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NTC: In which we call a trade show a science fair

NTC: In which we call a trade show a science fair published on 1 Comment on NTC: In which we call a trade show a science fair

I spent last week in Wash­ington, DC, cartoon-blogging NTEN’s 2011 Non­profit Tech­no­logy Con­fer­ence. These are some of the highlights.

One of the parts of NTC I find the most appealing is how the trade show is called the Science Fair:

The Science Fair isn’t like a typical conference exhibit hall. Instead of running throughout the entire conference – and competing with everything else on the agenda – the Science Fair takes place only on the first day of the NTC, and it’s the sole focus of the conference at that time. It’s also the setting for the conference’s Opening Reception. As a result, the room is full from start to finish, so come prepared to talk to dozens of exhibitors and meet hundreds of conference attendees. Reflecting this event’s unique nature, we call it the “Science Fair” so that everyone realizes it’s an integral part of the NTC and not just another boring exhibit hall!

I’d love to see them take the metaphor one step further. If this is a science fair, then how about having science projects?

It doesn’t have to be mandatory (so vendors won’t phone in some token effort just to qualify), but it could be a chance to show off some fun tech application, an intriguing experiment and its outcome, or an inspiring case study. Have participants vote for their favourites (hola, QR codes) to select finalists, and enlist a panel of distinguished judges to choose the winner.

NTC: The usual WiFi hiccups

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I spent last week in Washington, DC, cartoon-blogging NTEN’s 2011 Nonprofit Technology Conference. These are some of the highlights.

You can’t have a tech conference without WiFi becoming an issue, unless you take extraordinary measures. It really doesn’t help if the venue is underground, as a lot of large convention centres are, making it a lot harder to connect even to a cellular signal – my own Internet-of-last-resort. (Although it’s actually getting pretty tolerable. I’m tethered right now, and while there’s no question it’s slower, I can definitely get stuff done.)

Was it a blessing in diguise? Maybe. It freed us to look at the people right next to us, to really look at them, and to talk with them. To share our hopes (“Try deleting your network preferences”), our dreams (“I’ve heard of a conference where the WiFi was actually pretty good”), even our innermost spirituality (“Maybe the IP address gods will smile on us”).

At a conference, “fresh” is relative

At a conference, “fresh” is relative published on No Comments on At a conference, “fresh” is relative

Originally published on BlogWorld

The one thing that cheers me up about the fact that there’s only a little more than an hour left in BlogWorld is this: the prospect of seeing sunlight again. Hearing the chirping of birds, the wind whispering on my cheek, the cursing of a driver who just got cut off on the Strip. Aaah.

That said, if I had to be indoors for three days, this was a pretty dang swanky place to do it in.

My card. No, wait…

My card. No, wait… published on No Comments on My card. No, wait…

First published on BlogWorld. I’m cartoon-blogging there next week; let me know in the comments if you’ll be there!

I’m as guilty of this as anyone. You meet someone at a conference, you find a real connection – be it personal or business-related – and you exchange cards.

But as you hand yours over, you yank it back. “Oh, sorry,” you say, and fumble for a pen – “I just changed cell numbers. Let me just write in the new one… Hmm, you can’t really read that, can you?” (Of course they can’t, because you’re trying to write it on a little card with a big thick Sharpie, the only thing you could find in your bag.) “Do you have a pen? Or just some pointed instrument I could use to draw some blood?”

So if your business cards are out of date, set aside some time today to get some new ones printed in time for BlogWorld. (I promise: I’m doing just that as soon as I finish writing this.)

And if you want to stand out a little, here are a few ideas for business cards that make sense in for a social media conference:

Wi no Fi?

Wi no Fi? published on 3 Comments on Wi no Fi?

(From my original post on ReadWriteWeb, where you’ll see a fun comment thread)

OSCON has wrapped in sunny Portland, and with it the most ambitious conference wireless networking I’ve ever seen. Yet even here I heard attendees complaining about sluggish Wi-Fi… and organizers asking them not to download large files.

Now, there’s little question that OSCON is an edge case. Get a few thousand developers and software engineers together and you’re going to strain the bandwidth.

But every conference I’ve been to – every single one in the last four or five years – has had issues with Wi-Fi. And for that matter, nearly every hotel I’ve stayed at has also had issues with Wi-Fi. And I sometimes wonder if the issue is often less one of conference overload than one of facilities that invest as little as they need to to be able to say they offer Wi-Fi.

