Tag Archives: bucketworks

Internet killed the conference

The reasons we attend a conference haven’t changed since the 1990s. Much else has. Will conferences survive the squeeze? Ross Dawson, Chairman of Future Exploration Network and CEO of Advanced Human Technologies, has some thoughts. I do too, but they’re more from a marketing technology perspective. That means I’m more interested in the environmental changes that are stressing conferences and trade shows. And how we might adapt to these pressures in a win-win for sellers and buyers alike.

I’ll get to those shortly, along with the insights of Mr. Dawson. But first, let’s recall why we bother to attend them at all:

  • Education — What are our industry best practices and recent developments?
  • Community — Can we reconnect with existing colleagues and friends?
  • Networking — Will we find new colleagues and other resources or business opportunities?

I’m sure I’m missing some, but if you can agree on these, let’s look at the changes that have pushed conferences in the direction of the dodo.

Time and money — If the decade since the 1990s is an opera, the Overture was the Dotcom bubble bursting and Act 1 was the World Trade Center attack and the start of two wars — wars that are still droning on through this end of Act 2. We’re entering Act 3 and dealing with another burst bubble, one dragging down the world economy. Need I explain why productivity is down? We all have to get more done with less resources. That means national or international conferences may have to be crossed off our calendars.

E-learning and online collaboration — We discovered during the first strain on our airports, post-9/11, that we could meet virtually and not suffer unduly. Some things are missed by a Skype or Go2Meeting session, but hey, life isn’t perfect. And in this iterative, speed-to-market economy, imperfect is perfectly okay.

LinkedIn introductions — Most of my colleagues don’t use LinkedIn every day. But all of them have a profile there. And combined with Facebook and other social networks, they manage to meet new colleagues, vendors and even clients by tapping into their network of trusted connections.

likemind, BarCamp and The Unconference

Yes, we still have to physically meet each other. Thinking otherwise is a particularly dangerous form of technological hubris. But meetings of this type have evolved. I first learned about — and then attended — Milwaukee’s BarCamp. This is a free “unconference” that has to be experienced to be believed.

Then came likemind, the concept too brilliant and hip for uppercase letters (along with e.e. cummings and k.d. lang).

I won’t prattle on about the monthly event, except to say that, similar to BarCamp, it’s free of charge to attend here in Milwaukee, and it’s held at BucketWorks. Here’s the latest on this “un-networking” event. (The next one is in two weeks!)

Finally, there is Ross Dawson, who discusses the Un-Conference:

“There are many forms of unconference, however the basic idea is that participants create the agenda on the day,” says Mr Dawson.

This leads to highly interactive discussions, and the topics reflecting the interests of the people there.”

To date, the unconference has largely involved technology and creative industries, and can incorporate both traditional discussion panels, which then become the launch pad for breakout groups where ideas are more directly exchanged between participants.

Does this sound like echos of both BarCamp and likemind? It should! But Dawson goes on to talk about presentation formats. “Lightning Talks, Ignite, and Pecha Kucha [such as Milwaukee’s Pecha Kucha nights] are a few of the names given to this new breed of presentation night that brings together a range of presenters to share their ideas in an informal setting, energising attendees and promoting networking around the themes being discussed.

“At the recent Ignite Sydney event, 12 presenters were each given the chance to present 20 slides, with each slide automatically advancing after 15 seconds,” reports the online article on Mr. Dawson. He explains it this way:

In a world awash with information, it is critical to be exposed to many diverse perspectives and insights.

A very few speakers and presentations merit 45 minutes. Most other ideas can be highly condensed with little loss, creating a far more dynamic and stimulating experience for the audience.

Has the internet killed the conference? Perhaps not. But let’s watch it evolve, bending to the demands of a workforce hungry for utility and starved for time.

Next week I’ll explore how marketers might morph their behavior to better resonate with the new business consumer. In the meantime, I invite your comments. Also, meet me and many of your peers at 8 AM on May 15, at likemind!

Large and diverse group made inaugural likemind a valuable meet-up

If you missed this morning’s first-ever Milwaukee likemind, you missed some great conversation and excellent coffee. Thank you Greg Batiansila for being the first to document and post a glimpse of some of the festivities. Here it is:

At least one other person had a video camera, so there will likely be other videos circulating. Want to try spotting them? Check out the buzz surrounding the event on Twitter, where they will undoubtedly be posted. Just search for the MKElikemind hash-tag (#MKElikemind).

Mark Your Calendar For the April 17th likemind

I received at least a dozen emails and direct messages from colleagues who couldn’t attend, and hoped to attend the next one. I’ll bet my co-organizer, Chris Moander, did as well.

That means the April 17 likemind will be just as varied and interesting as this first meet-up. So mark your calendar!

Kudos To Bucketworks

I need to give a special thank-you to the providers of the absolutely perfect setting for this type of event. Bucketworks, you’re the best!

WOM marketing, TwappyHour and Web414 meeting all help to explode myth of online social networks replacing “meatspace”

Mingling at a Business Marketing Association luncheon yesterday, outside the conference room with my fellow “Hello, my name is” attendees, I said something quite naive. I was chatting with a couple of our interns. Referring to the topic of the presentation, word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing, I said, “What we’re going to hear today will be far more relevant for you both than for people of my generation.”

