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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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November022007

Wanna Talk Podcasting? Organize a PodCamp!

Wanna go to a free conference that’s local, focuses on podcasting, brings together really creative people and could help you develop exciting projects with your students? Look no further than PodCamp, then. It’s one of the most interesting trends in the Web 2.0 event scene. The only thing you have to do is organize one for yourself.

I used to be a total conference hound. It wasn’t unusual for me to hit 20 events or more a year, including a lot of overseas events. Unfortunately, that often translated to spending more time traveling back and forth to the event than actually participating in the event. With my current job and a baby at home, I’ve cut back on my travel schedule by 90%, which means I don’t get to connect with colleagues the way I used to. I’ve made up for it by participating in more local activities, like meetups where I can interact with community-based bloggers, podcasters and educators. In some ways these events can be more satisfying, because the people and activities are literally in the neighborhood, so you can follow up on a regular basis, either formally or informally.

That’s why I’m really fascinated by the grass-roots conferencing effort known as PodCamp. The first PodCamp was held in Boston just over a year ago, during which a group of local podcasters and video bloggers got together for a teach-in. There was no top-down conference schedule enforced by an organizer or a sponsor. Instead, the event was developed as an “unconference” - a gathering in which the participants themselves plan all the activities on a wiki, and keep the format flexible enough so everyone who attend can be an active participant rather than a passive audience member.

The first PodCamp wasn’t large, but the idea caught fire in the podcasting community. In just over a year now, more than 20 PodCamps have been held around the world, from Pittsburgh to Capetown to Perth. The most recent PodCamp, which took place in Boston this past weekend, attracted nearly 700 participants. Meanwhile, there are at least another dozen PodCamps scheduled around the U.S. and elsewhere between now and next summer.

Each one of these unconferences is organized by local volunteers, open to veteran podcasters and first-timers alike. To be considered a PodCamp event, they just need to share six attributes:


  1. All attendees must be treated equally. Everyone is a rockstar.

  2. All content created must be released under a Creative Commons license. (This license means that any content from the event can be used by anyone else as long as that use is noncommercial in nature, the original creator is cited as the source, and that they require their own users of the content to follow these same sharing rules.)

  3. All attendees must be allowed to participate. (subject to limitations of physical space, of course)

  4. All sessions must obey the Law of 2 Feet - if you’re not getting what you want out of the session, you can and should walk out and do something else. It’s not like you have to get your money’s worth!

  5. The event must be new-media focused - blogging, podcasting, video on the Net.

  6. The financials of a PodCamp must be fully disclosed in an open ledger, except for any donor/sponsor who wishes to remain anonymous.

Because PodCamps are organized as hands-on workshops, they’re inherently an educational experience, though most of the PodCamps organized to date have targeted a general audience. That’s why I’m particularly excited about a PodCamp taking place in Washington DC on Saturday, November 10. It’s called PodCamp EDU, and as the name suggests, it’s focusing on educational Podcasting. Organized by Andy Bilodeau and Victoria Vasquez, PodCamp EDU will take place at American University. It’ll be a smaller event than many other PodCamps - the space fits 85 people max - but that’ll also allow for a much more intimate experience where you can actually remember peoples’ names. So far, more than 60 people have signed up to attend by adding their name to the PodCamp EDU wiki, and they’re self-organizing by posting session ideas on the website. I’m planning to attend, and have offered to help out by doing a couple of sessions on the editorial mechanics of video blogging and documentary making.

What’s great about the PodCamp idea, and unconferences in general, is that you don’t need a huge budget or a staff to organize one. If you’ve got a space that’s available to you and you can reserve it with a decent amount of lead time, you’d be amazed at how many volunteers in your community might come out of the woodwork simply by proposing the event on the PodCamp website. It’s particularly exciting for folks who aren’t in a position to travel to conferences, yet would benefit - or even volunteer - if an event were hosted locally.

What do you think? Would you be game to get a PodCamp EDU going in your community? Give it some thought - seriously. I can’t wait to participate in the DC event next week. -andy

Filed under : Events

Responses

Andy: Wow, what a great idea!!

I just came from PodCamp Boston 2 and it was awesome. I attended PodCamp 1 - and both of these events I learned so much about social media and met fantastic people - and I don’t even podcast!

I wish Icould go to PodCamp EDU. Are you going to be recording the audio or streaming any of the sessions live?

You read my mind, Dave. I was gonna ask the organizers about that. Thanks for the reminder. At minimum, I’ll try to record my sessions, though it’d be great if they could set up the rooms for streaming on ustream.tv or something else.

I am organizing a PodCamp/Barcamp - inspired unconference in Providence, RI, to be held in February. Its theme is bringing together people who are ‘newbies’ to technology and those who want to mentor them. I hope to follow the guidelines of PodCamp - so let me ask, what is the Creative Commons License Agreement all about, and when and how do you release an open ledger? Do you just post an Excel spreadsheet, or is there software you would recommend?

Regarding Creative Commons, check out their website or my blog post on the subject. As for the ledger, you should post your question on the Podcamp Commons wiki. -andy

Podcamp EDU is a great idea, I would have loved to evangelize that a few years ago while working in higher ed. Good luck with it!

I am curious to hear how it went and hope that somebody might write down a checklist of steps that would help others around the country (and world) organize something similar. I would volunteer for my region: Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, Indiana.

Andy, I am inspired after having read the description of the PODcamps. I agree to both the streaming video recordings for sharing and the checklist for those aspiring to carry the torch in other parts of the world and hosting PODcamps in other places…
do you know of any in Texas?
Thanks for the spark of inspiration, I just taught myself to do a podcast and was so excited. Glad to hear of such forums for shared dialogue in this exciting media.

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