Tag Archives: panel

You're Invited to the Gnomedex Conference

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Most tech conferences would charge you thousands of dollars for the privilege of being inspired. Gnomedex, however, does not! It delivers more bang for your buck, as it has been for the past ten years. This year, the 10th Gnomedex will be happening from August 19 – 21 in Seattle. Will you be joining us?

We don’t know what is going to happen with the Gnomedex brand going forward. We have a lot of ideas, though. I’ve been talking with potential partners, and am looking for potential partners who may want to help evolve the idea of Gnomedex in years to come… not just in Seattle, but possibly elsewhere, as well.

Gnomedex is a confluence of influence – a tapestry of Human Circuitry. We’re surrounded by technology, but it’s becoming increasingly pervasive. We’re surrounded by stories and discussions that usually get glossed over online. Gnomedex is an experience. That is what past attendees will tell you.

We attract hard-core Geeks who love technology and want to meet influencers. We attract influencers themselves. Heck, we even attract the people who don’t realize they’re influencers. We find them before they are influencers of anything – or anyone.

We Geek out over a few days’ time and enjoy ourselves. We relax and open our minds to new experiences, stories and connections.

One of our partners for the past several years has been Eventbrite. They handle registration for us, and have been a boatload of help during past events. This year, they are offering to help drive more traffic towards the conference, in honor of our tenth anniversary. They asked me a series of questions to help them get a better feel for what we do, and I decided to answer them in a video.

  • What IS Gnomedex? – It’s typically a “tech conference,” but really it’s so much more than that. It’s an opportunity for you to explore a side of yourself you may not otherwise have a chance to. You realize you identify with this Geek spirit. Imagine being around more than 300 other people, and being who you really are. You’ll talk about issues that are on the forefront of our industry. We push the envelope, and even predict trends. Back in 2001, we talked of blogs and RSS – long before anyone knew what they were. It boils down to the experiences people have and the energies they take with them back to wherever they came from.
  • How has Gnomedex evolved in the past ten years? – The ethos was still the same in the beginning: treat everyone like a VIP, connect with one another and offer a single-track event. It has evolved to better facilitate the communication online. We’re live streaming the entire conference. We have a much better venue than in past years. You get an awful lot of awesome things for the low cost of $300.00 that we are charging this year. For a 2 1/2 day conference packed full of opportunities, that’s not a lot of money folks.
  • What sets Gnomedex apart from other events? – People come to Gnomedex because they truly WANT to be there. They aren’t made to go. With a lot of industry events, people are sent by their bosses and managers. They feel that they “have” to have a presence there. With our conference, we just don’t get that crowd. Everyone attends because they truly want to experience what it is we’re doing.
  • How do you think the structure of the event serves your goals? That’s something organizers often struggle with. – I’ve seen organizers have seventeen different tracks with thousands of people pouring in. I’m not down with that. I’d rather make 300 people happy than 3000 miserable. In the past, we’ve had people equate what we do with very large conferences and brands, saying that we have done the same thing for a fraction of the cost. I value those connections. I AM about those connections, so that is what I value most. I keep it as small and manageable as I can. That’s centric to community, which is the core component of everything I do.
  • How did you choose and secure the venue? How will the space be set up? – I’m in the process of negotiating the venue for this year. We’ve used it for the past few years. I have no desire to change things, but we’re working out the cost this year. Bell Harbor is an amazing place, and very comfortable. It’s beautiful there, the location is fantastic and everyone leaves happy. They provide awesome food, snacks and drinks all day long. The seating is comfy. There is plenty of room at the tables. Each person has power strips right at their seat and kick-ass Wi-Fi to use.
  • What is your approach to using social media for the event – before, during and after? – I’ve been using various social media outlets for Gnomedex pretty much since the beginning. Our attendees own and create the event. All we do is set the stage. I encourage people to record things, tweet about things and blog about their experiences. It’s always worked out well. Before the event, our volunteers help spread the word as much as anyone. They are excited to be a part of organizing the event and they show it in their conversations online.

I’d love to do other types of events around the Gnomedex brand. It would be amazing to do one for kids and teens, with speakers and presentations geared specifically towards them. This may very well be the last Gnomedex as you know it now – it depends on the partners we get in the future, and the direction they want to take.

