Back in 1994 when I built my first web page at Pitt I knew I was onto something. I wasn’t sure how to explain it but it was a feeling that a group of us had. We knew the WWW was going go be huge. In 1997 I purchased superunknown.com and started an online journal. I discussed it with some friends and we all agreed that it would be cool if everyone could publish without having to know web design but worried about the quality of the product. A couple years later Blogging was born. In 1999 I started in publishing web video for my company. The only people outside of corporate life was college students with the bandwidth to handle video without waiting hours on dial-up connection. My co-workers and I knew it was going to work someday when technology catches up to the demand. Today we have YouTube. In 2003 I joined Friendster and MySpace when there were still a couple thousand users and some friends laughed at an online social network. Now they all have accounts along with millions of others.
This past weekend I took part in an “un-conference” which lit a fire I haven’t had since we were still living I Love the 90’s. I witnessed the next greatest technology that will revolutionize the way we live. Podcasting. This time I’m riding the wave.
Podcamp Pittsburgh was a FREE UN-CONFERENCE for people who create, enjoy or are interested in learning more about the following: blogs, vlogs, audio podcasts, web video, content networks and new media monetization. Official Podcamp Pittsburgh website.
Meet-n-Greet: Friday night started out with a Meet-n-Greet at the Art Institute in downtown Pittsburgh. I had never been to this place so this whole trip was a new experience. I was greeted by Norm at the door and given a quick overview of what was going on. Food to the left, beer to the right. I made a right.
Going into this I didn’t know a soul so if I wanted to I could say I was the goddamn president of Zizzybalooba and get away with it. OK, maybe not. Quick scan of the room showed that there was a eclectic group of people and I should socialize or be that bald guy in the corner. There HAS to be someone here I have something in common with. That’s when I was stopped for my first of many conversations over the weekend with Chris Brogan from Network2. Chris also helped organize the first ever Podcamp in Boston way back in September of 2006. Long time eh? Great guy and as you’ll see through the countless photos he’s one helluva character too. I got the finger from him many times that weekend. I’m assuming that’s how most people from the New England states say hi 🙂 Good food, good beer, good time.
Day 1: sickpup shows up at my place on a rather dreary morning. Got him a jolt of caffeine and we headed to North Oakland. I haven’t driven around Oakland since I moved to the North Hills in 2000 so I must say that Pitt and the surrounding schools have done a great job cleaning up that area. We arrive at Pittsburgh filmmakers(The Film Festival is also being hosted here) for Podcamp. Erik from Something to be Desired greeted us and made sign-in quick and easy. OK plus we got free swag. I’m all about the free shit. The t-shirt was from spreadshirt.com (who was also a sponsor) and I have to admit that it’s pretty damn comfortable. Chris Brogan and Justin Kownacki gave the intro speech and then we were off to our sessions.
Here is what I loved with the format for Podcamp. At an un-conference if you don’t like the material or it’s not what you expected, you can move to a different room. Our morning was spent with the talented (and Pittsburgh native) Alex Lindsay from Pixel Corps. He gave a series of talks/demos on using a green screen for video which came in helpful since we have one but never used it. Andrew Baron from Rocketboom fame was up next. His session was on Rocketboom’s popularity and website stats. This was perfect for me since I’m always working on the stats for our podcast.
Lunchtime came so we snuck off to D’s 6pk Shop in Regent Square for a dog n beer. Did you really think that with the wife gone for the weekend I wouldn’t sneak this trip in? HA!
The afternoon session would turn out to be most entertaining of the weekend. Being fashionably late (blame the beer) we made it back for the 2:30 session of Video Podcasters Show-and-Tell. Alex Lindsay (damn he was busy, I just realized this) started off with some of the videos he’s created. Following Alex was the 54 Hour Project. Stop reading this and check it out. They provide a sentence and you have 54 hours to make a film about that sentence. Friggin amazing concept!
