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Review: 2005 Northern Voice blogging conference

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I blogged my first conference on Saturday: Northern Voice in Vancouver, BC. It was a curious experiment and event. Yes, I’ve blogged the monthly blogger meetups in Seattle for four months now (11/2004, 12/2004, 1/2005 and 2/2005), but this was the first time I have blogged an actual conference.

The event was held downtown at the UBC Robson had excellent WiFi and this was a definite plus.

I recorded audio of every session using OneNote on the Tablet PC and made some handwritten notes, but most of my notes were blogged. I also tried out Technorati tagging for the first time during this event. Not completely sure how I feel about tagging yet.

I setup camp to the left of the stage on the carpeted knoll. First up was Tim Bray from Sun who spoke about writing (blogging) what you know. He gave some good tips:

* fill your blog with links. Link to other people. Link often. If it doesn’t have links then it’s not a blog.
* smart people in the world are usually where you are not
* Post often. In periods where prolific, readership goes up.
* Correct yourself.
* Generalize. Make some general point. General will live longer
* Flame judiciously. Anger gives flavor. He feels that if you are angry about something then you should share it. “It’s entirely ok for bloggers to be unreasonable … sometimes.”
* Spell-check. Quality matters. Mark Cuban cited as example of blogger who doesn’t use apostrophes, but one that can get by with it because of “style.”
* Look good. Bray feels that a good-looking blog generally speaks to the quality of the blog. I disagree with this one. Most programmers are not graphic designers and some of the most useful sites on the web are ones that are not all that graphically pleasing: Google, Craigslist, eBay, for example.
* Be brief. Tighten it up.
* Be intense.
* Don’t tell secrets.
* Don’t ruin your life. Don’t lose your job over what you say.
* Don’t blog on command.

Next up, was Microsoft’s Technology Evangelist, Robert Scoble, whom I’ve spoken to a couple times in person now. Scoble explained how he reads 1000 blogs a day:


* Highlighted entries since last time read blog shows the new blog entries. [via Outlook and Newsgator] * He uses Pubsub frequently which helps him do keyword RSS searches.
* He will unsubscribe if: blogger gets racist, not having full text RSS feed, maybe if it becomes boring

The best presentation, particularly for podcasters, came from Tod Maffin who discussed ways to make one’s podcast more compelling:

* He took an uncompressed file 1000k and compared different compression schemes. 128/44 which was 93k.
* Don’t have a show about nothing, have a show about something.
* What’s your passion? Clear show topic/focus. Tell a story. Example of Adam Curry’s bandwidth issues being made content for his program and creating interest.
* Speak to one person. There is no “everybody.”
* Be brief. 45 minutes suggested as a max length. 8-10 minutes is the sweet spot for Tod Maffin.
* Mix up the sound. Provide “audio-on-ramps” which are like headers, one person in the audience mentioned.
* Microphones meant to be near mouths. Use a pop filter
* Don’t verbally listen.
* Double-ender. Record on both ends and then mix together source files as opposed to recording one good end.
* He doesn’t like the quality of Vonage. He thinks Skype is a “little” better.
* Collect 30 seconds of roomtone and then use that as background for editing.
* “Fair comment” allows for a brief snippet portion of a licensed song when commenting on a particular part of a song or artist.

Following the best presentation was the worst one, again IMO, from Stephen Downes. This guy analyzed blogging and link behavior like I’ve never seen or heard it analyzed before. This didn’t work for me, as it seemed like it was just way too analytical. Then again, maybe my mostly negative reaction was because this was right before lunch. Someone in the audience said: “I think I lost you somewhere along the way.” I know the feeling!

After lunch came the panel I was looking most forward to: promoting and building your blog traffic. There was some useful discussion here, but the conversation broke down into what the demographics and readership in blogs was like. There was also discussion about how giving a definition of RSS isn’t the best thing to do, it’s better to show people what RSS can do. I agree with that.

I wanted to add a comment to this, but there were too many questions from the audience (most of which were not on topic of promoting and building your blog traffic). One guy was very concerned about getting slashdotted and what that would do to his bandwidth.

I skipped the second panel after lunch to go into the hallway and decompress a bit. It was there that I ran into Chris Pirillo and his producer as well as the guy (Greg) who is behind beercasting.com.

The last panel was called Lightning Tool Talks and the idea was to have several different people demoing useful blogging tools and services. Scoble was back doing a demo of Newsgator + Outlook. Roland Tanglao, one of the people who put on the conference, demoed the online photosharing app: Flickr. Tris Hussey showed Qumana. Seb Pacquet was there talking about WebJay. Nancy White talked about Furl and Del.icio.us, the former of which I used to keep track of useful links online.

The bottom line is Northern Voice was well organized, had all the amenities a blogger could ask for, had diverse, informative speakers and panels (my already blogged comments give specifics there), provided information of use to podcasters and bloggers alike and was priced so that just about any blogger of any financial level could attend. Well done to all involved and responsible! Grade: A

This review was created from a messageboard post I made as well as various real time blogged posts during Northern Voice at Things That … Make You Go Hmm

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About TDavid

  • Eric Olsen

    super job TD, thanks very much, very interesting nad also makes me feel pretty good because we function pretty much the way these people (whoever the hell they are) say we should be.

    I would disagree with the guy who said don’t tell secrets: blab away, just don’t give away your own secrets

  • Eric Olsen

    the Blogcritics podcasting is coming soon – we want to do it right. It absolutely sucks ass that you still need to pay licensing fees to play music

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    Thanks for the feedback, Eric.

    Tim Bray meant secrets as in the things that you sign an NDA for or are asked in confidence to keep “off the record.”

    I got a good feeling of what it’s like being a reporter at this event; it’s not easy work!

    Cool to hear on the podcasting! I’ll be tuning in when that is ready for primetime ;)

  • Eric Olsen

    you did excellent original reporting work here – it IS hard work

  • http://blog.mastermaq.ca Mack D. Male

    You can listen to most of the sessions at http://www.blogosphereradio.com/shows/8.aspx.

  • Eric Olsen

    very cool Mack, how are you guys doing over there? Please get in touch with me when you get a chance. Thanks!

  • http://www.makeyougohmm.com/ TDavid

    Seems like Blogosphere Radio has been down most of the day. Is this due to bandwidth, hosting? Is everything ok?