This past Friday and Saturday, I attended Northern Voice: a Blogging and Social Media Conference in Vancouver.
This year, the organizers moved the venue from UBC to the newly renovated Woodwards Building, now called W2. Kudos to them for a great change. The rooms were better suited to the crowd, and the wifi (for a large crowd of highly connected people) seemed to cope nicely.
This year, there were a number of high profile bloggers who were unable to attend: @Miss604, @Hummingbird604, @AprilFilms among them. But this conference is also about networking, connecting and engaging, and meeting with old friends, as well as those who you know online, but haven’t met IRL (in real life.) As with any conference of people with similar interests, there was lots of connecting with new tweeps (people from Twitter) as well. Throughout the conference this was the case, as people look at name tags, trying to match sometimes obscure twitter avi’s to the faces in the crowd.
The conference kicked off with a keynote by Open Media, talking about crafting a message via web and Social Media engagement, and leveraging interested parties to act in their own best interests.
After a self-imposed technical time out, where I sat in a corner, looking out over the W2 atrium, and watching a guy play basketball, while recharging both my dead blackberry and dead netbook, I joined the “Blogging to Inspire” session, just in time to catch the nugget: “Blogging should never be a ‘chore.’ Pause life and give yourself permission to take the time.“
Other than keynote speakers, there were frequently three sessions going on simultaneously, and it was often difficult to choose, but throughout the conference, it was great to be able to “keep an eye” on the other sessions by tracking the #NV12 hashtag on Twitter. (Even as I write this, I can review my timeline and the timeline of other participants by searching that hashtag.)
Next came lunch, which was (to me) both a mystery and a delight, as the W2 Cafe served meals that were tasty and refined beyond my palate. There were options: meat, vegetarian and gluten free. My choice was: “Elk Chili with roasted fennel, parsnip and baby carrots in an aromatic tomato sauce, gluten free. Served with oaten bannock. Dessert was an apple rhubard tart.” Like I said before… I am unable to quantify or identify flavours, but suffice to say, it was yummy.
After lunch, we split up again, and I journeyed back to the BASSment (That is what they officially call the room) for “PhotoCamp“, where John Biehler, Ariane Colenbrander, Morten Rand-Hendricksen and Syx Langemann worked through a variety of aspects of taking pictures… from picture composition, lenses, brand of Cameras choice, photo syncing software, to the best bag to carry and protect your cameras.
Among the nuggets: “Use a business card/napkin/whatever, and place it in front of your flash, to diffuse the light, whether from a popup flash, or from multiple light sources.” …in that way: “Light can be delivered as a “hug” illuminating and cradling your subject, rather than a “punch” of light, throwing contrast and shadows where you don’t want them.“
Syx was thrown a curve, as his prepared presentation (reportedly) didn’t work, but instead he delighted the crowd, walking us through the set ups and process he had undertaken, to achieve some very striking and genuine photos he had recently taken, with both members of his family that he knew well… and some he had only met that day, and the methods he had used to put the subjects at ease and engage them, in order to capture their essence. Incredibly informative. @Fraseropolis suggested adding a link to Syx’s site, and I whole-heartedly agree, so here it is: SyxLangemannPhotography.com
John Biehler talked about Light Painting, which is very cool, and I’m not going to try to define it. But, if you are a camera wonk, you should Google it, and check it out.
My day wrapped up with Kemp Edmonds talking about “Lifelong Learning.” Nuggets from Kemp include: “The only thing standing between you and your goal is _______” …whatever it is that is holding you back. and the thought that the most precious gift we can give the youth of tomorrow is the ability to “Find, filter and evaluate online content.” Many of the speakers had links that they posted, so content could be reviewed after the fact… for instance, Kemp’s talk was posted at: kempe.me/kempnv12
My end of day twitter comment to a friend was: “Northern Voice is ALWAYS a blast. You never know where inspiration and learning will come from, but it will always be there.”
The Conference kicked off its second day with Blaine Cook delivering a keynote on “The Wild Future“, which was an existential trip through connectivity, architecture and anarchic networks ?!? (Note to the Conference Organizers: IF you are going to challenge us like this first thing in the morning… the SFU Theatre needs to be a caffeine friendly zone.)
Doug Blackie then tried to take a light-hearted look “Inside The Blogger’s Brain“, but got his audience defensive when he identified all Bloggers as one of six types:
1) Virgin (Use comic sans a LOT)
2) Expert (highly technical know it all nutjobs)
3) Topic-Matic (ALLL over the subject matter map)
4) Axe Grinder (Blog is their platform/pulpit)
5) Therapists (Love to sell stuff)
6) Sleazeball whore (will blog for tix)
Most people who didn’t laugh at the “pigeon-holing” seemed to take exception to description 6. Personally, I think that the tag ‘Citizen Journalist/Blogger’ has become a license for SOME to believe that they are able to compete with the larger Mainstream Media, but without having to hold themselves to the same critical assessment of being unbiased and balanced.
For example, a Food Blogger who announces his presence to a restaurant, and asks for a meal to be comped, in order to Blog the restaurant is (IMO) unlikely to have a “regular” experience… But that is another discussion for another day !
He did have some very good points, which seemed to get lost in the “typecasting” hubbub…
Blogger types: Don’t get caught being a cliche or stereotype.
Avoiding the pitfalls in Blogging: Consistency / Accuracy / Brevity / Authenticity
Mike Vardy took us through the next session, talking about “Better Blogging Productivity“, and (for me) the important distinction between ‘distractions’ and ‘disruptions’: When thinking about sitting down to write a blog, you can close your email, shut down Twitter, close Facebook and turn off the TV. Those are distractions, and you can control them. If someone starts a fire, and you have to go douse flames… that is a disruption, and not much you can do about it. But it is important to set aside a time to write, and to OPTIMIZE that time, by removing distractions.
The other point that caught my attention was how important it is (if you want to grow your audience) to “Build a schedule” to push posts out, and in that way, not ‘abandon’ your readers.
Felice Lam tweeted (from this same talk)
Discipline isn’t enough. You need willpower. We all have the same amount of time. [Have no fear.]
Lunch followed this, with my selection being Shahi Murgh ?!? (Royal Chicken cooked in yoghurt) Again, most excellent.
After this, my conference day ended… (I sadly had to leave early for a family event) …with the wacky, zany and always entertaining Shane Birley taking a “Quantum Leap” through his old blog posts, to find “The Evolution Of The Personal Voice”
Shane took us on a trip through time, stopping at various blog posts that served as markers on his Blogging journey:
Self doubt: “Self” I said, “You had better have something useful and good to say.“
On being told he was being downsized: “#@%% YOU! I have a blog!“
On realizing he had returned to “the present”: “Where… Am……… I ???”
@shanebee giving his best James T Kirk impression
Very funny, and at the same time, reassuring… that all Bloggers have the same doubts, concerns, inner dialogues… but that if we trust our self’ we find that our sense of direction is usually pretty good !!!
The last and final “take away” from the Northern Voice conference is that each of us needs a huge honking projector to project our blogs onto walls, so that the sheer size makes them impressive !!!
The Northern Voice Conference is held annually, and (sometimes) the presentations are caught and links provided after the fact. The website is http://2012.northernvoice.ca/
If you have an opportunity to attend a future conference, I would highly recommend it. I’ve been the last three years, and I ALWAYS come away with new information, with batteries on my technology depleted, but my OWN batteries recharged !!!