annual kick in the ass.

Leave it to Podcamp.

My involvement in Podcamp Pittsburgh 8 was a bit limited — no volunteering, attending one session and sitting on a panel of another before I had to take off. But it was enough to send me back here for the first time since June.

it was in my buddy Mike’s session on SEO (which, sadly, wasn’t Mike talking about his time in Athens; that might not make for a good Podcamp session, but it would be entertaining as hell) where I got my annual Podcamp Kick In The Ass. Munz does that stuff for a living, and he wasn’t so much talking about personal web spaces when he was cajoling the group about posting fresh content.

But the context didn’t really matter. He asked us, “Can you manage two new posts a week?”

“Yes. Of course I can,” I thought.

And this, boys and girls, counts as No. 1.

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schooled.

As I’ve said before, a Podcamp can be a lot to digest. At Podcamp Pittsburgh Five, I saw sessions every hour both days, and I came away with a ton of information. Rather than going through and trying to write broad recap of the entire weekend, I thought it would be better — for me and for you — to explain that one thing I learned in each session. This isn’t necessarily an easier approach, because all of the sessions I attended were excellent; this should, however, give you an idea of the breadth we covered in two short days.

Small Business Guide to Social Media, Chris Dilla and Holly Maust: I had just interviewed Chris about her use of Foursquare as a tool to promote Bocktown; between that discussion and what she and Holly — who really knows her stuff — we came away with this: when it’s done correctly, it works. And Chris does it right.

Finding Fodder 52 Weeks a Year, Burgh Baby: I’d be happy if I could come up with a consistent post per week; Michelle does it every day, and has kept up that pace for several years. The thing that stuck with me from her session was a question — the Why, as in why am I blogging. She’s correctly figured out that if you know the Why, coming up with content becomes easier. And that’s a challenge for me, because with the exception of the tailgating blog, I’ve never really had a reason for doing this. Maybe I need to figure that out one of these days.

Web 2.0 Strategy in a Web 1.0 Environment, Tricia Bower: I was happy to see Trish return to Podcamp for a couple of reasons — she’s a fellow college football freak, and she’s successfully converted a company full of social media skeptics into a group that supports — sometimes gingerly — her efforts. What did I get from her session? Besides a big dose of reassurance that this is actually possible, I got the names of a couple of tools and services that will help me, in some cases anyway, show others how people are responding to our SM efforts. Showing always works better than telling, so I’m looking forward to giving those a try.

How To Suck Less On Twitter, Rob de la Cretaz and Jay Fanelli: I’m generally a little suspicious about anyone proposing rules for social media, but I did come away from this entertaining session feeling certain of a couple things: I don’t suck on Twitter too much, and I’m going to mention Rob on #followfridays every week for the rest of our lives.

The Secret Agent L Project, Laura Miller: I already knew what a beautiful person Laura is, and I was already familiar with the exhilarating success of her experiment with anonymous kindness. But the best part of this session was seeing Laura react to a balky and uncooperative set of PowerPoint slides.  She handled it like a pro, and she is seriously funny. I don’t want to give short shrift to her message, but seeing a little bit of the real person behind the Secret Agent L Project was one of my favorite moments of the weekend.

Blogging for Business, Cynthia Closkey: I got practical stuff from Cindy’s presentation — her value proposition for Blogging, not matter what the context, is an excellent tool for narrowing down the Why Michelle talked about in her session. But the best thing I get any time I listen to Cindy talk about blogging is a push that always seems to get me going again. I’ve known Cindy for a few years now, and she is a passionate champion of blogging; that is infectious, whether she’s talking about a personal or a professional site.

Using Hootsuite to Manage Social Media Accounts, Dana Sheehan: For weeks, I had been listening to Chris Dilla talk about Hootsuite, and how it’s helped her manage her personal accounts and the ones she juggles for Bocktown. This point was emphasized again in her presentation Saturday morning, to the degree that when I saw this session on the schedule, I thought I’d check it out. Dana did a nice job walking a room full of noobs through getting set and some of the tricks involved in managing multiple accounts, something I definitely need help with. The result? When I arrive in the office each morning, one of the first things I do is open Hootsuite. Thanks to Dana — and to Chris — I’m digging it so far.

