A fan of "unconferences", I made it to PodCampDC this weekend. The Pod in PodCamp is not specifically about podcasting, but in general was focused around "New", or "Social" media (e.g. media casting, blogging, interactive media).
The Un- of *Camps
Contrary to other *camps I've been too, PodCamp is more "face-forward" and less round-table discussion. The sessions and speakers were pre-arranged, and so had slide decks and specific messages they were conveying. The conference was still open in that there were open questions, and available rooms for new talks, but in general it had more of a traditional conference feel. I spoke with some at the conference about this, and they agreed and speculated on why PodCamp doesn't exhibit the full un-conference style. Many of the speakers and attendees don't have experience with unconferences, so may feel uncomfortable or unsure of how to act in that kind of setting - however, I think you can just have it happen and they can learn and the experienced ones can help mediate. I also have suspicions that not being Tech Central on the East Coast there is a general lack of prevalence of expecting everyone to be up on folksonomy, geotagging, twitter, and the like.
It's great going to non-technical conferences. And not only that, but going to sessions that are outside my normal expertise or "things I do". The reason I enjoy building things is addressing a variety of issues and users - and it is beneficial to understand broader concepts and use cases in order to build the right tools. In particular, I really enjoyed Whitney Hoffman's "Education 2.0" talk on using technology and interactive, new media for learning and cooperation between students, teachers, parents, and community. The talk was well attended by educators of all sorts, and I think very few "techies", who were probably off learning details of lighting and sound capture. So when I spoke up to ask the question, "As a tool developer, what do you see is missing from the Education2.0 ecology" there was a flash of bright ideas and excited people.
Nii Simmonds also gave a great talk on Venture Capitalism and emerging markets in Africa. He specifically pointed to the Business Week article, Can Greed Save Africa, highlighting that businesses investing in, rather than giving to regions like Africa lead to better outcomes. I'm traveling this fall to South Africa for FOSS4G 2008 and hoping to also connect more into the African developer and entrepreneurial community.
Thanks to all the hard work that went into PodCampDC. It was terrific to become connected with members of the DC community.