Community Presentation at PDX Web Innovators 12/5

December 4, 2007

If anyone wants to hang out, I will be leading a discussion about community at the December PDX Web Innovators meeting. I am bringing a couple of slides so that I have something to deviate from during the discussion. I’m hoping to spend no more than 5-10 minutes talking before we turn it into a discussion.

It starts at 7PM on 12/5 and is being hosted at ISITE. You can RSVP and get more details on Upcoming. I hope to see you there!


Social Networks, Relationships, and “Friends”

December 1, 2007

I’ve been hearing quite a bit of discussion lately about how our relationships and the concept of “friends” are evolving as more people spend increasing amounts of time interacting with social networks like Twitter and Facebook.

In a post on the New York Times today, Alex Wright claims that

THE growing popularity of social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and Second Life has thrust many of us into a new world where we make “friends” with people we barely know, scrawl messages on each other’s walls and project our identities using totem-like visual symbols.

The more time we spend “talking” online, the less time we spend, well, talking. And as we stretch the definition of a friend to encompass people we may never actually meet, will the strength of our real-world friendships grow diluted as we immerse ourselves in a lattice of hyperlinked “friends”?

Still, the sheer popularity of social networking seems to suggest that for many, these environments strike a deep, perhaps even primal chord. “They fulfill our need to be recognized as human beings, and as members of a community,” Dr. Strate says. “We all want to be told: You exist.”

(Quote from Alex Wright in the New York Times)

This implication that online interactions are somehow wrong and less valuable than face to face interactions bothers me a bit. Maybe my use of social networks is less typical due to my relatively frequent travel to conferences, but I find that I can keep in touch with people who I may only see a few times a year through these networks. It isn’t unusual for me to spend a significant amount of time with a few people during the week of a conference and then not see them for another 6 months until we run into each other at some other conference. Through Twitter and Facebook, we can keep in touch and continue to learn and keep up with each others’ current projects (work and personal). This helps us pick back up where we left off, but with insight into what each of us has been doing over the past 6 months.

I limit my Twitter feed (which is private) to people that I personally know, which allows me to Twitter more freely about where I am and what I’m doing. With Facebook, I am a little more open, accepting not only people who I know in the physical world, but also people where I have some online connection. Both of these services help me make stronger connections to the people that I know. I learn about local and remote tech events that my friends are attending and share information about community events that I am organizing. I get together with these people (the ones living or traveling in the Portland area) regularly for lunches, dinners, events, werewolf games, drinks, and more. I also learn quite a bit from these people through shared links, stories, posts, and ideas increasing my personal and work productivity as a direct result of the online interactions. I tend to think that I have stronger relationships as a result of these services, not weaker ones. These people are part of a broader community, and our participation in this online community is no less valuable because some of the interactions occur online.

I think that many people see these interactions happening online in social networks and assume that these are replacing our other interactions. In many cases, and in my case, my online interactions in social networks do not replace physical interactions with real people, they simply provide a way to augment the relationships I have with my friends.

Related Fast Wonder Posts:


Can the Average Person Get Rich Blogging?

November 28, 2007

Yes and no (there is never a simple answer).

Now that I am back from lounging on the beach, I thought it was time to get back to blogging, and what better way to start than with a debate over whether or not people can really make money blogging. On Read/WriteWeb today, Alex suggests that . Well, yes and no.

I really liked Anne Zelenka’s response on Web Worker Daily. Her take is that

you can earn money because of your blog instead of with it. Blogging can be the centerpiece of your professional promotional and networking activities, leading indirectly to new money-making opportunities. Plus, blogging offers psychological riches — through the opportunities for personal expression and social connection it brings you.

The best reason for an individual web worker to blog isn’t to make money directly with the blog. It’s to boost your online persona, to make professional connections, to learn about your field, and to attract new opportunities, whether paid or unpaid. And note that unpaid opportunities are not necessarily less important than paid ones — because they can provide you with attention, reputation, education, and new connections.

(Quote from Anne Zelenka: Web Worker Daily)

I absolutely agree. I don’t make any money directly off of my blog (no ads here), but it has made a huge difference in my career. My career was in a bit of a lull until I started blogging a few years ago. At the time, I worked at Intel and did my job really well. I received great internal recognition, but almost no one outside of Intel knew who I was.

When I started blogging and actively commenting on other blogs, people started recognizing me. I went to conferences and people would approach me! I started getting emails from people who read my blog and wanted to know if I was interested in being on panels for conferences. While I do not make money off of Fast Wonder directly, I do think that I have made more money indirectly through blogging. Through blogging and getting involved in a bunch of unpaid tech community activities (organizing BarCamp, Ignite, etc.), my career has improved in so many indirect ways (financial and job satisfaction).

Related Fast Wonder Posts:


Everyone’s a Peer. Live with it.

November 18, 2007

I stole the title of this post from the last two sentences in But Miss, they’re not listening to me, a blog post by JP Rangaswami on Confused of Calcutta.

In his post, JP describes a world where hierarchical command and control structures are being displaced by more democratized networked environments. The days of expert speakers who talk at us while we take notes and passively absorb the information with little or no opportunity for discussion are gradually disappearing.

This post resonated with me and helps to describe my recent thinking about conferences and speaking engagements. I’m finding that I rarely enjoy giving formal presentations where I yammer on and on with a slide deck while people listen to me talk. In these presentations, I don’t get much real time feedback from the audience other than the occasional non-verbal cue (nodding in agreement vs. nodding off, for example), and I learn little or nothing during these presentations.