Tools, not Toys: Teaching Practical Social Media Use in Journalism and Beyond, Bob Britten: I was so happy to see Bob, a journalism professor at WVU, was returning to Podcamp; he helped me out a year ago when he agreed to be my guinea pig at the conclusion of my Blogging 101 session. The blog we set up in front of everyone became one of my favorite reads in the last year, but it was especially cool when he started writing about his social media class last spring. He has great ideas about how this stuff can be applied in a journalism setting — I’ve stolen his ideas about using Google Maps to illustrate stories — and it was great to hear him walk us through the process on Sunday. The big thing for me was a lesson about focus, an issue some of his students struggled with when they set up blogs for class; the most successful ones were those that had a narrow focus that allowed a community to develop around it.

Awesomecast Live, Mike Sorg, Rob de la Cretaz and a cast of thousands (including me): I learned nothing in this session. But it was maybe the most fun I had all weekend.

My One Gripe: The 649, a combination of two kinds of apple schnapps and lime juice. It was tasty, and that’s a problem — the 649 should be vile, not inviting.

The Bonuses: As always, the people. Podcamp is a great opportunity to meet people I talk to online, and I met a ton of them again this year. Two in particular stick out — Tony, known as commenter and blogger bluzdude, showed up at the meet and greet on Friday; his presence was a complete surprise and a genuine treat. And then on Saturday morning, I looked up and saw a guy in Chucks and a funky hat, and somehow I knew right away it was my Twitter buddy Arthur (@sheepthemoon). Arthur and I share not only a profession but the, uh, unique outlook that often comes along with a career in journalism. It was a pleasure to finally meet him.

And it was a pleasure to finally meet you as well. I hope I don’t have to wait another year — and another Podcamp — before I see you again.

beat.

We’ve put the lid on Podcamp Pittsburgh 5, which might have been our best effort to date.

So naturally, I’m going to write about beer.

That’s only partially true; I’m not going to write about much at all — and I’m not going to tag, format or link one single thing — because I’m exhausted from three days of Podcamp fun. And while I’ll have a lot to say over the next day or two about the entire weekend, for right now a few highlights will have to suffice.

* I know it’s fall, because I drank Southern Tier’s Pumking all weekend long (mostly thanks to Chris).

* I learned lessons, both broad and specific, about how journalism and social media can successfully work together (entirely thanks to Bob).

* I am fired up about blogging once again (entirely thanks to Cindy).

* I got the chance to meet a ton of internet friends for the first time (Hi, everybody!).

* I capped the weekend by drinking one of two bottles of Founder’s Nemesis 2010 (thanks entirely to The Andersons [the store, not the people who live down the street from my folks]).

* I learned that I only partially suck at Twitter (thanks to Rob).

* I learned the Secret Agent L is pretty funny, even when her PowerPoint slides don’t want to cooperate (thanks to, uh, Laura).

* Indirectly — because I was following the game on my phone — I found that Ohio State might have a really good team this year (thanks, Terrelle).

* I didn’t learn that I run with an amazing group of friends. Because I already knew that (thanks to everyone, but especially Missy, Mike, Jennie, Rob and Norm for their in putting together another incredible Podcamp).

UPDATE, Monday afternoon: I’m still exhausted, but I went back and added all the stuff I should have added last night. You’re welcome.

one. oh. one.

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Thanks, Abby.

I think I said this at least once during my Blogging 101 session during Podcamp Pittsburgh 4 — Do as I say, not as I do.

Yep. The guy who stood in that room and talked about the importance of posting regularly is just now getting around to writing about Podcamp.

Hey. I think I also told you that this stuff can be hard.

My own little teeny portion of Podcamp went pretty well, although I started very slowly. Lots of excellent questions from a room full of people helped; having Justin standing in the doorway to help answer questions about business blogging helped even more. We were able to convince Bob to start up a blog on the spot, and at least one other person — Danielle, whose name I hope I’m spelling correctly — started two others just days after Podcamp wrapped up.

