Tag Archives: podcamp

Venture Files

Beg, Borrow, or Steal (Okay, Maybe not) Your Way into O'Reilly (Pt. 1)

Conferences, MeetUps, BarCamps, (even Par-Tays) play a critical role in your startup’s development. Don’t underestimate their value in networking, knowledge-building, and recruiting. Get out there, don’t wait. And budget for one big one.

In an earlier post, I talked about PodCamp/SearchCamp Philly — these, like Refresh DC (and other Refreshes) are no-brainers, because they’re mostly free. Get on their lists — and check DC Tech Events for others upcoming.

Now I’ll tell you about the other end of the spectrum — the vaunted O’Reilly experience (cue the ethereal angelic choir) — that was my epiphany in April.

My partner and I often talked about meeting up at some event (he’s in Phoenix), if nothing else, for the inspiration and change of venue (that’s French for ‘a place where our wives can’t bug us’). But with a self-funded start-up, the ~$1,500 Web 2.0 Expo in San Francisco was a tad out of reach. Now, necessity is a mutha, so here’s what I did: I found every blog I could that offered free tickets, and entered their contests. Some were raffles, others with deep questions I spent hours working on responses to.

And I won.

The email arrived just before midnight — I woke up my wife like the house was on fire. “I won I won I won!!” It was fate — meant to be! An omen (the good kind) for CHALLENJ.

Just after midnight, I got the kicker while checking SideStep for flights. Since winners weren’t notified until four days before the conference, the cheapest airfare was $700. Gakk! Find some points — “Honey, wake up! Where are those vouchers we had”” — must get there, I said.

I even called a cousin who lives in SF whom I’d hadn’t seen in over twenty years. (“Hey, cuz, how the hell are ya? Mind if I crash at your place for a few days?”). As I said, necessity. . .

(btw, I have since learned about AirBed&Breakfast — a startup (of course) that enables people to offer their place (pad?) for you to crash at for way less than a hotel. (It kind of takes me back to my hitchhiking hippie days — my wife thinks it’s a perfect scenario for murder.)

Anyhow, somehow, it all came together. California, here I come!

Remind yourself that this is what startups do, that someday when you’re on your yacht in the Caribbean, you can bore people with this story!

Next post: Part 2: Why you must get to at least one O’Reilly a year.

Venture Files

What, Couldn't Make it to Pod/SearchCamp Philly?

Why not” Here’s the scenario: Two and half hours away, dozens of very smart people were availing themselves to anyone with $21 interested in learning about podcasting, search engine marketing (SEM) and optimization (SEO) from 10am to 4pm on Saturday and Sunday. Did I mention that it was only $21? And the organizers (bless their hearts) were apologizing for charging at all — even though 100% went to charity — acknowledging they did it only to minimize the excessive no-shows.

To be sure, it was a BarCamp style event — you won’t find the sheen, food, and glitz of an O’Reilly affair . . . but then, it’s not >$1k either. I was particularly interested in the SearchCamp side. What I did find was a superb set of speakers — folks who’ve been working the search engines since AltaVista was a pup — and who were there to answer questions in true interactive fashion (meaning, you shout out at will). Try that at most other confabs and they’ll probably call security.

I shouted at will — actually, at Wil Reynolds. Wil said he “eats, drinks, and sleeps” SEM, and you believe him. Likewise, with Greg Meyers, Giovanni Gallucci, and Brian Cosgrove, to mention a few others. Now, we entrepreneurs probably can’t afford what their organizations would charge (yet), but that’s my point: they were right there, ready to help. And they all offered email, phone, and twitter outreach for questions you might have once the event was over.

Plus, every speaker I heard had nuggets to offer — from basic tips like using search data to create keyword lists, naming images with keywords, and using subdomains to improve organic search — to dozens of free tools. You probably know about Google Analytics — an important first step — but how about Trellian Keyword Discovery, SeoTools, IndexTools, LinkDiagnosis, Link Assistant (gives you a history of all of a site’s links), SheerSEO (gives you the Google and Yahoo ranking for each of your keywords — no more endless clicking through pages), Search Engine Genie (find out if you’re anywhere in the top 1,000 listing), QuantCast.com (gives you demographics of users of your site), and SpyFu (find your competitors’ keywords and adwords)? Oh, and be sure to check out Compete, Digital Point, SEO Egghead, and BruceClay.com. (Sorry, you have to do a little work to look these up.)

Worth 21 bucks, wouldn’t you say?

So why didn’t you go? Maybe you didn’t hear about it — one of my missions at Technosailor is to make sure these opportunities are flagged. But what amazes me is that I attended a DC New Media Meetup two days earlier that was combined with an SEO Meetup — two dozen folks attending — told everyone about it, even offered a ride (I drove up to Philly), and no one took me up on it. (Okay, I’ll allow for the possibility that you weren’t sure about getting in a car with me.)

So I got up at 6am Saturday morning and drove to Philly alone.