In contrast, my favorite speaking environment usually happens at unconferences (BarCamp, etc.) where I can lead a lively discussion about a topic of interest by kicking it off with 5-10 minutes of my ideas on the topic and moving quickly to a facilitation role where many people contribute to the discussion. Since each person comes into the discussion with different experiences and diverse views, I learn as much or more from the other people participating as they learn from me.

Panels fall somewhere in the middle depending on the structure. I despise panels where the moderator asks too many questions or where each panel member essentially gives a mini-presentation with little time for audience questions. On the other hand, my favorite panels are similar to my unconference speaking style with a couple of minutes of discussion at the beginning, but opening it up to audience questions no later than in the first 10-15 minutes of the panel. The audience questions help target the discussion to topics that are interesting to the audience, but even more important is what you can learn from the questions being asked. Questions give so much insight into what people are thinking about the topic and what is important to the audience. My Social Networking panel at Defrag was a good example of one that moved into audience questions early, and I think it benefited greatly by the participation.

JP says in his post:

It’s a new world out there. We can’t go around saying “But Miss, they’re not listening to me”. We have to earn the respect of our peers. But remember, in a networked society, everyone is a peer. Your professors. Your children. Your subordinates. Your bosses.

Everyone’s a peer.

Live with it.

(Quote from Confused of Calcutta)

We each come into a discussion with unique and diverse ideas, and we learn by listening and sharing ideas with our peers aka everyone.


Related Fast Wonder Posts:


Ignite Portland Recap

October 27, 2007

We had a fantastic time at Ignite Portland, and the event exceeded all of our expectations. What we initially thought would be an event with 150 people became an event of nearly 300. We were concerned that we would hit the 297 person fire code limit and need to turn people away at the door, but in the end everyone was admitted to the event, and we hit the fire code limit nearly exactly (277 people registered in our system + ~20 people from Wieden+Kennedy = 297)

The presentations were amazing; it wasn’t too crowded; and I got to meet a bunch of new people!

Key learnings for the next event:

  • Less white wine, more beer and water
  • More time for networking (maybe 14 presentations, instead of 18 to free up some time)
  • Need a larger space (something holding closer to 500) to minimize the risk of turning people away

I think these are all fairly minor issues for our first Ignite Portland event. A huge thanks to co-organizers Todd Kenefsky, Raven Zachary, and Josh Bancroft, and thanks to all of the many volunteers and sponsors for the event. We look forward to doing another one in Jan / Feb! We will be posting more information about future events on the Ignite Portland site along with video and presentations from this event.

There are nearly 200 pictures posted to Flickr already under the igniteportland tag. For complete coverage of the event with links to many other blogs discussing the event, visit Silicon Florist. Rick has done an amazing job of aggregating the event news!

Related Fast Wonder posts:


The Joy and Peril of Organizing Community Events

October 18, 2007

OK, I’m a bit of a geek as most people know. Yes, I organize tech events for fun in my “spare” time. 🙂

We are organizing the first Ignite Portland event next Thursday. Initially, we thought we would have 150 people – maybe 200 if we got lucky. We picked a nice, roomy space for the event (Wieden+Kennedy) holding 297 people. We did mostly word of mouth marketing: blogs, a couple of mailing lists, the pdxMindshare newsletter, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Nothing fancy, we just spread the word organically.

Well, we reached 300 people on the RSVP list on upcoming this afternoon. We faced similar issues with Barcamp Portland, but we only had about 250 people register for that event. In the week leading up to BarCamp, we went from about 150 people to 250 on the wiki. Yesterday morning around 9am, we hit 200 … today we crossed the 300 mark. Seriously?? 100 new RSVPs in a little more than 1 day!?!

While we are thrilled and amazed by the response to our simple event, we are faced with the unpleasant task of capping the RSVPs at 325 on upcoming. We also know that we will need to count people as they register, and if we end up hitting the 297 limit, we will have the even more unpleasant task of turning people away at the door.

On the one hand, Wow! look what we accomplished. On the other hand, we might have to turn people away (not exactly in the spirit of a community event).

Portland is a great place for technology enthusiasts, and we have an amazing tech community. Realistically, I think we will be fine. Assuming we get 325 RSVPs on Upcoming, a few people will have last minute conflicts, and we should be OK.

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Attend or Present at Ignite Portland!

October 9, 2007

Our first Ignite Portland is rapidly approaching!
Thursday, October 25th, 6-9pm
Wieden+Kennedy
224 NW 13th Ave, Portland, OR
FREE
Please RSVP at Upcoming

Interested in sponsoring Ignite Portland? We are looking for additional sponsors to help with the costs of refreshments and signage. 100% of sponsorships go towards costs directly, no middleman. Contact Raven Zachary if you are interested.

Want to present at Ignite Portland on 10/25? If you are interested in presenting, please submit your ideas before 10/16! All you have to do is pack an idea/pitch into our format – 20 slides, shown for 15 seconds each, auto-advanced, and make your idea sound more exciting than the others! We’ve had a great response to our call for presenters. So much so that we have more ideas than presentation slots; however, keep them coming! We’ll just have to pick the best ones. Keep in mind that we expect these to be regular events, so if you do not get to present at this one, you will have other opportunities.

Please tell your friends, blog about it, and post the Ignite badge on your website if you want to help us promote this Portland community event held for the Portland community by the Portland community … yes we do this just for fun 🙂

We hope to see you at Ignite Portland!