Northern Voice ’09 wrap

i would like to preface this by saying i’ve had far fewer hours of sleep this weekend than i’d have liked, hiked 15km today in the rain, strained my right knee, burned my leg a bit, am a little dehydrated and have a mock defense tomorrow that i haven’t really prepped much for yet. so, you know, the grain of salt. keep it handy.

i have to thank raul for having introduced me to so many people over the last few days at Northern Voice. i won’t lie, i felt a little out of place so it’s probably a safe bet to say that most people wont’ think much about the guy in the Oilers hat who coloured his name tag bright blue and yellow but i still had a good time. maybe some might cause i tried to get people to write all over my shirt cause i figured it was a good way to randomly talk to people. which i guess was a good idea to most people except one woman who was like “you want people to write on you? like at a frat party? aren’t you afraid that people will write bad things?” my response was along the lines of, we’re at a blogging conference, so no, not really. i think at that point the thought that crossed my mind was “ooooookayyyy, social media fans and random ice breaking techniques from university apparently don’t mix all the time…”

right, my pictures here.

um, so yeah, off the top of my head, the people i have to add to my ongoing list of bloggers i’ve met are randy, linda, jenn, nadia, Stephen Rees, Tris, Kris Krug, Riley, Miranda, Monica, Derek, eaves, Jeremy, Gus, FierceKitty and probably some more that i can’t remember right now. that’s probably an oversight on my part, you know, going to a social media conference sans paper…

um, so, ok i guess this is the part where i say what I thought of the whole Northern Voice experience. obviously this was my first time there. and im going to be perfectly honest here so whether or not people agree with what i have to say, well, really, i dont give a fuck. everyone’s going to have a different approach to it, and personally i think that i’m enough of an outsider to the broader Vancouver social media community that i might be more critical of it than most. i dunno. ok well, friday i can at least say i was super tired all day and maybe it didn’t really click with me. honestly, friday’s stuff seemed a little hectic and scattered. in retrospect, knowing that i probably would have only opted to go to Saturday’s sessions but whatever, i got the total immersion experience this way.

i got an odd sense of the purpose for people being there. maybe it’s just cause of the sessions i went to, i dunno. in one they asked how many people were the for the first time and pretty much everyone in the room did. but at the same time throughout the whole two days people were name dropping the shit out of each other. not in a ‘look how many names i can drop’ sense, but i think you could tell the people who were there for more of a business development type thing and people who are there cause they’re kind of expected to be there cause they’re all things Vancouver social media. i met ONE guy who didn’t have a blog, didn’t know anything about it, and was there cause his boss was an organizer and said he should go.

anyway… saturday was better. i was more awake. i had my cool shirt idea. i got a H2G2 quote on my arm. but that might have been cause i mentioned i was hoping for one, but the fact that it was probably a very unusal one that most people might not think of right away made it cooler.

there are two things that stood out for me for the whole thing. the first, did i really learn anything about social media? no, not really. probably because most everyone there already follows most everyone else. but again, that could just be my point of view from the people i spoke with or listened to. i got the sense that diarist bloggers weren’t the most popular because they don’t focus on a ‘topic’. right, a ‘topic’. i went to one session where they were like “if someone tells you they dont care who reads their blog that’s bullshit. if they tell you they dont care about gaining readership that’s bullshit. if you want a good blog you pick a topic you’re passionate about and you write about it and people will come to you and you will succeed.”

um. yeah. sorry, gonna have to disagree on several fronts. i don’t really give a fuck who reads this, at least not at the present. gaining readership, whatever, if people want to come read it then they’ll come read it. i would say that being a diarist blogger IS a topic and that should not be discounted as it seemed many people were doing. why do i have to be passionate about only one or two specific things and blog the crap out of them? i like sharing what im doing in life with people. if it comes out in a diarist sort of way then so what? you can get a lot more originality out of something that just flows randomly than something that deals with the same shit day in and day out. i think the people speaking at that session were focused way more on  blogging as a forum for self promotion instead of something you do because you enjoy it. right, ‘hobbyist bloggers’ is what they said. i don’t have a specific reason for doing this, i do it cause i enjoy it. does that automatically lump in to some disingenuous group of people online that they seem to think aren’t doing as good a job using social media as they are? if so then excuse the fuck me, sorry to be enjoying myself while posting drunken nonsense after cambie nights.

right, second thing i learned. when shooting concerts put it on shutter priority and try not to take it under 1/200th. i would say this is the only real practical tip i heard over two days. that’s not to say other things weren’t enjoyable. the keynote speakers were insightful and funny, the stuff about using photos in weird ways was cool, and the rock n roll photo session was pretty neat. also, it was cool to meet lots of interesting people. but practically did i take anything out of this conference? i would have to say no. i learned that the social media scene in Vancouver is a nice community. is it one that i think i could easily insert myself into? probably not. these people make social media a way more integral part of their lives than i do. i only follow forty some people on Twitter which is paltry compared to the hundreds of thousands that some people there do. i don’t know the vancouver tech scene, follow it or care that much about it to find out much about it than i already do. which isn’t that much.