I think you know where I’m going with this. If you consider yourself a seriously committed entrepreneur, killing a weekend is something you’d better plan on doing every now and then. (Evenings, forget those.) Especially when the ROI is such a no-brainer. Not conducive to family life, you say? I say, the only way to succeed with a bootstrapped business — or convince VCs to give you money (they’re very good at detecting passion and commitment) — you’d better be ready to make the sacrifices.

Aaron Brazell

What Makes You Tick?

This weekend I was at Podcamp NYC 2. This is my fourth podcamp and second in two weeks. As someone who gets to go to a lot of events, conferences, unconferences, networking thingys, etc. I decided going into this trip that I would treat this thing differently than normal.

Normally, I’m speaking or otherwise outgoing and talking to everyone and anything that moves. As someone with some minor celebrity, this is usually not a problem. At SXSW, I was on my feet running for four days straight conducting interviews and being interviewed, having long lunches with bloggers, entrepreneurs, continually running into The Brogan(TM), etc.

In New York, I made a conscious effort to listen way more than I talked and take a low profile approach to the event. Two of my observations, I’ve already blogged.

My discoveries really stemmed from watching how people interacted with people and thinking about what the causes were that made people behave the ways they did. Armchair Psychiatry.

I observed people with significant fan base interact with fans and peers and the differences between fans and peers. I observed people who started businesses explaining why exactly they did what they did. I talked with people who had no idea what the hell they were at and how they wiggled their way out of uncomfortable conversations. I witnessed sales guys who were so New York cool that people could be convinced they needed to do business just by his say so. I witnessed people who just wanted a man. Or a woman. Maybe both.

What makes people tick? What causes them to do what they do? They say that who we are today is a product of everything we’ve ever done in the past. So what did the past look like.

This weekend, for me, was largely one based around the human experience. We are all so widely different and that is fascinating.

Aaron Brazell

Contrived Transparency

There is way too much talk about transparency going around. Seriously. I’m guilty. Apparently, 40,292 other people are also guilty.

Picture 9.png

Transparency is one of those buzzwords people like to throw around to demonstrate that they’re savvy in the business of social media. If we have a blog, says one marketing strategist at XYZ company, we’ll be seen as transparent.

Transparency. See through. Invisible. In social media, it means that we’re open and honest. We don’t try to pull the wool over customers, or users, or readers eyes. We trust openly and want to be trusted openly.

However, this is more often than not, contrived.

Picture 8.png

Contrived transparency indicated that this notion of being honest and open is not a culturally accepted thing in a company. It’s a strategic decision made to drive sales. It’s a devious, and by it’s very nature, non-transparent way of saying, “You’re stupid enough to believe that I’m a great person to do business with because I’m doing all the right things and sending all the right signals”.

Yep. Contrived transparency.

Guy: Maybe when we’re done here, we can go back to my place.
Girl: Sure, but you do know that I’m not going to sleep with you on the first date, right?
Guy: Oh, I wasn’t thinking that at all!

Yeah, right.

Aaron Brazell

Friends vs. Fans

I think that maybe we’ve done some serious harm to the concept of friends with all this social media stuff.


On Facebook, how many of your friends are really friends?

I have over 2000 followers on Twitter. How many of them know my real name without looking?

How many events do people with significant online personal brand go to where people know who they really are?

Or is brand all that really matters in friendship?

Is it more important to have presence? Or relationship?

What do we do off camera, and who really knows?

If a tree falls in the middle of the woods, and everyone sees the tree online, did it really happen?

Do you find more value in spending time with four people or forty?

What does technosailor mean to you? Aaron Brazell?

Food for thought. Questions to be answered. Have we hurt our human experience or helped?

Aaron Brazell

PodCamp Rule #7 to be Instituted

There are 6 rules of Podcamp (There used to be 7, but former rule #4 dictating that PodCamps be free was revoked after PodCamp Boston 2). The rules governing the organization and execution of PodCamps are (as listed by co-founder Chris Penn):

  1. All attendees must be treated equally. Everyone is a rockstar.
  2. All content created must be released under a Creative Commons license.
  3. All attendees must be allowed to participate. (subject to limitations of physical space, of course)
  4. All sessions must obey the Law of 2 Feet – if you’re not getting what you want out of the session, you can and should walk out and do something else. It’s not like you have to get your money’s worth!
  5. The event must be new-media focused – blogging, podcasting, video on the net.
  6. The financials of a PodCamp must be fully disclosed in an open ledger, except for any donor/sponsor who wishes to remain anonymous.

My guess is that there will soon be a new rule #7 instituted after PodCamp NYC 2 this next weekend.

If you don’t understand this, just smile and nod. :)

Aaron Brazell

PodCamp DC Review

Yesterday, I mentioned that PodCamp DC was happening and it was a successful event, in my books. The organizers worked their tails off to pull off the event, the sessions were great – I’m hearing wonderful feedback from the session hosted by Andy Carvin of NPR and Jim Long (NewMediaJim) from NBC.

PodCamp DC Signage - Technosailor Sponsors!

This is now my third Podcamp (and first one to sponsor). Let me frame my feedback around the pros and cons of the other two, before I explain my feedback surrounding the DC event.

