Thoughts on Podcamp Philly 2007

For a while, it looked like the Unconference was going to live up to its name: while Podcamp Philly had a list of proposed seminars, we didn’t get a concrete schedule until Wednesday. No worries though — Podcamp’s organized chaos congealed at the last moment, providing a rambling structure to a Saturday full of podcasting goodness.

The chaos lurked just behind the corners as folks tried to use the guest ids scribbled on  whiteboards around the Drexel University classrooms to log into the wireless network … at least until they figured out that the IDs only worked on the lab computers. Wired connections for the wandering bands of Mac, Windows and Linux laptop owners were scrounged however, giving rise to deep-sea scuba-like drama as people swapped Ethernet cables back and forth to share net connections.

The sessions were about what you’d expect at any conference: some good, some blah, with the best ones being those that encouraged audience participation (the exception being Apple’s GarageBand session, which gave a lightning fast overview of the software, but still managed to provide some helpful insights into it.  Of course, the conference itself was free, which gives it an edge up over many conferences I’ve gone to that had so-so seminars but cost a few hundred dollars.

I was disappointed by lack of education-specific seminars — there was one on parenting and podcasting, one on podcasting in K-12, and one about Drexel’s Second Life Island that unfortunately ran out of time before we got to the island.  Next year I’d like to get together with some of the other colleges and universities in the area to see if we can get a full track’s worth of education podcast seminars together.

Organizationally, I’d love to have had a map of the buildings that would be hosting the sessions, more hands-on sessions (e.g. editing with Audacity or GarageBand) and a schedule that was firmed up a week in advance of the conference (the better to persuade my co-workers to attend).

It was excellent getting to meet Doug (Geek Acres) and MA (Better L8 Than Nver) in person and that alone made it worth going to the conference; everything else was just gravy.

The conference got great support from Philadelphia area businesses, including Comcast (free coffee form Starbucks), Microsoft (raffle for a fully-loaded Xbox 360) Otto’s Mini (a car dealership which provided t-shirts) KYW News Radio (lots of free air time for commercials), Blogger & Podcaster (free subscriptions giveaways) and many, many more.
The event had plenty of things to do socially, with gatherings Friday and Saturday night. I didn’t attend them — I’m going to enough conferences this year that I thought it prudent to only go Saturday, and head home early to spend time with the family (and rescue Sue from the kids). But I could definitely see spending a full day there next year.

On a related note, I learned about Podcamp Second Life at this conference, and I’m definitely planning on attending when it’s held in 2008. I think this could either be a fantastic venue for a podcamp (allowing a lot of people to attend from all over the world) or a disaster (as Second Life crashes under the strain). Either way, it’ll be interesting but I do wonder how we’ll get our t-shirts…

Overall, I had a lot of fun at the conference, learned enough to make the seminars worthwhile, and left with a thousand idea that I want to implement right now!

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