Now what I’m about to tell you is a perk and HUGE advantage to attending Podcamp. Sitting in front of us during the Show and Tell was the cast of TikiBar TV and Andrew Baron. Not only is the event free but you get to bump elbows with the people that are on the more popular end of the podcast spectrum and each person was extremely friendly to us. There’s some starstruck that comes over you and even intimidation when you first shake hands but that’s out the window as soon as you start talking and everyone is on the same playing level.
Sickpup and I weren’t sure where to go next and that’s when we saw it… “Podcasting and Its Fans” with the Wrestling Mayhem Hour. Check out their site for videos from the Podcamp. First off it was very informative on how to communicate with fans. I’m VERY anti-myspace but for the sake of the show we may have to eat a bullet on this one. Secondly, they had snacks. That’s always a plus. Finally, it was interactive. Whenever the audience did a Ric Flair “WOOOOO” someone got hit. As the session wrapped up they treated us to wrestling moves (yes i have video). Hit over the head and across the back with chairs and a kick to the face. We headed out after that and went back to my place to get ready for dinner. Time to prepare the Father Spoon outfit.
Dinner and the partybus: We took a taxi to Bossa Nova downtown for dinner and drinks put on by Podcamp. Drinking would be involved this evening so there was no second guessing not driving (remember that kids). Food was good and the beer selection was decent. We do beer reviews… we’re picky. We chatted with some podcasters and received an education from Jeff Persch about getting “snakey”. Apparently this is the term for being schnookered or drunk in Minnesota. While we were discussing with Jeff some of the finer points of tequila and whiskey I start on a fresh beer. Wouldn’t you know it, the party bus shows up at that moment. I did the only thing a true beercaster would. I chugged it. Then the bus left with no one on it. Ends up it was just making a lap around the block. When the bus did arrive I jumped on with a group of others and the party starts picking up. Back at the restaurant everyone was well behaved and socialized. Once the bus doors closed you’d think it was a whole new party. Lights were flashin, people were singing and the bus was a rockin! For the record, whomever made Sweet Home Alabama into a dance remix needs to be taken outside and have the shit kicked out of them.
South Side – Tiki Lounge: Only good things can come from mixing podcasters with alcohol. Here is the collective photo album from the night so you can see the mayhem yourself. The TikiBar TV gang was there to party with everyone as things started off with a toast from Doc Tiki. Tiki Lounge is Pittsburgh’s own Tiki Bar. The staff was very good to us (well me at least) and made some mighty tasty high octane drinks. Being me I stuck with Dogfish Head 60 Minute.
Johnny Johnny and I spent quite a bit of time chatting about our shows, what we do and some folk we have in common. As the night wore on the party got stronger. At one point I remember going up to a VIP section and hanging with TikiBar and STBD crews. Oh yeah and there were countless leis going around. At one point I recall looking out over the crowd and thinking “this is pretty fucking cool. everyone is feeling the love…” The night ended with some of us going to Jekyl and Hyde for beers. Apparently my priestly outfit for the night confused the drunks and one guy went on to “confess” to me he was cheating on his gf… who was up at the bar. There’s more details but I’ll save it for a later post.
Day 2: As expected this was going to be a rough day for us after the night before. We weren’t hungover but just exhausted. We sat in for a Q&A with STBD which was a good time to pick their brains and ended our day with a session on promoting your website hosted by Erik Schark. It’s a session like this where you go “holy shit, why didn’t I think of that?”. Thanks Erik!
Overall this was an unbelievable experience. I’m going to say this and I know it was said over and over again that weekend but I had no idea how many podcasters/bloggers were in Pittsburgh. To bring everyone together in a setting such as Podcamp was amazing. The tips I learned from the weekend changed the way I approach podcasting. Pittsburgh is on the verge of becoming a hotbed for innovative web multimedia technology and I can’t believe I get to experience first hand. Thanks to Justin and all of the organizers/volunteers who made this possible! See you at Podcamp 2!