PodCamp Philly

PodCamp Philly was an amazing success. It was the first event I went to and I think a large degree of success came from the venue. It was held at Drexel University and centered around hundreds of square feet of common area. The common area had a Starbucks (where a tab was graciously kept open for most of the day by Comcast), the wifi was working, and we were in walking distance of food and drink. In fact, on Saturday during that event, I spent a significant portion of the day spending time with Viddler and have maintained a great working relationship with them since that day in late September, 2007.

Vibrant Bar Colors

PodCamp Boston 2

As much as I love Chris Penn and Chris Brogan, PodCamp Boston represented epic FAIL in my books. I think both of them would largely agree with me, and little of it was their fault.

Epic FAIL might be a bit harsh. The people were great. But the venue sucked (Boston Convention Center). There was a restaurant in the hotel that was attached to the convention center and a Starbucks across the street. Outside of that, there was very few places to escape to throughout the day. The convention center was so big it was the anti-common meeting area. Too many people came from out of town, myself included. half of the 1300 registrants actually showed up. However, Rule 4 of the Podcamp Tome was revoked – now PodCamps do not have to be free. This was a lesson learned that is valuable and largely an excellent move.

PodCamp DC

PodCamp DC was a one day event. That was a bit bizarre for me, as the other two were two day events. That said, I think one day works. The venue was a horrible spot for a podcamp as there were no open common areas for people to meet, sponsors to setup booths, etc. Everything was spread across classrooms on three different floors which made for a very tiring day.

Geoff Shooting Film

Rosslyn, Virginia is nice, but is truly suburbia hell. PodCamp DC attendees were encouraged not to drive, and in fact, I would have done the same thing. Rosslyn metro access on the orange/blue lines made commuting a breeze. Later in the evening, the after party was held in a place that, while metro accessible, was really only so if you wanted to walk around a traditional suburban mall. Not the kind of place to have an after party when attendees were encouraged to not drive.

That said, it was a wonderful evening topped off by a visit from lifecaster/musician Jody Gnant (ustream), who I shared a special moment with over a shot of tequila. (Not that kind of special moment, mind out of the gutter!)

Added After: I loved the fact that PodCamp DC was largely supported by local people. It’s nice to have folks from out of town, but it’s super nice when our own people got involved, attended, spread the word and boosted the event. Go us.

Joel Mark Witt

I give Podcamp DC the following ratings:

1) Marketing/Message: 6/10
2) Venue: 3/10
3) Pre-party: 6/10
4) After-party: 7/10
5) Speakers: 8/10
6) Support from Rich Media Community: 6/10
7) Organizers: 8/10

Well done, Tammy, Joel and Ernie. Can’t wait for PodCamp DC 2.

Aaron Brazell

Podcamp DC

Podcamp DC is this weekend and Technosailor is a sponsor. I’m a fan of the Podcamp movement, but I’m particularly a fan of them being locally based. Local sponsors, local organizers, local attendees, local issues, etc.

Last year, I drove up 95 to PodCamp Philly (I consider Philly to be relatively local since it is an easy drive away). It was one of the most well organized, community-driven events I had ever attended. I decided to make the jaunt to Boston a month later for PodCamp Boston 2, which in my opinion ended up really sucking.

While I love Chris Brogan and Chris Penn, I think they would agree that 1300+ registrants (only half showed up) was a little much for a “grassroots unconference”. The Boston Convention Center was too big, the meeting rooms were too spacious, etc.

Plus I just had a horrid weekend between travel difficulties and my Macbook dying. Not a good time.

Podcamp DC is here now and I’m excited. I’m excited by having an event here to energize the community. There are already fault lines developing in the business community and I get the sense that people are trying to figure out what the hell is the value of what this community is, especially if real business value has yet to be seen on large scale.

Podcamp is not specific to podcasting and video. It is the collecting point of internet media in a local scene. In fact, I’m venturing to guess that most of the attendees would not fall into the category of podcaster or videocaster, though we’ll certainly have those too.

So, I hope to see you down in DC tonight and tomorrow supporting the local media community!

Aaron Brazell

The 2007 Travel Awards

I have never traveled in my life as much as I have this past year. I have taken 12 trips and I think I’m done for the year – though I do think I may need a Toronto trip before Christmas. At any rate, I can look back at various trips and point to them as memorable for one reason or another. So, I present to you the 2007 Travel Awards. These awards are only for my own trips but I’d love to hear about your trips as well.

  • Longest Trip: Toronto, 9 days, May 26-June 3. This trip encompassed Mesh Conference as well as b5 business in Toronto
  • Shortest Trip: 1 Day (overnight), Toronto, Aug 23-24
  • Most Enjoyable Trip: Gnomedex 7
  • Least Enjoyable Trip: SXSW ’07 – The Hampton Inn was the beginning of a bad bad trip
  • Trip I least wanted to go on that I enjoyed the most: PodCamp Philly
  • Trip I most wanted to go on that I enjoyed the least: PodCamp Boston 2
  • Best Networking Event: Blog World Expo
  • Most drunken event: San Francisco, January 2007
  • Most Expensive Trip: Blog World Expo, Las Vegas

Did you travel at all this year? What are your awards?