Northern Voice - The Moose Is Loose - Blogging and Social Media Conference

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.

Friday:

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. 

Northern Voice Conference - W2 Atrium with a basketball court in the centre

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.)

Northern Voice Conference - Blogging To Inspire panel

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.”

Saturday:

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)

Northern Voice Conference - Inside The Bloggers Brain

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.] @mikevardy #nv12

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

Northern Voice Conference - Shane Birley - Making a Quantum Leap

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 !!!

     I would like to have a Website or Blog. What should I do ?

Because I am only Familiar with WordPress, I will confine my answer to that Blogging Software.  From what I can tell, it is the most used, and most user friendly.

There are two branches to WordPress… WordPress.com and WordPress.org

      Do I just want to Blog for FREE ?

WordPress.com is the “side of the street” where you get a little less control over your Blog, but you’re not paying for it, so that is the tradeoff !  By going to WordPress.com, and filling out the form there, you can be up and writing your Blog in a few minutes… BUT your Blog address will be something like BobSongs.WordPress.com, which is a little unwieldy, but again… the price is right !

      Do I want My OWN Blog (with a unique URL) ?

The other option is to host your own Blog.  Often this is a decision determined by “Do I already have my own domain” or “Do I have enough to say, that it is worthwhile for me to have my own Blog ?”  This option costs money.  Not a LOT, but a couple of lattes a month.  For myself, I already had my http://www.BobSongs.com website, so it was not a huge leap for me to envision my Blog as http://Blog.BobSongs.com   It costs me about $7.00 a month to host, because I already owned the BobSongs.com domain.

If you want to go this route, and you do not have a website, I would suggest the first step is trying to find a website that will suit your purposes.  When I was looking, I found that BobGray.com was taken by someone else, so I had to settle on BobSongs.com.  You can find out if Domains are available by using a WHOIS application.  There is one available from Network Solutions, http://www.networksolutions.com/whois/index.jsp 

Once you find the domain name is available, you need to go to a Hosting Company, and (usually) they will help you purchase the domain, and provide hosting.  Costs will vary, as different domain extensions (.ca .com .net) have different costs.  You pay a fee, per year, to “hold” that domain, and a monthly hosting fee, to have your site “on the web”

I used Blue Fur Web Hosting for my Blog, and Gary was good enough to install WordPress on there for me… but there are a number of hosting companies that provide similar service.

If you already have a website, talk to your hosting company about adding a blog to your domain.  From what I’ve seen, the “norm” is to replace the www with Blog in your URL. (If you don’t understand this, don’t worry, your host company will know.)

      Okay, I’ve got a Blog to call my own… Now what ?!?

Official Keyboard of the BobSongs Blog

Official Keyboard of the BobSongs Blog

Even before you’ve got your Blog set up, there are a few things on WordPress that can be confusing, unless you know ahead of time:

THEMES – Are the appearance of your page.  The layout, background and colours.  There are probably thousands of Themes to choose from (most free) and not that hard to change.

WIDGETS & PLUGINS – These are the options that “add” value to your page.  Again, one of the best ways to find out the important ones, are to look at Blogs you like, and see what they do.  Reader Comments, Twitter Tracker, SEO Submission, Categories, Recent Blog Listings… all things that you can add to most Themes, and decide where they should go on your page, using PlugIns and Widgets. 

Sometimes, when you load a different Theme, some of your Widgets may not work, or work the same… FYI…  So find a theme you can live with, for a while.

POSTS – Sometimes, during editing, the Internet hiccups.  For most of us this isn’t a problem… but if you are Posting to a Blog, it can be frustrating.  I suggest writing your Blog in Word for Windows, or Notebook… and then Cut and Paste to the TEXT screen in WordPress.  In this way, you always have a backup of your Posts, just in case “something” happens.  Again, I haven’t had any issues, I just think it’s a good habit to get into.

A tip I got from Raul Pacheco-Vega (@Hummingbird604) was to break up blocks of words with a pertinent image… (always giving photo credit, if the image is not your own) … it provides a treat for the eye, and a break in big blocks of text.

WORDS – The rest of the challenge is to create a Blog that challenges and draws readers in.  My Blogs are tending to be a bit frenetic, without a central theme.  In Beyond Blogging, (a book I bought and read) they say this can make it challenging to develop and keep a following.  The other important habit is to try to get into a rhythm, so your readers know whether to expect one post a month, or three a  week !!!

HAVE FUN – To me, this is the key ingredient.  If the writer enjoys what they are doing, and are having fun with it… the reader can enjoy the experience, alongside.  If there is no passion, there will be no pleasure… for the writer, or the reader !!!

Write on !!!

I am sitting at my desk, about six different windows open, on my two computer screens… and I am befuddled.

I have been blogging for a few months now, on and off… but only in the past few days have I had an opportunity to actually get into the nuts and bolts of WordPress, and have the combination of time and courage necessary, to start messing with my Blog.

Dusty Keyboard

Dusty Keyboard

I don’t know if it was my connection timing out, or what happened… but previously, I had made an attempt to change a Theme… and although I spent a few hours on it… nothing was different.  There was some sort of error messgae that kept coming up, and so I put it away, and didn’t try it again, until this weekend.

NOW I’m hooked !!!

Must have more widgets… Oh… adjustable width !!!  More pages… How do I use the calendar ?!? 

I LIKE it !!!

I am trying to poke, and experiment… prod, and try stuff, in hopes that when I encounter someone who really KNOWS what they are doing, that I can use the correct “lingo” to describe what my issues are !!!

That is, in my estimation, the biggest problem with technology…

The Folks who design a System, don’t take into account that someone like me, doesn’t know what they call stuff.  Thus, the manual that comes with MOST software, is useless, because unless you know (for example) that a point in a line where it changes velocity is called a NODE… you can’t look it up in the index !!!

Thus, I am sitting at my computer, early on a Monday morning… befuddled and bemused.

I’m not really sure what I’m doing… but I believe my blog is better looking today than it was yesterday… so my baby steps are moving me forward !!!

Now, I wonder what a category is…

Hmmmm….

BobSongs

BobSongs

Hi !

If you’re reading this… Sorry !!!

I’m a songwriter, and not so much a blogger !

(Although I’ve often told I’m full of… blether…)

I’m trying to write / finish a bunch of songs… but there aren’t enough hours in the day for that… let alone this !!!

So, if you are reading this… Sorry !!!

It just wasn’t the “Write Time” to Blog !!!