Four years ago, I didn’t know what Podcamp was. Like most of my friends, I assumed, when I did hear about it, that it was about podcasting. I briefly thought it might have been something to do with camping. It’s not. Instead, it’s an unconference. Like many, I had no idea what that actually meant. What the hell is an unconference? Basically, it turns out, it’s a lot like a conference but instead of a bunch of big fancy presenters who get flown in and jets and wear bath robes for the weekend, an unconference is curated and carried out by its participants. Basically, anyone who wants to presents can present. On whatever topic they feel like. It lends itself to a wide and interesting array of topics and people and basically is an event where the local community, specifically the Twitter community, gets to come together in a display of overwhelming collaboration.

Over the course of this week, I’m going to review the sessions I was fortunate enough to attend, including the one that I presented. For each session, it’s my intention to provide an overview of what the session was about, why I chose to attend it, what I gleamed from it and the overall message that I got from each session. Don’t worry. It will be far more exciting than I’ve made it sounds so far. I promise. Except for my own session. That one will definitely be boring. But I’ll get the good ones out of the way first, so don’t worry about it. Let’s dive into it.

One of the cool things about this event is the idea of choice. Not only do you have the choice of which session you will attend (there are 4-6 sessions to choose from) but you also have the choice of whether you want to stay or not. The conference runs on the “rule of two feet”. If you don’t like a session, get up, walk out, find another session. As a presenter, it’s a terrifying experience. I was pleased that I didn’t use that rule for any session. It started strong and it ended strong and I have some dear friends to thank for that.

Two of my favorite people on Twitter are Katherine Taylor (@KVTKNITS) and Chris Campbell (@bitdepth) were the presenters for the first session that I attended; Text and Context or as I like to call it; That’s a Beautiful Old Book. Katherine, a mental health advocate, and Chris, a filmmaker and teacher, were a fantastic beginning to my morning. Chris and Katherine spoke on the topic of communication mediums, specifically Twitter and Books. Katherine brought one of the most beautiful book collections I’ve ever seen (and this is coming from a book collector). From 2000 year old Aramaic gospels of Mary Magdalene to tiny almanacs printed hundreds of years ago, the concept of the staying power of the written word was a very interesting and refreshing idea, especially for a writer like myself. 

One of the most interesting things about the day for me was the overwhelming positivity that permeated the event. This table was set early with this session. During one part of their session, they created pros and cons charts for both Twitter and Books. The interesting thing, in my mind, was the lack of cons for either one. The room unanimously seemed to focus only on the amazing possibilities that each platform had to offer. The participants didn’t gloss over the potential for abuse but rather didn’t dwell on it. But one con of books was that there is no opportunity for communication. It’s a one way street. However, I recalled a book I once read called, How To Read a Book. When the book was recommended to me, I laughed it off. I KNOW how to read…a book. This is stupid. But once I got into the book I realized that this was no tome focused on the process of reading but on reading as a process. The book states that a book is a conversation between you and an author. By reading it, you’re listening, but you have the ability to fill the margins with your thoughts, your questions and your opinions. You’re talking back to the author. Will they respond? Unlikely. But as you lend that book out, the conversation can continue as others hear your thoughts and expand upon them.

What Chris and Katherine were able to share during their session was an overwhelming passion for storytelling and preserving that storytelling. My favorite moment during the presentation was when Chris talked about the written word. He described them as ‘these small marks on paper, or pixels, that are interpreted by our mind into elaborate thoughts and feelings’. It is a passionate explanation of writing. Combined with Katherine’s immense knowledge and incredible passion for imprinting those marks in a beautiful and permanent way, this made the presentation a joy to attend.

So, in the end, what did I get from the presentation? Love. Support. Understanding. Positivity. Permanence. Chris and Katherine are two individuals who emanate these points. They emanate a desire to connect people in meaningful ways using the mediums they’re most comfortable. Whether they’re tweeting pictures of cats to brighten up your day, or starting off your day with the image of a beautiful sunrise and a piping hot bowl of oatmeal, their intentions are always pure and the results are always fantastic. Such was the case with their Podcamp talk.

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