…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.

Texas Social Media Awards 2010

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

On Sunday, March 14th the Austin-American Statesman held the 2nd annual Texas Social Media Awards during SXSW. Celebrating folks who in one way or another have made an impact in their communities or industries with Social Media. I am honored to have been recognized. In the judges words,

“Jennifer is driving the social media space in San Antonio. It’s rare that you find an event in the city that hasn’t been organized or touched by her in some way.”

My thanks to everyone for being part of this incredible journey. Who knew back in 2005 when the community building around the new media space began that it would evolve to this level? Not me. Folk ask me how I got involved in community building and I always go back to my start in podcasting in 2005. My need to talk face-to-face with other folks who were just as excited and passionate about podcasting as I was led me to create the San Antonio Podcasting Meetup. I have my wonderful husband, John aka @designminded to thank for the idea to start that first group. From there it led to the first Podcamp in the State of Texas and so on. There have been many people who motivated and inspired me to “do a camp”: Michael De Leon spurred on PodCamp San Antonio. Erica O’Grady inspired me to have a Startup Weekend . Whurley, Giovanni and Cody Marks Bailey encourage me to have a Barcamp. It was the persistent Connie Reece who guided me through the process of launching a local Social Media Club Chapter and Bryan Person who thought it might be a good idea if San Antonio had a Social Media Breakfast chapter. These folks inspired, encouraged and mentored me through the process of community building. I hope to have done so to others in turn.

They say no man or woman is an island and that has never been more true than when it comes to social media and community building. I am extremely proud of the robust, thriving and giving community we have in San Antonio. It is certainly indicative of what I have found in other parts of the state and country. The commandments of camp is: “Learn, Share, Grow” and the motto of Social Media Club is “If you get it, share it”. The key word in this is  SHARE. I truly believe that as long as we as a community keep this in mind in all of our endeavors we will continue to see success that is beneficial for all.

At heart of it all. I am thankful. So, I will end this post as I started it. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Photo by Rodolfo Gonzalez/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The Things I’m Doing, The Places I’ll Be

If you’ve ever taken the time to look on the right side of my blog, you’ll see the section titled, “The Things I’m Doing, The Places I’ll Be”.  I started using this a few years ago in response to folks asking me, “What do you have coming up?” Since not everyone can keep track of my tweets, it made sense to have a place that folks could easily discover the various events I may be organizing, attending or presenting. It is a mixed bag of all three.

Today, tomorrow and next week are going to be a hot bed of activity for me:

Thursday, March 4th 9:30-10:30am Speaking at Innote6ch San Antonio about Social Media for Business

Friday, March 5th 10:00-11:30am Hands on session at RISE Austin

Tuesday, March 9th Houston-bound with the MoveforFREE team for their “On the Move” tour to celebrate their 10 year anniversary.

Thursday, March 11th 6:30-9:30pm Social Media Club at SeaWorld San Antonio’s new “AZUL: Lure of the Sea” show.

Friday, March 12th – Tuesday March 16th I’ll be attending South by Southwest Interactive aka SXSW (Look for some Tech in Twenty videos)

Wednesday, March 17th 7:30-900am Social Media Breakfast San Antonio

Friday, March 19th-Sunday March 21st South Texas Bike Show

In between all of that look for weekly Tech in Twenty SV shows which are released every Friday morning.

Still not sure you can keep up with this highly caffeinated social gal? Well you could always follow me on Twitter @epodcaster or catch some of my presentation session videos on Ustream

I am including the embed video of today’s sessions inside the Social Media Lounge sponsored by my company, Brewing Media

Streaming video by Brewing Media on Ustream.tv

Running image by Petr Kratochvil

The Other Half Time Show

A group of geek musicians got together for an impromptu jam session after Tweetcamp San Antonio in July 2009. Since this all started because of Twitter, they decided to call themselves the Twitter Jam Band. This ad hoc group got together to play several times during 2009. Members would vary depending on who showed up.

The idea for The Other Half Time Show was conceived during a conversation between Alan Weinkrantz and Jennifer Navarrete at a luncheon. To live web stream the Twitter Jam Band during the SuperBowl seemed like a crazy idea. The decision to pair up this event as a fundraiser for Holly Julian was what turned the idea into a reality.