If you want a free event, attend a free event. If you want to be treated like cattle, don’t bother to attend Gnomedex. EVERYONE at Gnomedex is treated like a VIP, whether they are a volunteer, an attendee or a presenter.

We have some amazing speakers and experiences lined up already this year. I promise… you will have an amazing time if you join us this year.

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Did SXSW Interactive Panels Fail to Entertain?

This article was written by a guest blogger. B. Imei Hsu is a nurse / psychotherapist, dance artist, and Yoga instructor. When she’s not in session in her private practice, she’s wondering whether her cat needs his own QR code. For more info, contact her at [email protected]. Both Imei and her cat live in Seattle, WA.

[Editor’s Note: I happen to agree with what Imei is about to lay down. That, and I’m very grateful for AMD’s sponsorship to help me get to SXSW last week.]

Are panels, workshops, presentations, and keynote addresses at one of America’s biggest web development, film, and music festivals supposed to entertain the masses? Is a part of the dollar value of our interactive passes mapped to an expectation that the audience – that I, as a n00b and newcomer to Social Media – would be engaged, encouraged to laugh, and occasionally led to the edge of tears?

With the amount of alcohol, food, and over–the-top parties, maybe I’m off on this one. Maybe we were only self-medicating with food and drink to better tolerate the bored masses of speakers, interviewers, and trade show representatives. Maybe the elaborate dinners were only there to distract us from the festival itself.

It’s been said that SXSW Interactive Is Dead – and reasons have been given Why SXSW Sucks.

I had heard rumors of outside SXSW pass groups: groups that had formed to take advantage of the convention without laying down the high price of a full pass to any formal aspect of the event. And indeed, I ran into a man who said he had formed a highly-popular fringe group for Facebook, only to have it shut down because of infringement rights. The organizer claimed that there were plenty of other more interesting aspects to attend at SXSW than the official meetings, trade show, and parties opened to pass-holders only.

But wait. I cracked open my swag bag on Day 2 and almost sliced open my bare foot with the corner of the SXSW Interactive program. Heavier than a phone book, the program guide was clothed in Bing-like orange regalia, its insides accessorized with slick ads for every tech company’s biggest parties for the week, and a listing of each registrant, volunteer, and presentation description. The “mini me” program cheat sheet was equally organized, replete with a centerfold convention map. Nothing says sexy like knowing where you’re going. Or where the blogger lounge is so you can get some bleu cheese and a plastic cup o’ wine with that last post you’re flying through.

More impressive, the QR code on the pass allowed participants to check into various locations and be easily followed by others, making communication and tracking a snap. With an iPhone, My.SXSW, Twitter, and Foursquare, it was a stalker’s paradise. On the streets at night, I kept thinking that my first iPhone app needs to be a proximity detector to prevent users from falling off a sidewalk or bumping into other pedestrians as their faces were glued to their screens, making sure they (and a few hundred others) would wind up in the same crowded bar, shouting at each other and complaining about the lack of chill places to hang out.

Here’s my problem: why go through all that administrative trouble, design, and organization, only to overlook one of the more disappointing experiences of the entire conference: boring presenters and/or interviewers?

This is by far not an official survey, but I executed my own casual query about the lack of quality presentations to nearly every person I encountered. Here were the top five answers in no particular order:

  1. The presenters were poorly prepared, or did not appear to have prepared (i.e. no microphones, no questions for the audience, quiet voices, too much personal banter off-topic).
  2. The presenters did not stick to the topic of the presentation.
  3. The presentation failed to entertain.
  4. The presenter or interviewer did not engage his/her audience.
  5. The presenter allowed the outspoken audience members to dominate and take control of the presentations, veering the topic off course to crash and burn.

Again, maybe because I’m a n00b, I am expecting too much. I wanted every panel to be as unpretentious and transparent as, “How Not To Be A Douchebag at SXSW,” and every keynote to be as engaging as Danah Boyd’s. I wished for every tech-oriented presentation to use the tools like “Wow, That’s Cool… Fun with HTML5 Video,” and every panelist to be as humorous, compassionate, and on-target as the two women at “Be Your Own Boss: Create a Life You Love.” I was not expecting myself to wonder if I wouldn’t have better luck sipping a Macallan 12 year-old Scotch as I sat through a number of surprisingly uninteresting presentations.

