Monday, September 11, 2006

Pod Camp Boston

What can I say about one of the best experiences I have ever had?

To say Podcamp was awesome does not even begin to do it justice. It is hard to articulate clearly how important this experience was on so many different levels. Let's start off in categories to try to do Podcamp justice.

1. Podcasters. Podcasting is still relatively young. While the number of podcasters may be over one million, it seems like a small circle of friends. But the people involved are passionate, warm, wonderful people. I've long held the opinion that grown-up life is really just like high school, only on a larger scale. So are podcasters the indie music/club kids group, or the science geeks, or the business school types? Are they the popular and cool kids waiting to take over the world? Who are podcasters? They are often all of the above, in one package. But even the stars of podcasting, like CC Chapman, and the guys from Rocketboom have a naturalness about them. As my husband would say, they are the real deal.
Is this because podcasting ultimately involves sitting in a room, often by yourself, talking to invisible people you hope will listen? When people actually tell us they love what we do, it is flattering and unexpected. Is it because the people who do listen to our podcasts are choosing us out of the whole vast array of webspace and content and are spending their valuable time listening to us and our opinions?

Podcasting, like blogging, the chat rooms, myspace, and other virtual social networks feels like forming new friendships, in a way TV broadcasts or traditional radio does not. I do not feel that I could call up my local NPR station, for example, and invite the host to dinner, and not get hauled off to Belleview as a stalker. The stars of podcasting, in contrast, are not inaccessible. They want to get to know you, and are truly flattered by your admiration and attention. They want to help you, and you can help them in return. It's all about networking and spreading the gospel of podcasting, and changing the world in small but meaningful ways.

In podcasting, though, there is an accessibility and openness that made me feel perfectly comfortable meeting all these new people, even though I was in a city several hundreds of miles away from home, alone. The T was down, so I got in the car with three guys I had just met, and we went to dinner, at a great place with at least a hundred other podcasters, sat down and talked. I gladly bought a round of drinks. I would have gladly done more.

We live in a world where we don't often talk to strangers. We scare our kids, for good reason, not to disclose anything personal about yourself online. We all have heard stories about people getting into virtual relationships that end up destroying their real world relationships with partners, family, etc. Women worry about their personal safety, online and in reality, keeping us in prisons of fear of our own making. As we sit in our homes, typing away online, we are becoming more and more isolated from forming those relationships and friendships that will enrich our lives the most.

I almost didn't go to podcamp. There were family obligations to negotiate, and I had to decide whether driving 12 hours in a 48 hour period to attended a conference for the same number of hours would be worth it. Getting there was not as easy as going to the grocery store, and would require effort and making it a priority. It was worth EVERY second.

Podcamp felt like going to camp and making new friends. Some friends, I had a virtual realtionship with ahead of time. Others, I can't wait to talk to again, and meet after just meeting in passing at podcamp. I would gladly have this lot of new friends over to the house- the virtual world has become a real life world in a very meaningful, important way. Podcamp was like a huge dinner party. There were great conversations happening everywhere. People with similar interests were connected, pointed out to one another, and like a great ameoba, grew, separated, and rejoined, continuing the conversation.

There were the podcasting masters, offering advice on formats and solving technical problems. People shared what they knew and what worked for them like a study group, solving problems together, not like a doctor cornered for a medical opinion at a cocktail party.

There were people wanting to be heard by millions, and others just as happy to find a few like souls who liked their ideas in the cosmos. It was wonderful to know that even the niche people , like me, were interesting and could find ways to be found more easily with just a little effort.

This was the first podcamp. I know it won't be the last. I hope it takes off like a virus and spreads everywhere. Don't miss a chance to go if you get one. While podcasting is young, get involved. It probably won't be able to stay this close knit, personal, and friendly forever. I certainly hope it does, though.

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Anonymous C.C. Chapman said...

I am having so much fun reading all the blog posts and seeing each different person's perspective on the weekend. It was great to meet a diversity of people and I'm glad we crossed paths.

7:35 AM  

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