In terms of organization, my session was kind of a mess, so let me summarize just a few things I wanted those attending to take away:

  • Do it. Setting up a blog isn’t hard; if you have an idea, there’s no reason not to give it a try.
  • Post regularly. Even if regularly means once a week.
  • There are no rules. There are some loose best practices, but I manage to break nearly all of them all the time. If you’re making yourself happy, the readers will notice.

The three blogs I know that started as a result of the Blogging 101 session:

Comics and Beer. Bob agreed to be the guinea pig of the class. He’ll also be starting blogs for his journalism school students at WVU; naturally, I’m very curious to see how those go.

Crazy Love, Crazy Life. Danielle said in class she had three blogs ready to go, but hadn’t pulled the trigger on any of them. I was immensely pleased to see that this one, about her life as a newlywed, went live right after Podcamp.

Confessions of a Serial Life Changer. Danielle’s other blog that appeared right after Podcamp ended. This one will be a little tougher, as she’s dealing with  some potentially deep, personal stuff. Harder to write, sure; it also has the potential to be much more rewarding.

If you were in the class, my offer still stands: Let me know when you get your blog up and running. I will read. I will comment. I will link to you. And I will try to answer any questions you may have.

– – – –

Outside of that session, my own Podcamp experience was the best yet. The schedule was truly overwhelming, and I missed as many good sessions as I attended. The ones that stood out for me?

An excellent discussion about intellectual property, a debate that leaves me in conflict — I’d like to think that the output of my professional life has some kind of value, particularly if that value means I can continued to be employed in whatever form journalism takes in the next 20 years. But I also see — and support — the notion that information should be freely accessible, particularly as it pertains to the musical world. You all know that the bands I listen to permit taping and unrestricted distribution of those tapes, in part because they see the greater value of spreading their music around.

Henry Bingaman’s excellent session on the specifics of writing and designing for the web had a ton of great tips. And although his session was tailored more towards marketing folks, I think there is some stuff that will apply to my professional life as it exists on the web.

Cindy Closkey’s Sunday session on revitalizing a blog gave me a couple tips for trying to determine the focus and value of a blog. As I reach one of my periodic slumps, that information will become very helpful.

And although I didn’t attend his session, Norm Huelsman mentioned Uncle Crappy (the site) in his talk on design basics, apparently for my use of the old Bloomfield sign photo in the page header. I guess I’m not doing everything wrong…

– – – –

As we wrapped up on Sunday, I did the best I could to stop each of the organizers and thank them for the tremendous job they did this year. We had more sponsors, more sessions, more people and, by far, the best experience we’ve had in four shots at running a Podcamp. If I missed you on Sunday, please accept this as my thanks — you guys freaking rocked this year. And I’m looking forward to trying to top in 2010.

the fun part.

I’ve said this before: my Pittsburgh people tend to emphasize the “social” part of Social Media. And while we had two days filled with excellent sessions during Podcamp Pittsburgh 4 — some of which I’ll discuss tomorrow — we also managed to have some fun.

This year’s 649, as interpreted by my buddy Michael:

We also witnessed the creation of a new Podcamp tradition, also shot by Michael:

And then there was this, my very own birthday chops, as shot by Sorg:

Yeah. Ow.

best ever.

photo

It was a great weekend. And I am completely exhausted.

Podcamp Pittsburgh 4 wrapped up just a few hours ago. We had great sponsors, great sessions and great folks participating on both days. We also had HP and DD visiting for the weekend, and Mrs. Crappy and I had a great time with them as well.

Over the next few days, I’ll have some of my own pix ready to go (the above shot of Creation Rex was taken by my friend Jenn) along with a couple recaps of the stuff we did — including one that I hope will highlight the early efforts of some of the people who have started up new blogs after attending my Blogging 101 session on Saturday, as well as a full accounting of the not one but two birthday chops I received Saturday night.

But first — we have to celebrate my birthday with Wilco in Columbus, and, like everyone else who got in a full weekend of Podcamping, we need about 12 hours of sleep.