Conferences in the health care world are equally problematic for me.

Every two years, I must complete 36 hours of continuing education units (CEUs) to renew my license as a mental health counselor. Six of these units must cover the topic of legal and ethical issues – and let me tell you, they are usually some of the most boring ones out there. Most of us buy a CEU courses to meet those six CEU requirements; we simply crank out the answers, collect our CEUs, and look for the nearest painkiller.

If you attend a live conference, you could be purchasing six hours of torture on the level of emergency dentistry without anesthesia.

I’ve always wondered what would happen if we brought a highly-trained attorney together with a comedian and taught the same subject. I can only imagine my fellow colleagues laughing so hard, they wouldn’t be worrying about what scares them the most about caring for mentally ill clients in an age of litigation.

What’s the solution? I can no longer honor people for simply showing up the way I used to. I’m only going to honor those who show up with their full presence AND some training on how to engage and entertain the audience that really has come to learn.

Here are a few tips that would have made the difference for this n00b:

  1. Use the technology. If you have a microphone, practice using it. If you have a PowerPoint presentation (PPP), make it relevant, photo-rich, and free of excessive words and endless bulletpoints.
  2. Define terms. It’s easy to be immersed in your culture and language whilst estranging the very people you are there to educate: new users, late adopters, and the not-already convinced.
  3. Take a speech or voice class. Better yet, brush up on your acting. Acting is a craft that teaches you how to engage an audience, whether live or remote.
  4. Do a run-through at a smaller venue. Get feedback. Record yourself. Look for POI’s (points of improvement). Noodle with it.
  5. If you don’t think a solo has enough weight to it, see if you can’t combine with someone else who the brings the best out of you. Tandem might be better than solo. See #4. Test it.
  6. Share a telling example of your work, product, or service. Use the tools: film clips, audio, screencasts, digital reproduction, music, etc. These help your audience emotionally connect with you and your passion. But make sure it is VISIBLE and AUDIBLE in the room you’re using. Please.
  7. Don’t be afraid to entertain. The beauty of Schoolhouse Rock! was the simple idea that grammar could be fun. Find your angle. Let us laugh with you.

Getting behind the microphone and in front of the camera should be seen as a privilege, even though most of us own digital cameras and sound equipment. Maybe if we saw our roles as entertainers and educators – and not just media “rawk stars” – we’d attract the right kinds of engaging presenters and interviewers to present at SXSW 2011.

And I’d be happy to beat a path to the front of that line.

How Does Your Multicolor LED Panel Glow?

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I am so glad that I’m not any kind of insect or bug. For one, they get horrible Internet access. And two… they are attracted to lights. I am too, actually. If you look in my office at any time, you’ll see tons of lights glowing, in all different colors. Sometimes, I find myself getting up from my desk and walking towards my pretty glowing lights. It’s kind of weird though, since they are sitting on top of my hutch. That’s why I’m glad I’m not a bug, because I’d end up dead. I’m just attracted to lights too much.

Anyway, for years, I’ve been attracted to the Multicolor LED Panel on ThinkGeek. So of course, I finally broke down and bought it. I couldn’t help it! It has twenty-seven different little LED lights going on in there!!! It’s more than a man can take, I tell ya.

Who says geeks are clueless about interior decor? Spice up your next LAN party soirée with this stylish LED lamp. Twenty-seven LEDs divided into 9 different squares slowly fade randomly between all the colors of the rainbow. This large 10 inch panel can stand upright or be mounted on a wall. The bezel free design means you can buy four and stack them seamlessly together to form your own alien spaceship control panel. We recommend you serve Bawls martinis while your party guests frag away basked in the multi-color glow from your futuristic LED mood lighting.

You can mount the panel to a wall if you choose. As I turn it on, you can see what it does… wait for it… it glows!! Seriously! It’s pretty bright, which is very cool. I think I’m going to keep this under my desk when I’m here. Then when I’m away, I’ll pull it out and set it on the desk.

So are you addicted to glowing things, too? Maybe we should join a club or get our own tshirts made!


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