In the 2001 Meg Ryan movie Kate and Leopold, one of the characters attempts to explain his discovery as being “no more crazy than a dog finding a rainbow. Dogs are colorblind … [and] I’m that dog who saw a rainbow, only none of the other dogs believed me.” Podcamp may best defined as a collaborative learning unconference for those social media dogs that see, or at least want to learn, what a lot of other dogs don’t see: the present and future of social media in business and everyday life.
I had the pleasure of attending the recent Podcamp Boston with some 350 others from around North America at the University of Massachusetts Harborside Campus.
The official site of Podcamp credits Boston as having the first Podcamp in 2006, and describes it as an “unConference for new media enthusiasts and professionals including bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, social networkers, and anyone curious about new media.” An “UnConference,” according to their wiki is short for an “unorganized conference” – but it was far from disorganized.
There were sessions covering the future of social media, how to create a business-to-business podcast, use new media to tell stories effectively, social media in education, analytics and value for business – and so much more. These sessions are not presentations in the traditional conference sense. Session “leaders” are strongly encouraged not to talk more than 18 minutes of a 45 minute session. There is intrinsic confidence that the value of the conference comes from the discussion within the session. In other words, everyone has knowledge to share and here is the place to do it. In many environments, that’s like painting a target on your back and asking someone to tell you how wrong you are. At Podcamp, the collaborative learning format not only worked, but flourished as the weekend continued.
There is a set of interesting ground rules that were clearly posted on the Boston Podcamp web site. Among them is “the rule of two feet”: If you aren’t getting what you want out of a session, leave. As a session leader and a participant, I was fine with that. Everyone’s time is valuable, but here it was treated that way.
Another was the “Law of Null Space.” If you remember your math, null is nothingness, not zero. Again, from the Podcamp Boston web site: “The formal programmed sessions exist only as support for people not already engaged in great conversations of their own. If you and a few like-minded folks want to talk about something, broadcast it on Twitter, yell it in a hallway, and gather people to the nearest convenient space to have the discussion you want to have.”
In fact, there were numerous discussions of people who were seeking answers, and others who joined them. From Twitter 101 to the future of CRM (customer relationship management), these sessions ensured a stream of value for the participants.
Among the attendees, there was a lot of intelligence, curiosity, teaching and learning. It made no difference what level of understanding you came in Podcamp with. You left with a level of understanding that often comes from the Socratic method of teaching and discussion.
It took a group of organizers like Michelle Wolverton to make this event happen. “The most rewarding thing about organizing Podcamp Boston 4 was seeing the community together and sharing their knowledge throughout the weekend.”
Wolverton noted the growth of the program. “It’s been interesting watching the progression/timeline of social media each year when Podcamp Boston comes together. Now in the fourth year, people are ready to find the next awakening.” No doubt, the next big thing is being discussed here.
“What’s not so much of a change but remarkable was seeing that the majority of people who attended this year were new to Podcamp. That means we are still reaching those new to the medium. Those who have the knowledge and those who need it are coming together to learn, share and grow together.”
If you missed the Boston Podcamp, or even if you didn’t, there are others this year scheduled for Atlanta, Barcelona, Topeka, Philadelphia, New Hampshire, and Arizona.
Meanwhile, I will hang with the dogs that can see the rainbows and hope you join us.