PodCamp Western Mass. Turns Five

PodCamp Western Mass. 5 (PCWM),  convened on Saturday, March 30 at Holyoke Community College’s Kittredge Business Center.

PCWM, in short, is a full day of lively discussion, info-sharing, and plenty of documentation via smartphone, tablet, or laptop. The event welcomes anyone interested in learning more about social media and networking, from beginners to advanced practitioners. It’s one example of a PodCamp — an ‘unconference’ at which participants choose the topics they’d like to discuss. It’s worth noting that ours is the only PodCamp in the region and is organized by local volunteers… and, I suppose, worth noting that I say ‘ours’ because I’ve been there, like others, since the first PodCamp Western Mass., when our coffee set up left something to be desired.

It’s the democratic approach of PodCamp that is most important, though. It’s in line with the key tenets of social media and networking, which aim to involve everyone in a global conversation. Plus, I believe our world has always been a social one, and while technology is moving the medium forward, it’s still a very human phenomenon. ‘Real-life’ events like PCWM highlight that fact, and offer all types of people – extroverts and introverts alike – opportunities to both learn and teach.

PodCamps aim to promote education, innovation, and collaboration between new media enthusiasts and professionals of all types, including bloggers, podcasters, YouTubers, social networkers, and the people who read, watch, and listen to them. Anyone can also suggest or lead a session, and topics often include overviews of current and emerging new media tools.

I started the day with a session on Bitcoin lead by Joe Cascio. Through no fault of Joe’s, I must say in some ways Bitcoin, and its product Bitcoins, are  still a mystery to me, but it’s an intriguing concept to say the least.

In a nutshell — a very big nutshell — Bitcoin builds upon the notion that money is ‘any object, or any sort of record, accepted as payment for goods and services.’ Bitcoins themselves are digital, and therefore not tangible, but their value comes from the fact that there’s a finite number of them. This is about where I start to go cross-eyed … but the bottom-line is Bitcoins are digital currency that can be used for myriad types of purchases online.

I originally decided to check out the Bitcoin session because I’d been seeing the term popping up in the headlines recently, and not just in stories about social media. They’ve hit the news for two reasons: because they’re not regulated, they’ve become associated with what’s known as the Silk Road online — think eBay for drugs. But more importantly, they’re also gaining popularity in European countries like Cyprus, Spain, and other places with “shaky relationships to the Euro.”  Finally, it’s predominantly individuals, not businesses, who are using and trading Bitcoins but regardless the value has shot up to more than $90 a coin in recent months.

Introverts, Extroverts & Social Media

After the BitCoin session, it was on to something more soul-searching but no less informative –the Social Media for introverts and Extroverts session led by Val Nelson. Val specializes in ‘helping heart-centered people make their mark — despite any blocks about key strategies like networking and communications,’ as she says (well).  So, she was perfect facilitator for this session.

The big take-away of the day was that by most accounts, we live in an extroverted culture, but both introverts and extroverts contribute to the conversation. Extroverts gain energy from social interaction, Val explained, and can therefore seem more influential. Introverts, however, are often more thoughtful in their approach to communication, allowing concise, well-thought-out ideas to shine through.

Through a series of questions, we gauged as a group what we thought of introverts and extroverts in one-on-one situations, online, in front of groups, and at parties or functions. While we each had different opinions and levels of comfort, it was eye-opening to see how many similarities were shared. Introvert Karo and Extrovert me, for example, agreed that we network better online than anywhere else, even though we felt we brought different skills to the table.

Val also recommends the book Quiet by Susan Cain, which aims to ‘ show how dramatically we undervalue introverts, and how much we lose in doing so.’

…After lunch, catered for the second year by HCC’s culinary group, my brotha from anotha mutha Alfonso Santaniello and I two-timed the instruction of the Twitter 101 session. Our internet connection was slow, but we got a lot of great questions from the crowd and a few previously unimpressed people signed up to Tweet.

Then, back up the stairs to Social Media Therapy- in short, Resources, apps, and tips to help save our souls. The session resulted in some therapy-worthy, prophetic thoughts, though, like this one from Christine Pilch Mancini:

“Ask potential clients qualifying questions: What are you trying to achieve? Where do you want to go? A real #SM professional usually doesn’t call themselves an expert. We understand that we are “early adopters,” not gurus.”

The session also led well into a different seminar, Social Tools for Productivity, lead by Christine and Lesley Weber Lambert. This was another fantstic note-taking session that started  talking about #Animoto – this is an example! So fun!  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=57jTc5GJxIY … and wrapped with a subtle reminder that  users of voice-dictation apps and software don’t need to dictate punctuation when leaving a voicemail. “Hi, this is Lesley. Period.”

