What’s happening to PodCamp Boston?

I‘ll be going to PodCamp Boston this year, just like I attended the first one Bunker Hill Community College, but after looking at this growing list of companies (with some very big ones, like Micro$oft), I’ve been wondering how this “unconference” is going to change this year. If the content of the sessions is going to be influenced and created by the participants, then I think PCB2 (what I am calling Podcamp Boston 2) is going to be very different, indeed.

podcamp bostonAm I misremembering the atmosphere and what happened last year, or was there very little selling of products and services? I felt like I was in a community where people wanted to help each other, learn, and grow. I didn’t feel like every interaction with someone was a potential commercial transaction, it felt like an opportunity to meet a cool person, maybe network, maybe meet a future collaborator . . . it was a weekend filled with “maybes,” not a weekend of potential customers.

Reviewing the expanding list of sessions that have been proposed, there seems to be a good mixture of new and old faces . . . along with what could be corporate drones (you can pick them out yourself). I guess it doesn’t surprise me; PCB2 is being staged in the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center this year, not the community college. We’re going corporate, a big time convention center that may have better facilities, but still . . . we’re going to where corporations go to show their wares, they aren’t coming to Bunker Hill Community College.

I’ll try to be open minded, but I’m also going to be ready to be disappointed if I feel like corporate culture has invaded this unconference.


Hi Bill–

I hear your concerns. I’m sorry that you’re pre-judging an event, but I understand why you might.

Corporations are definitely invited into the conversation. Isn’t that what Cluetrain was all about? If you’re saying that corporations by being corporations are evil, I feel for you.

The difference is, they’re not RUNNING PodCamp. The people are. It’s still an unconference. People still pick the sessions they want to offer, and people still vote with their feet.

With over 1000 people predicted to come, a community college wouldn’t hold us. By the way, the logistical HELL our previous venue afforded us would be 4 times worse with the added people. I was able to secure the BCEC because I work for the company who’s rented the venue for the following week’s big conferences.

They, my company, donated $50,000 worth of space so that you could enjoy a top-shelf facility with better amenities, easier access to your community, and an all-around more organized setting for an event. Sure, it was great to have the rough-and-tumble feel of the community college, but my goal isn’t to create an aesthetic: it’s to serve a community.

The subject matter reflects the world of podcasting and new media making. People are seeking ways to turn their avocation into a vocation. They’re looking for ways to become small businesses, and/or to integrate with larger businesses. There will be plenty of 101 sessions and how-to information, and lots of ways to geek out (these sessions outnumber other types 2 to 1 at present in the proposed schedule). But as people create the sessions, you’ll note that THEY voted for what you see there.

Back to corporations: if you think that corporations coming to an event is a bad thing, I’m curious as to how else we should engage them to voice our interests and concerns. Why wouldn’t you invite people to a conversation?

I hope to see you there, and that you enjoy the experience. As I said at the first PodCamp last year, it’s your event. If you come away unhappy, it might be because you didn’t build the experience you wanted to have. I notice you haven’t proposed a session to lead yet. What do you want to add?

Since when is it a bad thing for corporations to attend an event? If they were running an event I’d ask a lot more questions.

I’m a huge fan of small, organic PodCamps. I love the close knit nature of them. But, I also recognize that if new media is to ever break out of the echo chamber and become what some of us hope it will become that things need to grow.

The growth of PodCamp Boston in one years time does scare me on one level, but not in the bad way. It scares me because it shows the level of interest in what we are doing. It shows that people are starting to pay attention. It shows that things are working.

Will this change PodCamp? Yes it will and none of us know exactly how, but I’m excited to find out.

Can’t wait to see you there.

Hi Bill!

I am now the proud veteran of organizing two podcamps- Podcamp NYC and Podcamp Philly, and I am helping out with Boston as well. As more people join the converation that takes place at Podcamp, the more organization is required. It’s like going from having a backyard barbeque and growing into a whole block party. There are more people, it’s even more fun because of it. Sure, there are some relatives at the picnic that might not be your cup of tea, but you never know until you actually meet them and talk with them, that maybe there’s something special there, too.

For example, at PCB 1, I was too scared to really talk to Julien Smith because why should someone with that level of cool pay any attention to me? Now I count Julien as one of my friends, and he is definitely someone I would not have crossed paths with had I not gone to Podcamp.

No one wants Podcamp to turn into KFC or MCDonald franchise conferences. Local flavor, local people, and a mix of people from all over make it special. The sharing and the open nature of the presentation list is important as well.

Don’t forget the law of two feet means if you don’t like something, you can leave and go elsewhere. No one will make you listen or talk to someone you don’t like. And as a participant, you are in charge of your own experience. You are free to add sessions, get friends to add sessions- make it what you want! Podcamp is about being an engaged community, not sniping from the sidelines.

Trust me, a lot of people freaked out when the attendee list swelled for Podcamp NYC, but it turned out to be a great experience with plenty of community spirit. The second PodCamp Boston will be the same- Bigger, better, breaking the fishbowl of the “usual suspects” and expanding the community outwards.

Give it a chance, engage, and make it what you want it to be/

Thanks for your comments, Chris, C.C., and Whitney.

Like I said, I’ll be attending PCB, and I intend to volunteer working the registration desk. I do support the unconference idea whole hardily. I come from an academic background, and having attended many academic conferences before, that first PCB was refreshing!

My intention was not to rain on the parade, but to notice that things will be different and start a conversation about it. I too am excited about the developments . . . but I have a little trepidation.

I too have no problem with corporations attending the event, but . . . that will make the event different. They don’t have to run the event to change things.

I look forward to seeing you all!

First, some disclosure here. I’m an FOB (Friend of Bill)–I went with him to past year’s PodCamp. And he and I are thinking of leading a workshop together about podcasting linked to community radio.
Reading over the post and comments, I don’t think Bill is saying the corporations are “evil”, but rather is cautioning against allowing commercial interests to overwhelm community interests. If you don’t think that can happen, just look at the state of hip-hop today: a music genre that started out expressing the issues and concerns of youth in African-American communities who were being shut out of mainstream society morphed into a corporate-dominated genre selling a largely violent, misogynist message, rewarding a few stars with millions while their homies in the community are still left in society’s dust. OK, that’s an extreme case–but let’s welcome commercial interests within the framework of putting community feeling first…