I will attempt to do this without being so damn annoying that you want to shoot me in the face.
The first thing you should know is that I am a n00b when it comes to the internet. I barely understand how the internet works – it’s a “series of tubes,” right? My husband is a computer geek, and he teases me constantly about this. He knows more about the internet than I do, and yet – I work at an internet marketing company. (This is the power of networking, friends!)
So I was so excited that my boss would invest the time and money in me, to send me to a conference! It’s kind of a big deal for me, seeing as I have been burned by employers in the past.
Weeks before the Conference, I printed out a schedule for each day – and looked over each description with a fine tooth comb. I did this over a weekend. I put stars on the workshops I was interested in, and circles around the workshops I was really interested in. Then, I encouraged (“made” is a really strong word) my amazing compatriot, C (not her real name), pick her schedule, so we could plan our days out.
I had a pretty good goal:
- Photo Credit: Anna Marie Martin
I realize now that this was wildly enthusiastic on my part.
Yet, I did learn quite a bit.
Monday, we started out with meh-coffee from the hotel. So we went in search of better coffee, and found this little treasure: La Creperie Voila. The apple with goat cheese crepe I had on Monday was so good, I demanded we go back on Tuesday! Wednesday, the place was a bit too crowded, or we would have eaten there that day as well.
Then to the conference! The first speaker was Mike McGinn, the mayor of Seattle – he had a good talk about how forward-thinking the World’s Fair was (in 1953), and how innovative Seattle had become in the past 50 years. Like it used to be an unknown cow-town or something, and now it’s famous for coffee and internet wizardry. He said, “I love being mayor of Seattle,” but then, next week, he was voted out of office. He was followed by David Shing, the keynote speaker.
I will say this about his presentation: he has great, wild hair, white Buddy Holly/Goofball glasses, he talks really fast in an Australian accent, and his visuals were amazing. uh-may-zing! I sat by myself, up front, so I would be able to see and hear!
The one theater rule I follow is “If you can’t see, you can’t hear.” That and we always sat up front in church when we were growing up, cause my mom is just like that. I wanted to ask him the next day at the mixer, “What hair products do you use to keep your hair so wild?” but I thought that would be rude, so I refrained.
C told me later that she thought, “Anna must be having a seizure up there,” in response to all the visuals and fast talky-talky. I sort of did. I took lots of notes. David Shing goes by “Shingy,” and a few highlights were, “I text. I Google. I Tweet. I still don’t know who I am.” “Brands can be built anywhere,” and “Technology, content and distribution are the primary colors.” As far as keynotes go, he was a lot of flash in the pan and not a lot of substance. He has a deep understanding of all things digital. There was also a little self-effacing humor in there, which is always welcome.
The next workshop I went to was Tim Keck’s presentation about The Onion, “Onion Turns 25: Founder Who ‘Hasn’t Done Shit There in 24 Years’ Takes Credit.” You want the funny guy to be funny, right? Well, he actually was, but was clear that he has a deep love of newspapers and journalism, that he understands the value of a free press. He also let it be known that they worked their stoned little asses off to make that paper happen.
They had 5 categories to bring on the funny:
- Include the elephant in the room.
- Religion is dumb.
- The Honest Character.
- The big/small switcheroo.
- Write something as mean as possible.
He had great examples, especially from the early paper, but my favorite Onion pieces are still, “Christ Converts to Islam,” and “Attractive Girls Union Refuses To Enter Into Talks with Mike Greenman.”
One thing that Tim Keck talked about was the future of print journalism, which was compelling to me. He said that AP Style is dying – the younger generation gets their news from tv and social media, and doesn’t subscribe to the newspaper. Therefore, they don’t understand AP Style. Since The Onion mocks AP Style, the younger kids don’t understand how The Onion makes its mockery happen. He gave a few examples of people mistaking The Onion for “actual journalism,” which wouldn’t happen if we were more media literate as a society. Some of the comments were scathing, but if you know The Onion is a satire paper, it brings the funny. If we are not nuanced or educated enough to appreciate satire, then we are sunk as a culture.
I went up and introduced myself, saying that I used to work in Columbus Circle in NYC, and I used to get the Onion when it came out. That The Onion really improved my commute after a crappy day at work. He seemed touched.
The third session I went to was Jack Conte’s “Digital Content is Free. People are Not.” I had never heard of this guy, or the company he founded, Patreon.com. Patreon is a web platform where fans of artists can give them money directly – like patrons, get it? (I’d feel irresponsible if I talked about this concept without mentioning The Medicis, and their artist that they more or less owned, Michaelangelo.)
I had never heard of Jack, Jack’s band, or Patreon – but I was immediately impressed at this guy’s passion, verve, and vision. He told the story of how he came up with the idea for Patreon – maxing out his credit cards and spending all his savings to make this music video (which looked amazing, seriously). He wondered if there was a better way. He had these cute mathematical formulas, like: f(music) = money.
This reminded me a bit of xkcd. What it amounts to, though, is pretty amazing: once an artist can gather enough fans to support his or her work, that artist can draw a salary. Patreon(content) = money.
This is huge in our day and age, especially for indie artists, or up and coming artists. The website enables artists to connect with their fans, and the fans to give $1 or $10 or however much money they want. It’s a really cool concept.
Then, we broke for lunch and more coffee.
(…and I ran out of steam / here endeth the post…)