Last Friday and Saturday, I went to Northern Voice 2010, a gathering of 500+ individuals intent on absorbing everything that a "Personal Blogging and Social Media Conference" can muster.
And I must say, that it was a treat to be there - not only because it had a nice friendly, informal vibe which makes for great learning opportunities, but also because I was fortunate enough to be a speaker.
My first slide
Specifically, I had a chance to tell folks about the phylo project; the awesomeness of mutualistic relationships (a.k.a. the squid and the bacteria); the beauty of the scientific method; as well as road test an analogy about science literacy that involved getting the audience to growl like a clan of enthusiastic wookiees (BTW, you can thank the 5 or so people who tweeted me to "Let the wookiee win" when I asked about whether I should try to incorporate Chewbacca into my talk).
Now if I managed to get that all in within 30 minutes - just try to imagine what this 2 day,14 hour, or 840 minute conference in its entirety would deliver!
Some highlights for me included:
Bryan Alexander's talk: Really good keynote to kick off the conference especially with his mystery theme. He seemed the sort of person that I would've like to chat with, especially on some of the interdisciplinary projects I'm involved with. Not only that, but he had some great facial hair which, given my own inability to grow a beard, would suggest that together we may make a great team.
Appreciating the student perspective: At the "Beyond the Hype: Teaching and Social Media" panel, Andre Malan brought up a really good point in that using social media to introduce relevancy to assignments, also inadvertently increases the work. (i.e. students will work harder since the report is "public" but how will that effect the overall workload if every course decides to do this). I have to admit that I hadn't really thought of that before.
The Art of the Rebuttal: At the "How (Should) Journalists Use Social Media" panel - ZING! And the match clearly goes to Kirk LaPointe (one of those "you had to be there" moments).
Fibre Arts rock! I thought Kim, Felicia and Mandy did a wonderful job of showing us the warm and wacky world of textile crafters. So much so, that I'm pretty sure I want my lab to collaborate with that community. Maybe do something as grand in scale like the Hyperbolic Coral Reef - we probably shouldn't copy the reef part, but I'm all for hyperbole.
iPad note taking: I wasn't going to get one for at least a year or two, but seeing all these folks take notes on this thing, is making me reconsider that stance. Check this out from Rob Cottingham:
The #NV10 tag: I think this is the first conference I've been to where watching the hashtag was a truly immersive experience (even more than TEDactive where twitter was also put into overdrive). However, I'll also admit that it was a bit distracting at times. The hashtag at the conference also had added value because (1) #NV10 worked its way to become a trending topic in Canada, and (2) Chris Messina happened to be the keynote speaker on Saturday morning. In case, like me, you weren't aware, Chris was the primary architect behind the use of hashtags on twitter (he told a great story about this), amongst other iconic web related things.
You know, as I was watching the twitter stream, it occurred to me that maybe there was a missed opportunity. It's not everyday that a group of engaged folks are essentially in command of a twitter trend. And especially in light of Bryan Alexander's talk about "mystery," I wonder whether we could have initiated a web experiment of sorts - i.e. establish an interesting story via a mysterious hashtag.
All in all, Northern Voice was two days well worth spending, and I encourage everyone who's interested in these sorts of things to attend next year.
Excellent idea re: hashtag. There've been a few examples of this already done, like a War of the Worlds story, or the Marble Hornets Twitter feed. So run with it!
Really glad you liked the notes, David. And the presentation was just fantastic: unexpected, inspiring and fun to boot. Thanks so much for it.
I am dying to hear more about that science literacy analogy and how it could possibly tie in with a bunch of people making wookie sounds!
Thanks Bryan and Rob for dropping in! Jenjen - my talk was actually recorded, so will hopefully get a chance to put it up when it's available (and then the Chewbacca reference becomes clear).
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