…and that’s all I have to say about that

Building community is no easy feat. It takes a long time to create something where there was nothing before. Back in 2005, I heard about this thing called podcasting and was seeking local support. My husband suggested I create a MeetUp group in order to be a beacon for folks like me in San Antonio and the surrounding areas. I had no idea where that first step at building community would take me.

The San Antonio Podcasting group allowed me to connect with folks who were just as excited about podcasting as I was. It also became a place where we could educate and encourage the curious. We shared our knowledge with anyone who was interested in podcasting. The folks I met during those early years are folks that I consider my good friends to this day.

Back then most online interaction was either through our local meetup group or the larger far reaching Podcasters Yahoo group.  It was through these online interactions that I started meeting folks who were creating these events called Camp. I had never heard of it before and was intrigued. On Sunday, August 27, 2006 my life opened up in a whole new way. I attended my first unconference event,  Barcamp Texas.  This was my first introduction to how community building could extend past a city.The folks I met there were bursting with energy. I remember the discussion topics ranging from Ruby on Rails to podcasting to video blogging to leadership and much much more. The conversation was so rapid fire and varied. It was exhilarating.  I learned about all kinds of upcoming events and got connect with these folks online.

The next camp event I attended was in in March of 2007 and it was organized by these same folks. It was the first Barcamp Austin. I knew about this event with enough advance notice to include the podcasting group. I shared what I had gleaned from my experience in August and got a group together to represent San Antonio. It was during this planning phase the question, “When will we get a Podcamp in San Antonio?” was asked in an online discussion. You see Boston had just held the very first Podcamp in September 2006 and the idea of having an event dedicated to podcasting was very appealing.

We made the official announcement at Barcamp Austin about Podcamp San Antonio. We went back to San Antonio ready to make it happen but with no clue how. Up until then we had only been on the participant side of a camp. Now we were going to have learn how to be organizers of a camp.  Lucky for us we had folks more than willing to share their knowledge and insight to make this dream a reality. We sought out the advice of the folks who were doing it. The organizers of Barcamp Austin and Podcamp Boston were our models.

There had never been a camp in San Antonio. So the first challenge was to educate potential sponsors, participants and encourage folks who had something to share to join us. On May 19, 2007 the very first camp event in San Antonio was held. It was a labor of love for the all volunteer San Antonio Podcasting group. At the end of the day we were so appreciative of our wonderful sponsors and donors who made it possible to make this event free to participants.

The thing we knew about camp was this: It was a no-pitch zone, It was a Learn, Share, Grow event. Sponsors gave money to encourage and support community but did not speak or solicit business in any way shape or form. This was such a new and radical concept and so different from typical conference style events. The thing that made it different was that it was called an UnConference.

An unconference is a facilitated, participant-driven conference centered on a theme or purpose. The term “unconference” has been applied, or self-applied, to a wide range of gatherings that try to avoid one or more aspects of a conventional conference, such as high fees and sponsored presentations. Wikipedia

Once the dust had settled from our day long event, we knew that we would do this again. From that point on we have had a podcamp in San Antonio each and every year (4 so far). We branched out to organize Barcamp, Freelance Camp, TweetCamp, ActionCamp and more. Through camps we were able to come together to build community. It was absolutely wonderful.

I can honestly say it wasn’t all wine and roses. There were times I had to take a firm hand with folks to help them understand that although we were in possession of participant registration information, it was never to be used for non-camp purposes. I had great teachers and knew that to spam this newly found community would be counter productive to all of the collective efforts to build a community in San Antonio. We had to set ourselves apart from traditional events in order to succeed.

At every event folks came up to us and told us they never knew such a wonderful and giving community existed. By hosting events that encouraged the open sharing of concepts, ideas and knowledge a wonderful thing happened. It was like watching a newly born foal trying to stand up on it’s gangly legs. Our community was slowly but surely growing and learning to stand on it’s own. Most of the folks I consider my friends and peers I met through the camp community. I think most folks will say the same of me.

Fast forward a few years and the camp model as we know it is changing. I have always stood by the concepts I learned from those pioneers who introduced me to the unconference world back in 2006. Sponsorships have been the way for camps to maintain the free model. If the organizers are the brains of the operation and the participants are the heart of the event, then sponsors are the lifeblood that make it all possible.

There are plenty of fantastic sponsors ready to help support camp events. Finding these sponsors does take time. Bringing a camp into fruition is an all volunteer effort. I have never heard of an organizer getting paid for putting a camp together. The funds for the event held here in San Antonio have always come from sponsors and donors. Every single participant has attended for free.