Then again, every conference and hotel I’ve been to has had at least one person who insists on downloading an OS upgrade or a movie to watch on the plane home. That would be, um, me.

The question is, when does conference Wi-Fi stop being about just checking email and maybe sharing some notes, and start being about allowing people to continue doing the heavy wireless lifting they do at home and at the office? Ever?

PhoneGap in action

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Brian Leroux, Filip Maj and company were in rare form at OSCON this morning, demoing PhoneGap, Nitobi‘s open-source mobile app development framework. PhoneGap solves two big problems for mobile developers: the number of platforms you need to develop on, and the number of app stores and distribution channels you face.

I was there, stylus in hand, to capture the broad strokes. What I didn’t get down here was the very cool experience of watching them create and launch an Android app in just a few minutes. (Thanks to a document camera, the audience watched the whole thing unfold on-screen.)

The jury's decision is unanimous: 'We want more comfortable stools.'Series of ribbons, one of which reads 'I wandered in here by mistake and now I'm paralyzed by fear.'

Cartoon-blogging from OSCON

Cartoon-blogging from OSCON published on 2 Comments on Cartoon-blogging from OSCON

Howdy, folks – I’m in Portland, OR at OSCON: O’Reilly Media’s annual gathering for the open-source community.

The convention itself starts tomorrow, but there have already been two days of tutorials and summits. I caught today’s cloud computing summit, which included a series of debates with a jury deciding such issues as whether open APIs prevent lock-in, whether we need standards in The Cloud, and whether the tarsier is a cute mascot or the cutest mascot.

The jury's decision is unanimous: 'We want more comfortable stools.'

One little touch that I love: the ribbons you can add to your badge. With most conventions, that’s fully in the control of the organizers: you get a ribbon that says “Sponsor” or “Speaker” or “VIP” if and only if you merit it. At OSCON, you get your choice of everything from “Database Doctor” to “We’re Hiring”… or a blank ribbon and a Sharpie.

Series of ribbons, one of which reads 'I wandered in here by mistake and now I'm paralyzed by fear.'

There’s no question, though, that this conference’s main target audience is people whose tech chops exceed mine by a light year or so. That’s great – I like to feel challenged, and there’s no question most of the sessions I’m attending will do just that. And that makes me especially delighted that Alex and I will be presenting tomorrow on how we’ve been taking Social Signal’s business processes open, and the surprises, pitfalls and windfalls that we’ve encountered.

More coming tomorrow.

Your GPS doesn’t lie: you aren’t at SXSW

Your GPS doesn’t lie: you aren’t at SXSW published on 3 Comments on Your GPS doesn’t lie: you aren’t at SXSW

For anyone in this business who isn’t at SXSW in Austin, Texas this week, pretty much every social media channel feels like sitting next to a high school clique loudly talking about a party you weren’t invited to.

If SXSW doesn’t interest you, or if you’re able to rise above it all, then my hat’s off to you and your Zen-like transcendence.

For those of us who still have some lingering envy or a fear that we’re missing out on… well, we’re not quite sure what, but something really cool… there’s actually some soothing relief this year. Check out the Twitter discussion on the #fakesxsw hashtag: if it doesn’t bring a grin to your face, well, maybe you don’t deserve to be at SXSW.

And if that doesn’t help, well, there’s always the Sally Struthers approach.

(First posted at ReadWriteWeb!)

SXSW shwag bags

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Tweulogy

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Probably no need to mention that this cartoon was inspired by the Web 2.0 Expo debacle involving danah boyd, a Twitter backchannel projected onto a giant screen behind her, a speech that faced an uphill battle from the get-go, and a few audience members with some impulse control (and other) issues.

There’s a fascinating renegotiation going on between audiences and speakers. Twitter and backchannels are part of it, but I suspect something deeper is afoot. There’s a revolution sweeping all forms of communication – ask anyone who works for a newspaper or a record company – and maybe we shouldn’t be surprised that even something as seemingly timeless as public speaking would be affected.

But that doesn’t mean we have to be jerks about it.

Problem solved

Problem solved published on No Comments on Problem solved

But first, our standard conference snack of carbs and diuretics

But first, our standard conference snack of carbs and diuretics published on No Comments on But first, our standard conference snack of carbs and diuretics

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