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October 31, 2007 / compassioninpolitics

Podcamp Boston Roundtable Discussion: 23+ Perspectives on the Direction of the Unconference


Podcamp Boston: 23 Flavors and then Some
Unconferences like Podcamp Boston are about conversation, community, collaboration. I just watched a “roundtable” discussion of participants from Podcamp Boston on how to make podcamp better. The discussion included 23+ different perspectives on ways of improving and doing podcamp. Bob Goyetche was great to video the discussion and post it. Chris Brogan was great to cross post it and spread a little community awareness. Watching this video is mandatory watching for anyone who wants to host an excellent unconference be it a Barcamp, Podcamp, or a Whatever camp. Its really a great example of community and conversation in action. Great stuff!

Without further ado, here are the 23+ ideas as I scribed them (sorry if I missed any, it wasn’t intentional) Enjoy!

• Everybody is too nice…where are the hard to ask questions. (***)

• Less repetition between conferences in terms of content. (RSS only needs 1 explanation) (***)

• Reputation centric. Names and brand drives who gets to present or who gets attention.

• What are we doing about the people who are outside the community and don’t know anything about podcasting???

• Disconnect between newbies and folks who already know (its hard to adapt to both or a community disconnect?)

• Newbies might not be able to hear the “answers.” It can be over their heads sometime. (***)

• Give it away. Adopt a newbie model. (***) (A Pay It Forward model, perhaps)

• Spiral of silence. You don’t want to be that guy that says “I don’t understand” (*)

• The unconference has been taken out of podcamp. Its presentations. 3 minutes for questions. (Wisdom of crowds is better)

• Shouldn’t wait till the end of podcamp to sit in a circle. (***)

• Person whose job is to know everybody. To be a connector.

• Too much new for newbies. Also, some people speaking without expertise.

• We should be about pushing ideas forward. (aka more theory)

• Technical issues. Montetize and promote. Instead: How do I make my content better?

• What do I need vs. community? Can’t make it an individual event.

• Its not Brogan’s job or the unconference director’s job to direct people [like robots].

• Introduce self at first. If you don’t tell them, they may not be inspired to do much.

• Media changes fast. Hard for us & leadership to keep up. We’re creating structure now. Don’t get frustrated by what we’re not doing. TV and radio has the benefit of 50 years. We’re ramping in 2 years. (**)

• Mix of long and short format timeblocks or presentations would be best. (*)

• Facebook party in Israel model. You tag yourself. Ask me button—novice, intermediate, advanced/anme badge! (***)

• Take the chairs out, take the projectors out. Only wi-fi. Facilitators instead of speakers. (***)

• Amorphous schedule and wiki rocks! (**)

• Make your own space.

My Thoughts:
There seemed to be an implicit ethos of Pablo Friere’s rejection of the top-down banking model of education amongst the community. More informality. Less presentation. More conversation. More options:

• Newbie friendly. Open and accepting. Easy for them to plug into folks who can help (ie name badges with descriptors about how an individual can help)
• Less formal presentation. More small discussion and facilitation possibilities. More embrace of unconference ethos and wisdom of crowds.

I imagine organizers of events like Podcamp (insert city name) is not only that the ramp up is 2 years in the non-mainstream media, but the whole movement toward self-organizing is happening now as well. It can be a foreign cultural environment for those who are not natural collaborators.

UPDATE: Brogan has some new commentary from on the future of Podcamps from November 2007 here. Basically, he says that smaller events that are lighter and more targeted to specific niche audiences (ie by industry–education, pr, etc..)

Thanks to Bob, Chris, and all the great folks at Podcamp Boston! Also thanks to Steve Garfield for the photo.

Thoughts? Ideas? Contributions? Anyone know of a link to other suggestions about changing barcamp/podcamp for the better?

(ps. my ***’s were somewhat arbitrary. i thought all the ideas brought something important to the table. some of my asterisks were based on practicality, but i think all the three asterisks deserve serious attention)



Leave a Comment
  1. ldpodcast / Oct 31 2007 12:05 pm

    I’ve been on the organizing team for more podcamps so far than anyone, so I take this discussion very seriously.
    there’s such a wide diversity of people who come to podcamps- those looking to connect, and those looking to make a reputation and self promote. There are those looking to explore or see what;s new and exciting on the bleeding edge of social media, and there are those looking to refine their techniques, more self-improvement focused.

    We’ve talked about having a mentor room- Ask a Podcaster sessions- we had one, but I don’t know how it turned out. Getting people to come out of their shells and open up can be tough- you try to make it easier, but it is also up to the individual to try.

    I think the less formal settings of schools/colleges naturally work better because they have built-in null space to foster these kind of discussions. I’m really excited to see how this works at Podcamp NYC this year, which will be located at Brooklyn Polytech, rather than a hotel or conference center.

    I also think there may be some wisdom in doing some newbie type events separate from those looking for more advanced info. But the newbies need the “old dogs” to still be motivated to come to the first-timer events and pay it forward.

    And do we want to create a two tier class system? How do people really know where they fit? If we aren’t publishing a schedule until the last week of proosed sessions, then how are people supposed to figure out whether there’s content they want to see?

    These are all good questions we need to look at, as make sure Podcamp stays relevant to all participants.

  2. compassioninpolitics / Oct 31 2007 5:51 pm

    You raise some important issues. I don’t see it as a two-tiered or three-tiered system. I just see it as acknowledging that education happens in stages and adapting (or at least attempting to) the various skill levels of the participants. Its an acknowledgment that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. And you aren’t forced to go to any particular session. Any baggage attached to “novice” or “beginner” seems to be by the participants themselves. However, I think making new folks feel comfortable and valued is an important part of the process.

    Here’s a quandary: someone who is tech savvy, but new to blogs. Or at podcamp someone who has been blogging for a year, but new to podcasts. I would assume the later person would be intermediate. So certainly an informal explanation or delineation of what constitutes a skill level might help. I think the harder question is if you have a two-tier or three-tier breakdown…

    It seems like you prefer the university option for the increased number of rooms. Makes sense.

    I’ll have to leave the: “If we aren’t publishing a schedule until the last week of proosed sessions, then how are people supposed to figure out whether there’s content they want to see?” for others. I think that some pre-planned and some labeled/scheduled, but not necessarily pre-planned could be interesting. [I can’t speak to the advantages or disadvantages of the more spontaneous self-organizing model myself]

    Thoughts? What do you folks think?

  3. compassioninpolitics / Oct 31 2007 5:56 pm

    I noticed Chris Penn had some discussion here @ about the 7 or so informal “rules” of podcamp:

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