Barcamp Nashville: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly #bcn09

Barcamp Nasville 2009 was my first barcamp nashville event.  Having spent some time (well more time than I shall indulge) at internet / web events, I’ll say it’s the best run FREE event I’ve attended. Everything from the session mix and the location to the volunteers and sponsors – it was a first class operation.

The Good

I sit here looking at a blank unmoving cursor as I wonder where to start. Of the good what’s actually important and how many “good” things do you talk about before your blathering just dulls. . . So I’ll start with my takeaways.

“Don’t spew link vomit. . .” was my favorite session. I had no real idea what this session was going to be about, but I just finished a social media link-study for “P90X” and was curious. The session was run mostly by the social media folks at The Tennessean and Alison Groves, who brought a real, concrete & new concept to discuss (i.e. the use of a branded url shortener). While I did a “time of day” and “action word” study using what I’d considered a branded link ( – they actually created a new, a new, a new snurl for themselves. And their data proved pretty convincingly that the concept works well.

I also enjoyed the 11:30 SEO session with Justin Briggs. I’ll say that if you were new to SEO – this was likely chock full of useful information. From somewhat of a veteran’s standpoint – Justin included enough “advanced” SEO information that I kept busy making notes. The “canonical” tag topic was not only new to me – but very useful information. He also included some links to SEO tools I hadn’t tried yet and posted his slides on Twitter in case you missed them. Excellent 30 minutes.

To round out my top 3 sessions (which I’ve apparently decided to write about), I’d give Kudos to John Morgan’s “How to Create Buzz” workshop. I didn’t leave John’s talk with copious notes on what I need to add, change or delete in my business – but did leave with a new sense of “buzz-worthy”. I believe he said if you’re trying to create massive buzz for your site, you first must ask yourself – is your site even buzz-worthy? A bit more philosophical than some of the others – but I’m still thinking about it 30 hours later.

The Bad

Ooohh. . . How can you write about the bad stuff when some of your friends helped organize it? I’d say the worst part was seeing the “untaken” name tags left at the registration table. I don’t know if there were 18 or 800, I just remember walking by the table at 3:00 thinking “I’m glad I’m not one of them.”

The only bad part about an event like this is the session length, but it’s kind of a catch-22, I’d say. At 30 minutes, I felt like the speakers had enough time to fully present their material – but that sometimes left no time for Q&A or more in-depth talks. To quickly counter that, I will add that all the presenters were immediately available for Q&A and had their biz cards ready for follow-up after the event. So I’m not sure I’d change it.  I just remember sitting there a couple times thinking it went too fast.

My favorite internet/web event for session length is the NAMS event in Atlanta which happens 2x per year (next one being January). That’s the only other “no-pitch” event that I regularly attend. As a 3 day event, it’s an entirely different animal. What I really love is each session is 1 hour of learning followed by hands-on 1 hour workshop. In my opinion – it’s the best environment around to really learn something, have the chance to try it out and have experts on hand to help.

Otherwise, I’m not sure there was really a bad I could harp on.

The Ugly

Hmm. . . There’s ugly in everything. In fact they say in any group of 5 friends, 2 are ugly. So I’m trying to come up with the ugly and have come to the sad realization that I may be it.  You should have seen my face once they started talking in the Symfony vs Rails discussion. That’s a topic that was way over my head. It was a good thing that session was only 30 minutes. I’m not sure I wanted to feel that “out of the loop” for much longer.

I look forward to the next Barcamp Nashville event. Thanks to all who put it on.

Twitter Followers, Romania and Social Stigmas

I lived in Romania in 1994 which was 5 years after the fall of the wall but still very early in the post Communist process. I was 20 at the time and got the wake-up call every American needs. I now think everyone needs to live abroad. Only then can you appreciate what you have, and what you don’t.

One of the curious aspects of Romania at the time was their attitude toward customer service. Coming from the U.S. where customer service has been the buzz word for 30 years, I was shocked by that particular difference.

Centre of Cluj-Napoca, Romania, dominated by St.
Image via Wikipedia

My host family once told me that Romanians didn’t like the term customer service. Not because they didn’t want to treat customers fairly but because of the history they had with the word service, servitude and serving their government. She said if that concept was to one day become a business buzz word there – the word service would likely not be part of the term.

I didn’t fully grasp that comment, at least not personally, until Twitter. For me it’s the word “followers”. I really don’t like that word at all. I think of David Koresh and the Waco, TX incident. I think of kool-aid drinkers of South America. I just can’t come up with a positive idea regarding the word “followers”.

Like the Romanians if I could rename that part of Twitter, it certainly wouldn’t include that concept. Maybe that’s because I don’t “follow” anyone. I certainly don’t log-in to Ashton Kutcher’s page to see what he did for lunch and where he is now.

Facebook calls them “friends”, LinkedIn – “Connections”. I sure do wish Twitter had called them Party Go-ers, or Tweeps or Interacters. Actually I can’t come up with a good term myself.

But if it were my business, I’d really take a good, long look at the terms I use on my site. Not only does language play a hand in the terms you choose, but so does culture. What is the culture you want to create? Does that culture mesh well with the culture of your market?

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