1,400 social media junkies swamp Ryerson for Podcamp Toronto 2010
- Guest post
By Lauren O'Neil
What happens when you bring together 1,400 social media junkies and set them loose in a multi-level, wi-fi equipped, state-of-the-art communications centre -- smart phones in hand and laptops in … well, lap? One heck of a bumping Twitter hashtag, to start. I’m not kidding. Check out this.
It’s the number one trending topic in Canada right now, beating out Olympic hockey! What I used to fantasize about and wish for every single day (and lonely Saturday nights) in high school has finally come true! No, Brad Pitt hasn’t whisked me away to the south of France (yet) – I’m talking about the other thing. The geeks have beaten the jocks! Techie Conference beating Olympic Hockey! We now reign supreme with our L33t knowledge and programming prowess! Nerd is the new cool! At least, it was in the twitterverse.Welcome to PodCamp Toronto 2010, a free two-day “un-conference” that brought together the city’s web-savvy elite, tech-curious business people, bloggers, podcasters, journalists and anybody else who is even remotely interested in new media and related technologies. The annual event, in its fourth year, went down this weekend at the Rogers Communication Centre at Ryerson University. And, it was ... Huge.
Long before the official opening remarks Saturday morning, the halls of the RCC were crammed with an eclectic mix of humanoids from all walks of life. It was actually pretty funny to watch them mingle, which is what I did, from an upper-level balcony ... like the creeper that I am.
Neon-haired amateur podcasters gregariously introduced themselves to curious HR professionals and marketing execs. Professional tie-wearing journalists mixed with the who’s who of Toronto’s blogging community (no rousing debates over the future of the news industry broke out, much to my bloodlusting chagrin); backpack toting students sucked up to digital media bigwigs (you know, so that upon graduation they too can score one of those cushy “social media strategist” gigs that nobody had heard of two years ago).
Also in attendance -- at least one hyper-tweeting j-schooler who was drawn in by the promise of free learning, free coffee and ample opportunities for people watching/business card gathering/cute-nerd-boy scouting … *cough*I’ve actually been PodCamp curious since I first read about it a few years ago. The original was in September 2006 in Boston, and since then, these networking events have been held in cities all over the world.
Being the new-media nerd that I am, I figured it was high time I checked out a PodCamp myself – no “too busy” or “none of my friends will go with me” excuses. I plotted PodCamp Toronto 2010 into my daybook and gathered up the cajones to go it alone.
From the moment I stepped through the door and saw the scads of red name tags bearing Twitter handles, I felt comfortable. When I saw this Tweet from another attendee pop up on the #pcto2010 hashtag, I felt downright UNDERSTOOD!
“@ellerich: I love explaining #PCTO2010 & mtg ppl from Twitter to my non-social media friends. Reaction? "Did you play World of Warcraft too?” (Mad Lulz.)
I’ve never been to an “unconference” before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect. Unlike traditional conferences, there’s no hierarchy between attendees and speakers – anyone can lead a session and jump in on one with their ideas. Participants are encouraged to come and go from sessions as they please, create their own schedule for the day, and actively record their experience through tweets, blogs, photos and videos.
With more than 60 sessions to choose from, there really was something for everybody. I particularly enjoyed the sessions led by commandN’s Jeff MacArthur and Canadian Association of Journalists Chairman Saleem Khan – but my favourite session of the day, hands down, was journeywoman.com CEO Evelyn Hannon’s “Building an online community is not Rocket Science." Homegirl was named one of TIME magazine’s 100 most innovative thinkers of the new century, and her website gets more than one million visitors a year. But that’s not why she’s impressive. She’s impressive because she’s become insanely successful online despite not having a Blackberry or iPhone. She can barely use a computer and she’s 70 years old. Plus, she’s hilarious and my new idol.
While organizers describe it as a way to bring together professionals and hobbyists to explore the cutting edge of new and social media, I see it as an excuse for us bloggers, vloggers, podcasters, tweeters, social media gangtas, online content creators and internet aficionados to simply get out from behind our souped-up Macbook Pros and out into meatspace. I wasn’t able to make it to the after party last night (alas, the demands of J-School), but from what the Twitterverse tells me, it involved a whole lot of free nachos, beer, open mic tomfoolery and people furiously pawing away at their smartphones.Lauren O’Neil is a student in the Master of Arts - Journalism program at the University of Western Ontario. She is rarely, if ever, spotted without a pink Blackberry in her hand and is fluent in both HTML and English. Please follow her on Twitter so that she can continue to build up her mad social media cred @laurenonizzle.