Wordcamp Victoria opened… Almost 300 attendees strong at UVic on a rainy Saturday.


The Keynote with Victoria’s Own Mike Vardy creative professional extrodinare.


The real power of WordPress is in it’s general adoption and the large community of supporters. This conference is a great example of that. The best quote of the morning was Mike’s “Familiarity breeds CONTENT”.

The other great thing about these events, especially at this size (not too big.. not to small) is the energy. If you could harness the energy in this room you could probably have new Johnson St bridge in 10 minutes.

With the advent of great video and audio recording of many conferences, is attending the ‘big conferences’ really an issue anymore?

I’ve been to some truly huge conferences MacWorld Expo (3,000) , Cisco Networkers (5,000) , and National Education Computing Conference (>10,000). There are some truly spectacular aspects of big conferences to be sure. I met Chuck Yeager at the Cisco conference where he was the Day 3 Keynote. I stood beside (actually got bumped out of the way) by Steve Jobs and John Mayer working the booth at MacWorld, and got Steve Wozniak to sign my Newton at a NCCE conference. Those types of names don’t show up for a couple hundred people.

Or do they ….

Northern Voice in Vancouver has drawn some pretty big names Anil Dash and Matt Mullenwag to a crowd of about 350. Those were the keynotes, attendees included social mavens like Robert Scoble and Chris Pirillo.

But more important than the names on the Keynote is the quality of the interaction. I can’t think of a conference worth attending where people haven’t raved about the lunch conversation and the debates over a beer.

In contrast, my worse conference experience was probably Networkers in Las Vegas. About a sterile experience as you can imagine. The content is great, don’t get me wrong, but I could have got as much from a video stream as I got from the cost and time of a 4 day trip. I wouldn’t trade any of my Northern Voice trips for a Networkers (well maybe the on where Chuck Yeager signed my logbook).

Well it was another weekend conference, coming on the heals of Northern Voice in Vancouver last weekend (moved because of Olympics) I had a back to back with WordCamp Victoria. My brain is still trying to process all the great stuff I’ve heard over the last two weeks.

My first ‘big’ thought is on session selection at conferences. Researching presenters before you go to a conference really helps reduce disappointment. Read these folks blogs, follow them on twitter, look at their writing elsewhere.Presenters I know from other events like Nancy White(Full Circle) and Dave Olson (UncleWeed) at Northern Voice or Tris Hussey (A View from the Isle) and Mike Vardy (The Mike Vardy) at WordCamp are examples of folks I will always put on my schedule. But you need to start finding new people an new voices. Cathie Walker’s session at WordCamp was a good example. I’ve been following Cathie on Twitter for a while and that made putting her session on my schedule was also I no-brainer and I wasn’t disappointed.

My second ‘big’ thought is “small is awesome”. Northern Voice got a little bigger and I felt less engaged in it than I had in previous years. WordCamp Victoria is still growing but can handle getting a lot bigger before I’d worry about it being too big. I think conferences that really engage have to be in the Dunbar Number range or at least your stream of the connference shouldn’t get much over 100 people. You can have big conferences with awesome keynotes but if you want to have a sharing and supportive breakout environment you need to form relationships and trust – and if people don’t already know each other – you may need to do that very quickly.

That is why local Victoria events like WordCamp really can compete with anything. If you can be the smaller conference but still draw the good speakers then your Golden. Anything bigger I’ll catch on TED talks or the Conversations Network.

Conferences always ask for feedback and the recent North Voice had a post conference Evaluation. In the middle of filling mine out I figured ‘why not share this’, I would hope other attendees would as well.

What was your favourite session and why?
David Ng Science session and Rob Cottingham Webcomics were both at the top of my list.

What session disappointed you and why?
Location mobile apps was a little too one sided and didn’t really have a message beyond this is cool – and the assumption that most/all attendees use Gowalla or 4Square. I want N.Voice to provide reality check on new media tools that include pros and cons.

In terms of session content, what kinds of sessions were the conference missing?
I seemed the local ‘startup’ community wasn’t as prominent at this conference as it has been in previous years. That may be an industry trend but Now Public, Flock, Sxipper, and dozens of others have either presented or been floating around the building.

What was your favourite thing or things about the conference?
The People: The keynotes that draw big names (Dash, Mullenwag, now Messina) are always a reason to go. For me this has become a community that I only get to see once a year. When I pick sessions, I research the presenter and go by their work rather than the session title or description. For example, I will always attend a Nancy White regardless of what it was about.

What disappointed you most about the conference?
Other than the Moosecamp track on Friday most sessions were fixed presentations with very little interaction/discussion. If the Conference is going to be bigger we need to increase the number of concurrent sessions. Many of the smaller rooms were horribly oversubscribed. A couple of big theatre sessions (LCS 2/3) are good but there should be enough smaller sessions to break up the attendees into manageable sizes.

Any other comments, suggestions or feedback?
How about a way to email or blog my conference evalutation when I hit the submit button on this form.