Let me share a secret with you. It doesn’t take a lot of money to host a camp. Your biggest expenses are always the venue, shirts, badges, banner and maybe a lunchtime meal. I usually opt to allow folks enough time to manage their own mealtime expenses to keep costs down. Many times venues will either donate their space as sponsorship or the cost of the space can be translated to food or snacks for participants. I have always liked handing out a camp t-shirt and badge as participant take-aways. I love it when I see t-shirts of our past events around town. I still hear from folks who hold onto their camp badges as keepsakes. It is a reminder of their shared experiences. However, even then that is only if you have enough sponsorship to afford those items. The main purpose of a camp to Learn, Share, Grow. You don’t need a shirt or badge to make that happen.

For some unknown reason the free model is changing. I’m seeing camps charging fees to participants. It saddens me to think about how folks who are new to the camp concept are joining the party too late. The  free and open Learn, Share, Grow model is becoming less common. I’ve always held the belief that if you charged for an event it was called a conference, a seminar, a workshop. Those existing models work well if you want to charge for knowledge. Camp was called an UnConference because it was the opposite of a traditional conference in so many ways. A few of them being:

-No set speakers (whoever shows up creates the event)

-Open and free to all (sponsorship & donations made this possible)

-No pitch zone (before, during or after)

If you were lucky enough to attend one of these free events it changed the way you thought about San Antonio and started you on the journey to being a part of this wonderful and thriving community.

I feel for the folks who are discovering the camp concept for the first time in a pay for admission environment. I recently attended an event that had the word “camp” in it’s title and charge a $20 fee. It was different than what I would call a traditional camp. It had a keynote speaker, preselected speakers and topics. Attendees were not part of the creation of the event. So yes, it was different.

The challenge I face with folks using this concept to then take what was an existing free model and then turn around to charge an entrance fee while still crowdsourcing goes against everything I’ve held dear about camp over the last few years. It seems counter intuitive to charge a fee to participants and while asking them to create the event.

I reached out to my peers. I connected with the folks who led the way. The folks whom I consider to by my mentors. It seems that those folks don’t “do camp” anymore. For varying reasons many of the pioneers have opted out of creating camps. This has left a gaping void in communities far and wide. I understand why. As a pioneer, you want to lead the way. You want to show folks how to do it and do it right. You want to allow for each city event to have it’s own unique flavor. It really can be a wonderful thing to see something grow and blossom where before there was nothing. However, seeing the rules change for the folks who are new to the game has left me with a hollow feeling. Honestly, it doesn’t make sense to me.

I have been approached by several folks in the community asking me about this new pay to play model. There is disappointment and frustration coming from folks who understand camp. I had tried to stay away from what I knew is one of my hot button topics.

I have always believed that camps should be free.

I went on a recent rant about this and allowed my frustration to show through. Probably not the wisest decision I’ve made, but I’m not going back to delete those posts. To do that would be the opposite of being transparent. Being social sometimes means we don’t agree. It’s okay. Every family goes through challenging times. This is one of them.

The fact of the matter is that it takes work to make a camp a success. It takes time out of already busy schedules. Finding a venue, soliciting sponsors, encouraging folks to attend. It might seem easier to charge a fee to cover costs instead of working the sponsorship model.

Here’s another secret: Sponsorship for camps I have been involved in have started at $100.

Let me repeat this, “It really really doesn’t take that much money to create a camp.”

It is not about the shirts or badges or anything else. It is only about the Learn, Share, Grow.

Everyone I know has been lucky enough to be a part of this in a free model. It would appear the folks who are only now joining the party aka the late adopters will not be so lucky.

I’ve said my peace and ….. that’s all I have to say about that.

Getting to know you…

conker-acorn-boyWhile connecting online is a great thing, connecting in person is even better.

There will be plenty of opportunities over the next few months to get some face-to-face time with the folks who are making Social Media happen in San Antonio.  In addition to the monthly gatherings, there are several Camp, Startup and Workshop opportunities coming up. The best way to become involved with the community is to participate. Stay tuned or better yet, show up to any and all upcoming events.

You may ask yourself, “What are these face-to-face meeting opportunities?” Well, here are just a few of the events I’m involved in:
PodCamp San Antonio 3.0 May 16th El Tropicano Hotel 9am-5pm: This is the event that started the whole UnConference movement in San Antonio. Organized by the San Antonio Podcasting Group, this event covers: Blogging, Podcasting, Online Video, Virtual Worlds & Social Media. Registration is open now.

Startup Weekend San Antonio II May 29-31st If you’re interested in the Startup Scene, then this is the event for you. This 2 1/2 day event will take you from the concept on Friday night to a fully launched business on Sunday evening.  Registration opens on May 1st.

TweetCamp San Antonio July 18th If you love everything Twitter, but want to know more then this is the event for you. Or if you don’t know what Twitter is but keep hearing about it on the Tonight Show and CNN then get ready to get immersed in the Twitter-sphere! From terminology to third party apps to  mobile tweeting, you won’t want to miss a minute of this micro-blogging event. Registration is open now.

For those of you who are early birds and like to get your Social Media fix in with a hearty breakfast and a strong cup of Joe, then Social Media Breakfast is the event for you. Every third Wednesday of the month you’ll find topics ranging from Journalism and Social Media to Social Media 101. Registration is ongoing.

