It seems like all I post about these days is conferences. While I don’t usually spend my time hopping from tech conference to tech conference, lately I’ve noticed how much fun they are, and between my friend’s ability to get press passes and my getting payed by my company to attend them, it works out pretty nicely. And there are other perks (like meeting Steve Wozniak).
This past weekend I went to PodCamp Montreal which, to quote, is “The New Media UnConference in Montreal.” I’m not particularly into podcasting, as you may have noticed by the fact that there are no links to a podcast on my blog, but it was interesting anyway. These days it seems that the buzz words of the day are “Social” and “Networking,” so there was a lot of conversation in this “UnConference” that I could understand. Being part of a generation of social network pioneers, I’m on pretty familiar terms with a lot of what these suits were talking about. Things that they tend to describe as curiosities of social networking are just a part of daily life to many people my age, and in fact to me. I’m not really the social networking type (in the other window I have a datasheet for an ATTiny13 open… I don’t think that puts me in the “checks Facebook 20 times a day” demographic), but it was interesting to see these things from a new perspective. I went to a presentation about getting closer to your audience, a discussion about social networking started by a sociologist, and proposed a stupid idea about accountability in the age of social media in a presentation about social media and “blogocrasy”, for which I was duly and publicly humiliated. However, the most interesting talk I saw was given by the organizer of the UnConference, Sylvain Grand-Maison, which was entitled “Shit I should bring to your attention.” Now beside having the word “shit” in the title, and a slide which displayed in very large, prominent, sophisticated font, the word “Douchebag,” the presentation was very eye opening. Sylvain pointed out that most of the world doesn’t know what social networking is, and they don’t care to. Most people who use Facebook don’t think they’re using a communication tool of the modern era, which falls under the category of “social networking.” They don’t realize how nodes on the network interact, or how businesses are using this network to propagate information and branding more quickly and effectively than they ever could before. Most people just know they get to talk to their friends and take fun quizzes that tell them when they’re going to die or what kind of pumpkin they are.
This brings up another of his points that I, as the CIO of a small consulting company, I found particularly interesting. In the days of traditional media, a company felt it had complete control over its image, because its ads and its branding were completely regulated and propagated by the company. In the era of social media they feel that they have lost control, because now other people can recommend the company’s site, or pass on and ad. What they don’t realize is that these conversations have been going on forever – people always talk about companies and have discussions that go deeper than advertisements or branding – but now the company can take part in that conversation. In a way companies that partake in social networking and media have more control over their image than they ever have before, because they can be a part of individual conversations about their brand. This is a powerful tool.
Toward the end of the talk he asked what we’re all going to do about social networking is over. Social networking will be over one day, and whether it teeters off into oblivion as people realize how much time their wasting and give it up, or it evolves into something else, it will be something completely different than what we recognize as social networking today.