PodCamp Nashville 2011: Looking Back and Forward

I attended PodCamp Nashville 2011 over the weekend and I’ve given myself a few days to let the experience percolate. It was my third podcamp and it was a good experience as each BarCamp and PodCamp I’ve attended has been. But it wasn’t great.

I expected good things out of a number of presentations that, from my seat anyway, didn’t deliver. But a few sessions I expected to be basic were fun and entertaining. So, all in all, a mixed bag. If you’ve ever been to a conference (unconference or otherwise), this isn’t a surprise.

Conferences are hit-and-miss. It’s really really really hard to throw a perfect game in the conference world. Webstock 11 blew the doors off the internet this month by throwing one such conference in New Zealand.

I’m not saying I expect that of PodCamp or BarCamp; doing that in Nashville would be tough, especially if we’re committed to pulling local talent instead of bringing in speakers of Webstock caliber. I’m not sure we could do it.

So here’s the thing: Let’s do it.

There is always talk in the Tech-Inspired community (by myself included) of being entrepreneurial, following our passion, raising our game, and finding new opportunities. We’re smart people who care about our community and about what we do. Nashville is a world-class city and home to world-class businesses. Why we don’t have any nationally-recognized technology conferences? Even within a niche?

We have several *Camp events under our belt and Next BIG Nashville experience. It’s time to take our game to the next level. BarCamp and PodCamp are great, but at the national level, they’re still Single-A ball. We need them, but we don’t have anywhere for our local AA and AAA players go when they’re ready to graduate from the *Camps, and we don’t have a path to Majors for the folks already playing at that level. The best tech people in Nashville have to leave to get any serious recognition or opportunity. That’s not good for them and not good for Nashville.

A conference is just one step toward changing that, but it’s a step.

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  1. Posted March 29, 2011 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    I’m sure you area aware the nature of the un-conference structure where as the organizers have to give equal treatment to anybody who speaks or attends. That is a huge hurdle to overcome and I would say it makes it impossible to pitch a perfect game in that format.

    There has been talk about adding a tech aspect to Next Big Nashville and turn it into the SXSW of the fall. Not sure how serious the it has been but I like the idea.

    So I agree, lets do it. You start the charge by forming a LLC or not for profit to start the conference we need. I will help out. ;-)

  2. Posted March 29, 2011 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    While I was at PodCamp this year, I wasn’t able to attend any of the sessions as was my hope in the morning so I can’t speak to this as an attendee. I also wasn’t on the PCN crew. So my comment is really from the perspective of someone who’s been coming to these for a few years.

    I was talking with a couple of people yesterday about how we as a community may be expecting something from both PCN and BCN that is unfair to both the format and the crew that puts them on. When you have an event that is 100% volunteer and requires equal opportunity to everyone who wants to speak, you’re going to have challenges. Throw into the mix that Nashville is chock full of people who want to speak, and you’re in for a logistical nightmare.

    Much like you and Dave said before me, perhaps it’s time that we create a different conference – not as a replacement of PCN/BCN – but as the next evolution of technology and media conferences in Nashville. A conference such as this could allow for stricter programming, more “A-game” content, the ability to bring in speakers from around the country/world, and more innovation since more money would be involved.

    I think what you’re feeling is less of an indictment against the PCN/BCN format or crew and more of the realization that we have nothing beyond those two for people to progress to…yet. I’m more than happy to be a part of something bigger and more professional in Nashville.

    The real question is, who’s going to take point? I already have a conference I’m planning for Q4 2011 within another industry. But I’d love to help in any way I can.

  3. Posted March 29, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

    I agree with Travis’ comments. The format of BarCamp and PodCamp is both a blessing and a curse. It is a blessing in that it keeps for an open-source, equal opportunity type of environment. Everyone is welcome to come and contribute. This is a great opportunity for folks to enter onto the scene.

    It is a curse in that it prevents us from ever going deeper. I agree with the emerging concept that a new event needs to be created. PodCamp, by nature, is a minor-league type of event. If we don’t create a Major League here in town, we can’t hope to keep the talent engaged.

    Count me in for whatever we do moving forward. I may not be able to dive in head-first, but I’ll gladly contribute in any way that I can.

  4. Posted March 29, 2011 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    I’m in. Let’s do it.

  5. Posted March 29, 2011 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I love this honest discussion here. I think this is great.

    My comments come from a newer “Camper”. I attended BarCamp for the first time in the fall and this was my first PodCamp. I volunteered at both events, but wasn’t on the crew. So, I realize that it’s easy to criticize when you aren’t in the trenches doing the work.

    I don’t think the programming was as good as BarCamp, but that could be simply that some of the subject matters of PodCamp didn’t interest me as much. And, the random drawing was a good idea, but it did create duplicate session topics. I think quality control and breadth & depth of topics is a challenge when you make speaking open to anyone. I’m not sure the best way to open up speaker opportunities and make it fair, while ensuring an excellent program. No matter what you do, there are certainly downsides.

    For whatever reason, I think PodCamp suffers from a bit of an identity crisis compared to BarCamp. I think there seemed to be more excitement about attending BarCamp from the community at large, even though the numbers were outstanding for PodCamp this year. I think most people still don’t “get” the idea of PodCamp.

    All that said, I agree with the other comments here. I think that we have to be realistic about what these Camp events are and what they offer. They are free events and perhaps should be geared more towards beginners and people just starting out and trying to understand it all. It could be the stepping stone for something deeper.

    I love the idea of creating another conference that takes things a bit further to really tap into the talent we already have here, and perhaps even expand Nashville’s tech community.

    I’m in too. :)

  6. Posted April 1, 2011 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    We are in!