Owen invited me to join him at blogOrlando, an event he attended last year and spoke about favorably. With nothing better to do this weekend, I took him up on his invitation, despite my previously stated misgivings about so-called social media. It was a good opportunity to spend time with Owen again, but it was also a chance to meet Michael and Mark Jaquith -- two people I've known online for several years but had not yet had the privilege of meeting in real life. Several of the sessions looked mildly interesting, and I promised myself that I would remain friendly and outgoing, in sharp contrast to my usual dour and taciturn self, and that I'd get out of the event what I put into it. All in all, I'm happy to report, it was a terrific experience!
Jake McKee's opening keynote was undoubtedly one of the best keynote sessions I've seen. It wasn't preachy, it wasn't boring, and while not a lot of what he said wasn't anything I could directly operationalize in my own business endeavours, it gave me an awful lot to think about.
Amber Rhea's "Professionalism 2.0" session was exactly what I had hoped from an unconference: a free-wheeling discussion loosely moderated by the session leader. I raised a few eyebrows when, early in the discussion about what defines a professional blog, I quoted Mark Pilgrim's observation about the difference between a corporate blog a personal blog. The session was lively, and thought provoking; and while nothing was really resolved in the end, I left feeling both stimulated and satisfied.
Ted Murphy, CEO of Izea, gave a pretty good overview of how to monetize one's website. Several folks in the audience reported making truly obscene amounts of money from their various advertising schemes, so it certainly gave me some things to think about.
Alex Hillman's session on passion was interesting, and while it was a little less focused than I would have preferred, I did walk away with a few nascent ideas about how to stir up and maintain passion in a few of the circles in which I operate.
John Rife's session titled Video-A-Go-Go was a fantastic overview of some of the options for doing video online. I wrote down a lot more links than I expected, and am excited to follow up on them. The most interesting item John presented was Mogulus, whose Mogulus Studio looks like one of the coolest video solutions online right now.
R. Alexander Spoerer gave a really interesting presentation on a story he's writing online, using only Twitter. I found it to be a pretty catchy gimmick, using different Twitter accounts to provide the dialog for the characters. I think it must be really hard to try to tell a story using dialog exclusively. Check it out at callinghome.tumblr.com.
Finally, Erik Hersman gave the closing keynote about some of the uses for social media in Africa, and how he's facilitating them. His new project, Ushahidi, allows individuals to "crowdsource crisis information". It looks like a truly useful solution for some very real problems around the world.
I left the conference feeling very energized for a number of projects -- current and planned -- and I really hope I can keep that enthusiasm going. I also hope that I can use what I saw at blogOrlando to influence PodCamp Ohio next year. If we can make PodCamp Ohio a better unconference, I well be very happy. And with Ohio LinuxFest just around the corner, I won't have to wait too long to try to execute some of what I learned.
The happy hour party after the conference lasted longer than the conference itself for a few of us. It was an absolutely great time to chat with the folks there: developers, users, consumers, journalists, probloggers, and folks everywhere along the spectrum. One interesting fellow I chatted with briefly is a real estate agent in the Orlando area, and he's looking to improve his already successful online presence. His ideas were interesting, and he was clearly very excited about his future plans. Owen, Michael and I cornered Sarah from Read Write Web and picked her brain about what she liked and disliked about the blogging tools she uses (currently Movable Type and WordPress). It was an informative discussion, and gave us a chance to advocate Habari. Sarah -- and everyone else we spoke to about Habari -- seemed genuinely interested, and I'm hopeful that folks will join the mailing list(s) to share what they like and dislike about our project!
The aptly named Brilliant Jeni stuck it out with us three to close the bar, and a great time was had by all. Earlier in the evening we had met Henry, a tremendously friendly man who had a rather unique angle on asking for handouts. He came back just before the bar closed to celebrate his birthday. All of us thought he was just feeding us a line, but he was only too happy to produce his identification to prove it to us. It was an uproarious occasion, and I don't think I've laughed so hard or for so long hard in a very, very long time.
I was able to keep my promise to myself to remain upbeat and outgoing, and I got out of blogOrlando exactly what I put in. I'm extremely glad I made the trip, and I will definitely consider going again next year.