Addicted to novelty since 2001

Northern Voice is in the Can

Or, at least that’s what they say on film sets. Here are some less random thoughts on what I think went right and wrong for our two-day conference.

Sessions

Though I saw few sessions on either day, it’s my impression that the Moose Camp sessions were decidedly mixed. Some were great, some were lame, some were highly interactive, some were lectures, some were free of ads, some were just thinly-veiled product pitches. That, I suppose, is what we get when offering a self-organizing conference. Next year (if there is one–we haven’t decided yet), we’ll have to discuss whether we can massage Moose Camp and foster a higher level of consistency in quality and format.

Saturday, on the other hand, seemed to be consistently as good or better than
last year. I’ve heard and read very few complaints about the sessions, and everybody
had lots of positive feedback. I had a lot of fun at the panel I sat on (So
They’re Threatening to Sue
–Brian, how’d that audio turn out?), as well
as the one I moderated (Blogging,
Passion and Personal Expression
). They both had a lot of back-and-forth
with the audience, and, you know, nobody got up and left in disgust. I’ll post
the audio to the first panel if it’s available, for I made an amusing verbal
gaffe that had me turning a little red. [more]

Attendees

I was once again pleased with the diversity of attendees we had at this year’s conference–men and women, young and old–we get all sorts. We had fewer noobies at this year’s conference. I think this is because:

  • We’re a year along the blogging adoption curve.
  • More importantly, we did very little mainstream marketing for this conference, because we figured out early on that it was going to sell out.

This raises an important question that we’re going to have to confront if there’s
a Northern Voice 2007. 250 spaces aren’t really enough. From the demand level
at zero marketing, we could easily have a 350 or 400 person conference. I’d
worry, then, that it’d become too big and a bit impersonal. Thoughts?

We try to foster as friendly an atmosphere as possible, but I always think
we could do more to make everyone feel welcome and included. Next year, during
my opening remarks, I might try this thing they do in church. You get everybody
to turn to their right and left (and behind and in front, I suppose) and shake
hands with people you don’t know. Hokey or valuable?

Organization

From the planning through execution, this conference went much smoother than the first one. We knew what we were doing and we had a bunch of returning volunteers. Of course, Lauren Wood’s vast experience as the organizer of the XML conference was once again invaluable.

The usual registration madness was ameliorated this year because it was distributed over two days. Also, we used the nifty concierge desk at Robson Square, which made things much more official. Everybody seemed to dig the idea of a badge on which you could tag yourself.

Kids

As far as I’m concerned, this is one of the coolest things about our conference. There were at least 8 or ten kids running around. We had an incredibly huge room set aside for the kids to hang out in, but they were welcome and well-behaved in all the sessions I watched.

I had the chance to once again hang out with Julie and Ted Leung’s kids. I
don’t know many kids, but they have the loveliest manner–chatty, open, confident
and apparently undaunted by anything that comes their way. And so well-behaved.
They sat quietly through an hour-long session while Julie and Ted were on-stage
together
.

Reaction

There’s plenty of chatter, commentary and notes from Northern Voice around
the blogosphere
and on Flickr. Here are a few comments I encountered while
looking around this morning:

  • Gene
    – "Was it as good as last year? Yes but in a different fashion. Blogging
    has a bit more age and depth to it now." And he’s right about having
    a quick closing session back in the big room.
  • Gill
    – "I found Friday’s Moose Camp to be rather all over the place in terms
    of content, but I really enjoyed Saturday, partially because I got to hang
    out with a bunch of local blogging friends."
  • Alan
    "All this talk of the web as an ecosystem, and I thin someone should
    tell the big residents that us little insects crawling around on the forest
    floor are not doing this for revenue, for fame, etc."
  • Tim
    – "I heartily recommend Northern Voice; it probably won’t blow
    your mind but it might fill it up a little and it definitely won’t stress
    you out." Plus, he wasn’t getting pitched in the hallway.
  • Alistair
    – "Make sessions longer!" Referring specifically to Moose Camp,
    there.
  • Derek
    – "What I really get out of them is the trends you can smell in the air."
  • Arjun
    – "I am not sure what it is – maybe many of us were not popular in high
    school – but I felt sensitivity in the rooms today. People liked being part
    of the cool crowd, and if some were not part of it, they seemed a little on
    the periphery."
  • UPDATE: Fellow organizer Briam Lamb posted his own wrap-up this morning.

UPDATE #2: Sarah Pullman is the new Canadian correspondent for Geek Entertainment TV. Here they are broadcasting live from Northern Voice. They make fun of our Canadian accents.

7 Responses to “Northern Voice is in the Can”

  1. Eric Eggertson

    Great conference, Darren. Thanks to all the volunteers who made it possible, and to the participants for being cool, interesting and approachable people.

  2. DaveO

    I had a blast! While Moose Camp got a little product demo heavy, i sorta expected it and didn’t mind going with the flow – sort of a warm-up for the real deal.

    I think providing a loose structure that all Moose presenters/groups adhere to might foster a more consistent flow of ideas and useful discourse. That kinda goes against the intent but will establish a more standardized set of expectations throughout participants.

    The program on day-two were great – too many good ones in fact so it was hard to decide which to attend. At many conferences, i take a couple sessions off to chat or stroll, but i went straight through even catching the last 5 minutes of another spiel if mine got out earlier.

    Gnomedex’s strength is the one-track vibe so you don’t have to move/decide, though NV’s groups were smaller and more intimate (not in *that* way) with a good mix of skill sets contributing to the conversation.

    I was pleased to have the chance to participate – both with my low-down on the Digital Millenium Copyright Act and the panel about Passions (or whatever is was called).

    Cheers to all the organizers and volunteers!

    daveo

  3. Darren

    DaveO: Agreed. I’ve talked to Pirillo about the one-track versus multi-track model, and I think Gnomedex achieves an impressive balance between huge room and intimate and, uh, interactive.

    I’m not opposed to product demos at Moose Camp–I just think we need to make them more consistenly transparent so that people know what they’re info.

  4. Brian

    Good overview.

    Just gave the recording a listen, and it’s audible, though not great. I hope to perform a few of the post-production tricks I learned during Bruce Sharpe’s Moose Camp session. Let me know if you’d like an MP3 copy of the raw recording, or a copy of the original Audacity file. Hope to have better copies posted within the week.

  5. Mel

    I think you could split a bigger conference up into two camps – one for the social, touchy-feely bloggers (like me) and one for the more two-point-oh, technical and/or geeky bloggers. You could also have joint sessions for things that overlap – like photography and legal/privacy issues. Just a thought.

  6. Ritchie

    Hi Darren,

    I guess this is the 3rd time I could’ve introduced myself to ya but didn’t. Sorry Brainfarted. Next time, I’m sure I will.

    I really enjoyed the conference you and the team really did a great job.

Comments are closed.