My assumption was that the speaker would talk almost exclusively about using online social networks to generate WOM buzz. I couldn’t have been more wrong. The key case discussed by Spike Jones‘s excellent presentation was how his agency, promoting Fiscar scissors, identified those passionate about scrapbooking and fascilitated meet-ups.

True, there was a large social network component, complete with forums and blog posts. But once web-based connections were made, Spike’s agency created opportunities for scrapbooking enthusiasts to meet face-to-face. They met for weekends of shoptalk and bonding.

Social network tools simply acted as catalysts. They were, in essence, meatspace delivery systems.

Wikipedia defines meatspace as “referring to real life or the physical world … the opposite of cyberspace or virtual reality.”


Yes, We’re Digital Eggs — But We’re Also Flesh-and-Blood Chickens

Richard Dawkins, in his controversial articles, books and speeches, reminds us that all life beyond the simplest single-celled entities is digital. He put it like this: “You contain a trillion copies of a large, textual document written in a highly accurate, digital code, each copy as voluminous as a substantial book. I’m talking, of course, of the DNA in your cells.”

This genetic information reproduces itself more along the lines of a computer file making a copy of itself, rather than the way a photocopier reproduces off of itself. When you make a photocopy of a photocopy, very quickly things get grey and murky. With computer files, as with DNA, there is theoretically no information lost. Things replicate exactly (hard drive flaws and genetic mutuations notwithstanding).

In his book River Out of Eden, Dawkins helps to clear up that old chicken-and-egg conundrum. Sort of. He says we’re all fundamentally eggs (DNA), programmed to keep our species alive via reproduction. But here’s the rub: Eggs can’t reproduce unassisted. They need to grow into chickens. In this way, Dawkins contends that chickens are the eggs’ strategy for producing more eggs.

Thinking of our own flesh and blood as essentially a means to replicating our species’ string of digital information is something peolpe take several ways. They consider the paradigm either humbling, inspiring or alarming, depending on their theological perspective.

For some, in this networked age, Dawkin’s universe of pure information can be seductive. We can sometimes forget that in this digital banquet of the computer-mediated communication, first and foremost, we’re mammals.

And we’re particularly pack-oriented mammals at that.

Online Social Networks Abet Meet-ups

If Spike’s presentation didn’t remind me of the importance of face-to-face meetings (and it was, after all, held at a physical banquet room), my evening certainly did. I left work for two more meet-ups — both made possible through online social networks.

First, I met a group of new and long-standing friends facilitated by Twitter. Appropriately, it was called a TwappyHour, a term coined by organizer Augie Ray. It was a great way for me to put faces to Twitter “handles” I’d been communicating with for months. As Sam Dodge put it, “Meeting people this way after knowing them for so long online is pretty cool, but also kind of creepy.”

True enough. One thing that took away some of the oddness of it all was the atmosphere of our “Tweet-up.” It was The Iron Horse Hotel, a new boutique hotel at the foot of the 6th Street Bridge in Milwaukee, within wheelie distance of the new Harley Davidson Museum. Owner Tim Dixon gave this group of 20 or so Twitter-ers a tour of his amazing hotel.

The Iron Horse Hotel

I was particularly fascinated by Tim’s account of the rigorous market research he did as he planned his hotel, which is targeted to the surprisingly intersecting groups of motorcyclists and business people.

I’m looking forward to more of these TwappyHour sessions. Thank you again, Augie (and his lovely and charming wife Geri, owner of Metropawlis, for the discerning pet!) for making this amazing event possible.

After that, I headed to my first meeting of Web414, which was another demonstration of how computer-mediated communication still hasn’t replaced sitting together around a bowl of snacks. The topic was how to make the next BarCamp Milwaukee better. It was a fun introduction to both the group, and to the “meatspace”: Bucketworks. I’ll be returning to both often.

If I sound like a gushing gossip columnist as I recount my night, I can be excused. It’s all because I left both events exhilarated by the new friends I’d made, and with deepened connections to some existing ones. I’m forever grateful for the work I do, not because of the cool computing (although I would lie if I said that didn’t matter somewhat), but for the quality of the friendships and associations I’ve made through them.

To everyone with whom I shared this memorable night: I’ll see you online — and at future meet-ups.

This weekend don’t miss BarCamp Milwaukee!

Stewart Brand, co-founder of the Whole Earth Catalog, computing innovator, and community organizer, is purported to be the first to pronounce, “Information wants to be free.” Although I’ve not heard his name dropped in discussions with BarCamp Milwaukee organizers, it definitely fits. Here’s how OnMilwaukee characterizes this freeform information mash-up:

BarCampMilwaukee3 is a technology based forum; running sessions all day Saturday and Sunday covering topics from specific programming applications to the role of the Internet today.

BarCamp’s run nationwide; each city specifying the format and content of the event to suit the needs and wants of the local tech class.

“There are several conferences in cities like Chicago, San Francisco and New York. BarCamp is a spoof on FooCamp, an event hosted by O’Reilly Media that is truly expensive,” BarCamp organizer Pete Prodoehl explains.

I attended (and was a presenter at) last year’s event, and I found it incredibly stimulating. You’re surrounded by interesting topics presented by enthusiastic and knowledgeable speakers. The only problem I had at BarCampMKE2 was deciding which topic to choose from in a given time slot.

It’s a good problem to have, and a strong reason to add BarCampMKE3 to your weekend plans. You’ll be glad you did.