Holly Julian has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or C.O.P.D. (4th largest killer in US) and is raising funds to help pay for anticipated out of pocket expenses for her much needed double lung transplant. Holly’s husband, Steve, is a member of the Twitter Jam Band which is why this was a natural fit. Their fundraising goal is $100,000. Thus far they have raised $20,000 through bake and plant sales, silent auctions and other community events. Our hope is that The Other Half Time Show Benefit Concert can go a long way towards raising the remaining $80,000.

We are asking folks to “Share. Watch. Donate.”

SHARE this by stumbling, blogging, tweeting, facebooking and talking to your friends and network about this event. Direct folks to http://theotherhalftimeshow.org

WATCH us on Sunday, February 7, 2010 as the Twitter Jam Band performs 3 songs during The Other Half Time Show. The performance will begin 5 minutes after The Who are done with the Super Bowl Half Time Show.

DONATE the cost of a day or week or month’s worth of lattes or more to Holly Julian through the National Foundation of Transplants http://www.transplants.org/donate/hollyjulian

You can find out more about Holly Julian at Hugs4Holly http://hugs4holly.org

Organizers for this event are:

Alan Weinkrantz | Jennifer Navarrete | John Navarrete | Luis Sandoval

Texas Social Media Awards: I’ve Been Nominated!

In case you missed all the hubbub surrounding the Second Annual Texas Social Media Awards put on by the Austin-American Statesman, here is a breakdown:

• Nominations are open to any resident of Texas
• Nominees are listed and commenting is open for judges to consider
• Judges pick top 25
• Winners are announced at SXSW

There are many amazing social media mavens in the nomination list. The list is worth a long look. As the title to this post states, “I’ve been nominated!” <–Many thanks to the fine folks who put me in the running. I am honored to be included alongside folks I look up to as well as many of my friends.  The judges will announce the top 25 nominees by March 3rd and winners will be announced at the awards ceremony during SXSW on March 14th.

Gordan Hartman interview at Morgan’s Wonderland Park

Jennifer interviews Gordan Hartman after the tour of Morgan’s Wonderland Park.

Social Media Club San Antonio was invited for a sneak peek tour of the under construction facility. This one of a kind park is designed for children and adults with special needs to enjoy outdoor recreation with family and friends.

Picture of Shelley Cook @shelleyrae, Gordan Hartman @ghff and Jennifer Navarrete @epodcaster

Mobile post sent by jennifer using Utterli. reply-count Replies.  mp3

The Social Media Scrooge

ScroogeWe have all seen them or more likely we have all heard them. They are the folks who make a face whenever we talk about our Twitter friends. Roll their eyes when we share Facebook stories. They are also the folks who will tell you that real business doesn’t happen when you waste time on the social networks.

Are they wrong?

Yes and no.

Yes, if your employees are playing Mafia Wars instead of filling out that all important TPS report. No, if the connection they make from a Twitter post (tweet) gets them a phone or face-to-face appointment with a potential client.

Yet, how can someone be convinced of the merit of adding social media to their business? One way is to introduce case studies and offer examples of social media gone right. Zappos, Comcast and Dell spring to mind. Take a real world example that you personally have done to showcase the effectiveness of social media. Whether that was a form of communication, customer service or promotional tool. Another option is to have them attend industry specific events where the topic of social media is being addressed.

I am often asked to speak to groups about the practical use of social media. While I have shared how much I enjoy watching light bulbs go off during a session, I’ve never talked about what it’s like to watch a Social Media Scrooge “get it”.

They are typically successful business owners. They also know that if they keep hearing something over and over again, they should pay attention. They usually walk in with a determined look on their face. They may or may not chat with folks beforehand. They are there, but probably feel they could have spent their time more productively.

It is apparent to me that this person is there because they keep getting told they need to “do social media”. They have no idea what that means, not sure if it is relevant for their business and feel that overall it is a waste of time. If we go back to the previous Yes and No explanation above, they may or may not be right. However, if they do not take the time to at least have a cursory understanding of what social media is, how can they make a fair judgment? So, the Social Media Scrooge will attend an event to find out for themselves.

