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.

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.

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!