Don’t call it a Northern Voice wrap-up. Part one – what worked

Three days last week that were definitely of the drinking water (or beer) from the firehose variety. So insight does not run deep. Rather than attempt a comprehensive overview, I’ll jot down some of the things that in my view made Northern Voice a worthwhile experience.

* Having the chance to share social time with D’Arcy, Alan, Scott, Jason, Jon, Wendy, and a few others. Getting to mix professional and personal spheres with admired peers over good food and drink reinforces my will to live, so I’m grateful a little of this was possible in the general hubbub.

* The opportunity to engage in fairly extensive discussions on the practice of social software in education, over a series of days, with the people named above and many others. Between the Salon, the Hootenanny, and the Blogging in Education panel, I estimate we generated about six hours of fairly high-level discourse, with some very provocative moments, most of it captured on digital audio. Over the coming weeks one of my big tasks will be break these elements down, and release them in small, indexed, and hopefully contextualised chunks.

* I can’t express how much I enjoy planning this event with the other organizers. They are so talented, so energetic, and so fun. I’ve learned a lot from them over the past two years, and had a lot of laughs in the process. I enjoyed moderating the They’re threatening to sue panel simply because I got to hear more of the relaxed, informed banter that I’ve grown addicted to. I don’t know if we will do this event in this configuration next year, but if we don’t I’ll be agitating for some other excuse to see these people once a month.

* The logistics of the event were pretty much flawless, if I may say so. Things ran on time, lineup wait times were minimal, the wireless network held up well (the embarrassing network banning of excepted), the UBC Robson Square staff were awesome.

* I think the payoff for UBC was substantial. Many attendees from the University, good PR (had many people thank me for UBC’s support), lots of reusable media, and I met a few talented people who’ve said they will do workshops out on campus in the coming months to share their expertise.

* We delivered two days of solid conference programming, on diverse topics, in a nice setting for fifty bucks. This low price has been a source of some criticism (as it means we do minimal catering, to name one limitation). But I had a number of people thank me personally for making the event accessible to non-professionals (one reason we held part of the event on Saturday). We could have done much more than simply set aside a room for child care, but even our minimal efforts were rewarded by the presence of more than a dozen kids.

* Among the things people got for their nominal fee was a free meal. The Friday night BBQ was a high-risk affair, but I think Boris (et al) pulled it off very well. I was only able to make the briefest of appearances, but saw a lot of smiles, the food was plentiful and served efficiently, and we were on the beach when the sun went down.

* I didn’t see as many sessions as I would have liked, but overall I thought the calibre was pretty strong. I especially enjoyed Philip Jeffrey on tagging (which generated some very strong and informed discussion); Bruce Sharpe’s pragmatic and useful riff on doing better podcasts cheaply, and Nancy White’s talk concerning online competencies (very applicable to education). I wish I could have seen more than ten minutes of Kris Krug’s photocamp — his energy was tremendous, and he’s a gifted facilitator.

* One thing about doing an event like this – the amount of media generated is simply astonishing. Heaps of useful blog posts, great photos, and audio recordings. I had a moment of panic during the Bray/Sifry dialogue, wondering if anybody was recording it. I ran into the theatre control room to discover the aforementioned Mr. Sharpe already there, plugged into the soundboard. I can’t express how relieved I was. He was there all day, and has told me he will give the files the same treatment he does to his work with IT Conversations.

Another unique characteristic of these events is the amount of detailed feedback we as organizers receive via the hundreds (thousands?) of blog posts that get generated. I’m still processing those. Some of these posts conveyed some really useful constructive criticism that point to ways this conference could have been better. I’ll be following up with my own take on how we could have improved the event in a future post.

But before I sign off — huge thanks to everyone who made this such a stimulating and enjoyable few days.

About Brian

I am a Strategist and Discoordinator with UBC's Centre for Teaching, Learning and Technology. My main blogging space is Abject Learning, and I sporadically update a short bio with publications and presentations over there as well...
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10 Responses to Don’t call it a Northern Voice wrap-up. Part one – what worked

  1. No, thank YOU! 😉 The conference generally kicked ass, even if the absolute best parts of my stay in Vancouver had little to do with the actual conference itself…

  2. Steve G'law says:

    Reading the various blog posting from you and others makes me wish I had been there. Maybe next year. One additional observation. “One thing about doing an event like this – the amount of tertiary media generated is simply astonishing. Heaps of useful blog posts, great photos, and audio recordings.” Yes indeed. I have started reviewing these tertiary media and while it’s not the same thing as being there, it’s terrifically instructive. I expect to learn a lot. Even when I attended ELI, being able to review materials from the conference made it a much richer experience. When do you suppose that other conferences will learn this?

  3. Rob Wall says:

    Brian, this was one of the best conferences that I never attended! Reading you, D’Arcy, Alan and others and watching the photos on Flickr gave me a (small) sense of the excitement and vitality coming out of the conference. I wish I had been there in person. I hope that I get the chance in the future.

    And I’m sorry for gacking Jason’s computer on Thursday afternoon with Skype.

  4. Jon says:

    Hey, and more thanks from over here. I had fun.

  5. Letizia says:

    Attending this conference has been a great challange for me! I’m back to Switzerland on Friday and I’m going to talk with my supervisor about this meeting and about all the issues came up during the Social Software Salon and Edublogger Hootenany: I’ll let you know what we think at the other part of the ocean!

    Hey Brian, could we meet for a talk in the next few days? Lunch time is always ok… I have figure out you tastes so I’m going bring something to eat and sure a couple of beer!!!
    You’ve got my contact, let me know.

  6. Dave Smulders says:

    Hi Brian,

    Thanks for everything. I appreciate the opportunity to have been part of the discussion. There was a lot of good stuff in such a short period of time.

  7. Brian says:

    D’Arcy — u r da coolest.

    Steve — you raise a point that bears response, but my immediate response is that the resposibility falls with the attendee, not the conference. NV people do this stuff mostly on their own.

    Rob – please accept my apologies for not setting up your participation properly. I will be looking for you Tuesday when Alan visits UBC.

    Jon & Dave — thank you both so much for the panel — I plan a separate post for the session once I get the audio massaged. Awesome seeing both of you.

    Letizia — glad the events worked for you. I hope the schedules align for a talk (over a beer if possible) before you go — no need for you to provide.

  8. I loved the physical setup of the Hootenanny… a couple of core speakers at a roundtable to seed the discussion, and an open opportunity for others to jump in. The core speakers didn’t dominate the conversation either, and facilitated the discussion drawing out others. A model worth replicating in the future.

    Thanks to you and all the other NV organizers. Vancouver should be proud to have an event like this, and it’s a shame the mainstream media didn’t pick up on it more.

  9. Brian says:

    Steve – I remember your contribution (you sat behind me, right?), you were one of the first audience members to jump in. It was people like you that made the session work.

    We made next to no effort to cultivate mainstream media for this event. In part because we knew we would be fully registered some time ago, and partly because none of the organizers seemed all that concerned with mainstream media attention.

  10. Yup, that was me.

    I was just amazed that an event of this caliber could go under the radar like it did, even without the organizers seeking attention.

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