What I have found is that one of the best ways to cut through the jargon and buzz words that are inherent in social media is to relate everything back to traditional terms. For example, when I talk about new media podcasts and live online audio streaming I quickly compare it to traditional radio programs and talk shows. The Social Media Scrooge understands radio and will nod their head. When I tell them that one of the biggest differences between the two is that podcasts and online audio are instantly archived and available to an entire connected global audience. Their eyes widen in understanding just a bit.

The session continues and by the end there is that moment when the light bulb goes off.  The former Social Media Scrooge now has an understanding of the basics of what social media is and an idea of how it just might be a powerful part of their business.

If you know someone who is a Social Media Scrooge, consider sending them to spend some time with me at the Technology Connexus Hi-Tech Mixer on Thursday, September 10th from 5:30-8pm.

image by striatic

Open Letter to the San Antonio Podcasting Community

To My Fellow Podcasters:

Creating and being a part of the San Antonio Podcasting Group has been an amazing experience. It started as a way for me to find local podcasters to share my excitement about, what at the time was, a groundbreaking medium.

It’s been 4 years since those humble beginnings back in September 2005. So much has happened since then. We fired up the early adopter tech/geek crowd and have done some first time events here in San Antonio. From our small group the New Media/Social Media Community was born.

From PodCamp to BarCamp to TweetCamp we have been pioneers involved in building what is now a wonderfully diverse and vibrant community. Pat yourselves on the back for being part of the group and making things happen.

As New Media evolved to Social Media we have been using the Meetup site less and less. What was once a chatty message board has become as silent as a library. It’s not that we aren’t still interacting online, however the location for our conversations have been happening on Twitter and Facebook.

There doesn’t seem to be a need for us to continue to host the group on Meetup. As we are well aware, Meetup charges organizers a fee to host a group. As the use of the Meetup platform has become anemic, it appears there is no need to continue with the group in it’s current form.

There are plenty of places for us to host our group outside of Meetup. There is Ning http://ning.com and even Facebook has a group feature. We still have the SA Podcasters blog site which Nathan Lott and Leslie Baldwin have been heading up for the last year.

I propose we allow the Meetup group to close and continue the conversation on either Ning or Facebook. I believe Ning allows us more features as well as an extremely feature rich platform. It’s my first choice, however I know that for the most part we are all already on Facebook so adding a new group to our existing profiles would be easier. I’m willing to go either way.

I won’t miss Meetup. I will miss interacting with you, my dear Podcasting Buds. Knowing you has enriched my life immensely.

Thanks for joining the fun!

Cheers,
Jennifer Navarrete

Calling Cards as the New Business Cards

I believe there is a business card identity problem. In the modern day most folks do more than one thing. In years past you had a business card from the company you worked for and that was all you needed. Fast forward to today and folks may work for a company, have their own business on the side, be involved in groups and non-profits or even work with other freelancers in a consortium.

In the past few years I’ve become more and more involved in various unconference events, podcasting and social media groups all while running my B2B online printing business. I have business cards for my business, MyLabelNet, my podcast: Morning BrewCast, my social media groups: Social Media Club San Antonio and finally my social media consulting business: Brewing Media

Other than the fact I had to print all these different cards, there was also the need to have some of each one when attending networking functions. I never knew who I was going to encounter and which business or group I would want them to remember. There were many times I was speaking to someone about social media but only had printing cards on me. I had to then take the time to explain that this was my printing business and that the main thing was that my contact info was the same as for my social media business. Would the person remember that the printing business card was for the social media person? I doubt it. I was sending a conflicting message by giving out info that was different that what the person was interested.

So with SXSW coming up, I knew I needed to wrestle the whole business card identity issue to the ground. My solution?

No business cards

I’ve opted to go for a Calling Card. It has my contact information on the front. On the back I have three of the ten business/group/events I am involved in. I figured out that most of what I do could fit into those three categories. It certainly makes it easier to understand who I am.

I am an individual who is involved in all sorts of media. From traditional print media to digital media to social media. My hope is that my calling card will be the answer to the challenge of being someone who wears many hats.

Here are a few of the cards I have used in the past:

jens-business-card-collage

And now here is my new calling card:
jens-biz-card-pic

I invite your comments, suggestions and critiques on my calling card.