There is also the group that attracts the tech and early adopter crowd, Social Media Club San Antonio. We think it might have something to do with the fact that most of the tech-centric crowd can more closely relate to the night owl than they can to the early bird.  Meetings are every second Thursday of the month from 6:00-8:00pm. Feel free to join the community site where we’re able to connect in between monthly meetings.

There are also impromptu gatherings which allow fans of the micro-blogging service Twitter to congregate for some face-to-face networking. These events are called Tweetups and can be organized and attended by anyone who is either part of Twitter or at least Twiter-curious. The best way to find out more about these events is to stay tuned into the Twitter stream or at least have a friend who keeps track of such things.

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the events in town. I happen to know for a fact that every first Friday of the month, Susan Price hosts a First Friday Co-Working at Firecat Studio. This monthly event recently celebrated it’s one year anniversary. It has grown in popularity with each passing month. One reason is the highly interactive Brown Bag Lunch which is based around current points of interest in business, marketing and social media. There are additional Co-Working spaces around town such as T-14 in the San Antonio Technology Center as well as C4 to name a few. Find out more on the Co-Working San Antonio Blog.

These events are just the tip of the iceburg. Every day it seems I’m hearing about folks in the community coming up with new and innovative ways to connect. There has never been a better time to be involved. Jump in. The water is not only fine, your friends have already joined the fun.

Cheers!

PodCamp San Antonio: Numero Dos – May 3, 2008

Podcamp San Antonio: Numero Dos

In case you were wondering where I’ve been, the title should explain all. PodCamp San Antonio: Numero Dos (that’s 2.0 for the non-Spanish speakers) is happening on Saturday, May 3rd at the El Tropicano Hotel from 9am-5pm.

We had a great time organizing it and had the opportunity to create a wacky but fun 4-part video promo. We follow the Podcast Pickle aka The Pickleman throughout San Antonio while he searches for PodCamp San Antonio: Numero Dos. Luckily he meets lots of friendly folks, sees the sights and has an all around good time.
Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Want to learn about the New Media and Social Networking scene? Have a topic you would like to share? Enjoy the mental grow process? Or just want to hang around folks who are as excited about Podcasting, Blogging, Video Blogging and Social Media as you are?

Then come on down to PodCamp San Antonio: Numero Dos to participate in the Learn, Share, Grow that is PodCamp San Antonio: Numero Dos

PodCamp San Antonio: Numero Dos

Podcamp San Antonio

In one month, May 3rd to be exact PodCamp San Antonio: Numero Dos will be in full swing. The PodCamp festivities will begin on Friday, May 2nd. We’ll be hanging out on Red Gizmo’s patio inside the Blue Star Arts Complex. Come on down and enjoy the art, music, food plus some of Blue Star Brewery’s tasty brew. I’m really looking forward to reliving some of last years experience, but this time with an artsy vibe.

First Friday is one of the events we always make an effort to take friends and family when they visit San Antonio. Everyone always has a good time. For me this will be even better because I’ll get to combine several things I like into one fantastic night: Art, Brew, Fun and doing it all with my Podcasting Buds.

Although, we’re going to have a great time Friday night, the real fun starts on Saturday morning. We’ll kickoff PodCamp San Antonio: Numero Dos at 9:00am in the El Habana room at the El Tropicano Hotel. There were several places we could have chosen to be our PodCamp location, but one thing I like doing is showcasing and highlighting different aspects to the Alamo City. There is an amazing and rich culture in San Antonio. One that goes beyond the Riverwalk and the Alamo.

The El Tropicano Hotel is on the Northern end of the Riverwalk. Which is exactly where the Expansion Phase (ie. construction) is taking place. For a moment I wondered if we should hold PodCamp here, but that thought quickly disappeared once I walked into the hotel. 1960 Acapulco Retro describes it perfectly. You feel transported back in time as you walk around the lobby of the hotel. The decor looks right out of a movie set. The latin music in the background helps to bring the scene full circle. El Habana shares a wall with the tropical birds and iguanas in the hotel’s aviary. How cool is that? This hotel offers a one of a kind experience that’s for sure. If we wanted to showcase something unique about San Antonio, I knew we had found it El Tropicano. We’ll wrap up the session by 5:00pm and make our way down to relax along the Riverwalk. We had such a good time last year at the Naked Iguana we may just wind up there again.

For those not ready to end the PodCamp fun, we’ll meet at Cafe Latino to enjoy some tasty brew out on the patio. Gary Ard has done a fantastic job creating the perfect place to relax and enjoy a delicious cup of coffee. The patio comes complete with 3 Hookah Tents for folks wishing to partake in this Turkish custom. Jackie and I will record the Morning BrewCast LIVE!  It’s sure to be a good time for all.

I look forward to seeing everyone next month for PodCamp San Antonio: Numero Dos.