i think this conference could have hugely benefited from at least one session focusing on people who are starting out and trying to shape ideas of where they could go with things. that might be kind of redundant in my case cause i’ve been doing this for four or five years. but i keep wondering about the dude i met who didn’t have a blog. he said he was going to start one after the conference. i wonder if he’ll start one up thinking “i HAVE to have topic! i HAVE to use twitter to it’s fullest potential! i HAVE to know about all these little inside jokes and connections!”

hell, i am fully aware that i don’t use this place or twitter of flickr to their full potential, and i am totally ok with that. i’m not sure i need to be reminded of that by the presence of 300 people who are. the one thing i honestly hope comes of this is that i might strike up some random conversation with some person i met there with some random comment and end up going for a few beers and totally ignoring the continual presence of social media on phones and laptops all around. i would be totally satisfied with that.

i also think that more people should start wearing conference shirts and having markers to write on them. fucks sake, people do memes online, why not do them ON other REAL people AT a conference where some sessions might actually cover memes? not sure why that never crosed anyone else’s mind.


this post probably won’t gain me a whole lot of friends if they happen to remember the guy in the oiler’s hat being written on, but whatever. if you can’t handle criticism then you will fail at life. i already said i had a good time, but im not going to ignore the things i noticed.

will i go next year? i dunno. maybe. this might be one of those things where at first i’m all “blegh” but after more than a day and a 15km hike to reflect on it i might change my mind. we’ll see.

im gonna go back to my ‘hobbyist’ ways right quick and start uploading a video of cooking bacon on a stick over a fire beside a lake.

8 Thoughts.

  1. Hi Pat.

    I agree with you.

    I don’t want to write about one topic forever. I want to write about my life. I want to read about other peoples live. I don’t want to read about how you are obsessed with the Oilers day in and day out.

    I also do not care that I don’t use twitter or flickr to its fullest potential. I do not have the time to do so and I really don’t care to do so. I really don’t even LIKE using twitter. I just joined to read the stupid things Chad posts.

    I think we should have a blogger convention and everyone should get a t-shirt and everyone will write funny things on it and we will talk about things we like and things we don’t like and tell stories about our lives and then we will go to the Cambie and drink and have fun.

  2. I guess I’m a “hobbyist blogger” too and I certainly couldn’t care less who reads my blog either. I do it because I enjoy it and also because it’s my creative outlet. If people like what I put out there, cool. I find it interesting who reads it sometimes, and like you, I’ve made many wonderful connections through this forum, however, as much as I enjoy blogging, I’ve never felt a desire to be part of the core social media scene. I’m sure I would have felt exactly the same way that you did at the conference (which is why I didn’t go)…and for the record, I think writing on t-shirts is a fantastic icebreaker.
    Personally, I tend to enjoy reading blogs by the “hobbyists” more any of the “professional” ones anyway.

  3. I totally agree with your reflections on the validity of diarist blogs. Honestly, they’re the only variety I really follow with any enthusiasm. I suppose I’m a diarist because I feel that while anyone could pick a topic and try to become an ‘expert’ on it, the one topic I *AM* and expert on is me.

  4. Hi there. I’m one of the organizers of Northern Voice.

    Thanks a lot for taking the time to write such a detailed critique of the conference experience you had. Obviously, each person sees the conference from a different point of view, and organizers, especially, have a hard time seeing what it’s like to be a new attendee.

    I think that it’s probably true that *everyone* felt at times like they weren’t using their online energy to its full potential — because there are so many ways to go and so many reasons for going. I know I felt like that, and I assure you, I spend a LOT of time online. 🙂

    You’re not going to agree with every speaker; that would make for a boring conference experience for certain. A blogger like, say, Dave Pollard doesn’t use Flickr or Twitter to its fullest, and he still says amazing things. On the other hand, just because someone has made blogging their day job, you shouldn’t think automatically that they didn’t start as a hobby-ist or that they don’t still love what they do.

    I’m not speaking for the conference in this comment, but I can tell you we might like “thank you thank you” but we learn a lot more from something thoughtful like this, and I’ll be bringing a copy of this to our wrap-up meeting so we can try to address some of these issues for next year.

    Also, next year I’ll see if we can get bacon as one of the lunch meat choices.

  5. I agree with Danielle. We should definitely have our own blogger convention and it should be exactly what she described!

  6. No need to thank me for introducing you to people, Pat. You’re a good friend of mine and I enjoy your company in the real, meatspace world. The online world and the Vancouver social media scene (at least the one in which I am relatively immersed in) is peculiar in many aspects, and yes, I’d agree it didn’t probably focus as much on diarist bloggers.

    I read all of the above’s blogs (e.g. Jen, TheQuack, Danielle’s, and others like Keira’s) and of course, yours, and I do it in a large part, because you all are my friends and I want to stay in touch with you.

    Whether or not you come next year to Northern Voice, I am very happy that you joined me for many reasons, not the least the fact that we got to hang out more than we have ever done! And that was, even with the social butterfly thing I did saying hi to every-fucking-body in the damn conference.

    Thanks for being there for me, Pat. And for taking some of the best photos of me. Dude, you’re like my personal amazing photographer. I owe you a beer, hands down. In my neighbourhood preferably so that I can crawl home.

  7. Thesis defense? You need to prepare for it? Listen, unless you’re talking about a shower and a shave, there should be no preparation required!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *