treat for me. I swear they're all like kids in candy stores as they shared their various latest enthusiasms (I have a list of Firefox extensions I can't wait to explore) and websites. While all the other sessions were attended equally by both men and women, this one was filled primarily with men, chairs all taken, people sitting on the floor and standing against walls (that last one was me). Almost all the men had laptops. Tap tap tap. (I have lap-top envy now. Typing is soooooo much easier - and more legible after the fact - than hand-written notes. I took as many or more notes than the men, just without that gentle tap tap tap. *pout* Working from home and taking vacations where I get away from that work entirely, I have no real need for a laptop which is why I don't have one yet but that isn't slowing down the lap-top envy even a little bit.)
All in all and despite the anticipated overwhelming pain and fatigue fallout, the conference was an extremely positive experience for me and I'm so glad I attended. I learned a LOT that I still have to process and disseminate. I am a prodigious note-taker (you should see me play a mystery/adventure game; notes galore) and have a lot to wade through. I was inspired and overwhelmed and had a whole lot of fun and wish I didn't have to work and have a life in there somewhere too because I'm eager to start make some changes here, dammit!
Thanks to all who contributed to and attended Northern Voice 2006. You may have created a (blog) monster here. ;-)