I’ve spent the last two days attending Webstock all-day workshops, and will be spending the next two days at the Conference proper. Not being used to sitting in a workshop all day I needed a day off today. And anyway, I had some urgent tasks to complete.
The workshops were very enjoyable, interesting and informative. It was all quite intensive. Normally I’d tune out every now and again once my brain was full. I’d wriggle a bit, squirm maybe, look blank, daydream …. But not this time.
Webstock’s different, because we’re pro-Internet, pro-gadget, and out to have a good time. As organisers we chose a (very cool) conference bag that’s suitable for a laptop. At the workshop tables we set up multiple power strips so attendees can plug in their stuff.
We have free high-speed wi-fi. We’re using, and encouraging Twitter, Flickr, YouTube, blogging, and anything else that people can think of. Webstock is massively connected.
Those attending are equipped with laptops (Mac, Windows and, of course, Linux), tablets, eeePCs, iPhones, regular cellphones, smartphones, iPods: in brief, we’re bristling with communicators.
Before, during and after each session people are quietly tapping, typing, texting, taking photos. But as Webstock attracts savvy folks, you don’t hear gadgets ringing or beeping, and no-one talks on their phone inside a workshop. Sometimes people discreetly exit the room and presumably talk to callers outside.
I’ve had my MacBook, my iPod touch and my new Sony Ericsson K800i cellphone with me. It’s wonderful: I’ve sent or received the odd txt message, but mostly I’m able to use my computer while I participate.
I’ve found several distinct benefits from using an Internet connected laptop during the sessions:
- When my brain’s full and I need to tune out for a while I check my email or my Twitter feed, or my RSS feeds. That provides a brief respite and after a few moments I tune in to the session again.
- I take notes, of course, directly into DevonThink Pro, where I’ll be able to find them again.
- When the presenter mentions a book I think I might want to read I immediately search for it in BookMooch. If it’s not available right now I Save it for later. Of course, you may choose Amazon or another source of books.
- When the presenter mentions other things of particular interest — articles on their own site, other websites, theories and concepts, I switch to my web browser and visit, maybe bookmark for later.
- I occasionally send snippets of interest out to the world via Twitter. Prefacing the snippets with the code
wsallows them to be picked up by a Twitterbot that provides a Webstock feed.
- We put our evaluation forms online, and made it possible to exit a form before it was completed, and to go back and forward within a form. This allows participants to add their feedback at a time that suits them, even during the workshop they’re commenting on.
All this activity, by all the participants who choose to use such gadgets, adds a texture and richness to the event that increases its value many-fold.
In April I’ll be presenting at the Webguide Mini conference, Engage Your Community. That will be a very different experience, I’m sure. It’ll be strange to go back to the old ways, the disconnected days, where it’s just us in our own little worlds, doing our own thing. Kind of like meat and potatoes without the gravy.