Another great tip:
CamCard, WorldCard Mobile, CardMunch- all apps that scan biz cards into your phone! #productivity.


The Slainte After-party

Look, Mom! I’m in the Newspaper!


Schoolhouse Ice Cream Knows the Skinny.

It’s actually a little embarrassing to be in your hometown newspaper in your thirties — a fact I didn’t realize until the article dropped and I remembered that the last time I was in the Cape Cod Chronicle I was 17 . That said, the interview with writer Debra Lawless was fun. A fellow ‘Capie,’ she’s also a fan of the town I live in now — Lenox in the Berkshires — so a glass of vino or two might be in our future.

The agency I work for got some great props, and a few other cool factors arose after publication. I forgot, for instance, (sorry Debra) that the Chronicle actually cut me my first check for a story back in 1992 — I was paid $25 for a Christmas story.

Plus, when I first saw this week’s edition, who’s right there in four-color on the cover? Top of the fold?

My big brother.

I hadn’t, up to this point, told any of my Cape family or friends that I’d been interviewed. In addition to feeling a tad silly, I thought it would be nice for my mom or aunts to open up the paper and see the Kid Who Never Comes Home to Visit. Then the issue arrived peppered with Stevensons and suddenly it looked like there was a conspiracy afoot. We’re nothing if not absurd.

A final note: Debra Lawless is a freelance writer and author of several books, including Provincetown: A History of Artists and Renegades in a Fishing Village and Chatham in the Jazz Age. She has Kindle-ready and paperback versions for sale; take a gander!

Download the Article Here

I Would Like, If I May, to take you on a PodCamp Journey.

Saturday, Feb. 25 brought with it the fourth installment of an annual event that’s become as ingrained in me as my loves for pasta and cheese.

PodCamp Western Mass. 4 convened at Holyoke Community College and welcomed more than 120 campers. Brings a tear to my nerdy little eye.

This is a holy day for me, and for many friends and colleagues, in part because much of the other 364 days of the year is spent answering the question ‘What’s a PodCamp?’.

As we’ve found over the last few years, though, the best way to explain PCWM is to show and tell. So, with some bold-faced emphasis on new or cool tidbits I noticed throughout the day, enjoy my PCWM4 Wrap-up and please chime in with any questions or additional tips in the comments!

The day began with check-in at the gorgeous Kittredge Business Center at Holyoke Community College. My co-organizers and I can’t thank HCC enough for this beautiful, technology-hip space.

Leslie and Kelly at the check-in table

That’s Lesley and Kelly manning the check-in table, armed with coffee and an iPad check-in system. Attendees only needed to scroll down to their name, press a green button, and move on to collect their official PodCamp Western Mass. t-shirt.


That’s me explaining said shirt and pointing out the ‘Trail Blazer’ sponsors printed on the back: HCC, New England Promotional Marketing, The Businews Channel, and Winstanley Partners. We stayed with the same QR code design for the shirts as in years past – the code on the front leads anyone to the PCWM website. BLTees in Palmer, Mass. is the brainiac print shop behind our shirts. If you’re anywhere between Worcester and Pittsfield — or even if you’re not — use BLTees. Their work is impeccable and their shop is way cool:


QR codes were everywhere at camp this year, though. Presenters placed QR codes leading to online copies of their slide decks, white papers, and helpful apps and software next to the session board or in their presentation rooms. I was also handed more than one business card with a QR code printed on it.

Campers got swag bags contributed by sponsor NEPM and filled with goodies from Lesley Lambert Realtor, Julianne Krutka Realtor, Finck & Perras Insurance, Cambridge Credit Counseling, Grow My Company, and Bacon and Wilson Attorneys at Law. The bags were a new treat this year and uber-cool! They’re the kind of little backpack-style bags that are great for day hikes.

We placed the session board on a first floor wall this year, but attendees  quickly realized they could see the whole day’s schedule from a better vantage point on the second floor and the stairs. The session board is an agenda that doesn’t exist until that morning because it’s based on what campers want to learn about and/or teach —  I love this photo of everyone taking a bird’s eye view.

Checking out the Session Board

Session board eagle's eye view

After a quick gander at the sessions, I started off with a presentation on Augmented Reality (AR) led by PCWM co-founder and overall mensch Morriss Partee.

Essentially, Augmented Reality refers to apps or software that add a new layer of information to our surroundings. Think Arnold Schwartzenegger’s bionic eyes in Terminator; not only can you see the burly biker in front of you, but also his measurements, how much gas is left in the tank of his hog, and whether or not his sunglasses will fit a cyborg’s head. Theoretically.

Existing AR apps aren’t so far removed from this scenario, though. Here are a few we discussed during Mo’s session:

Yelp’s Monocle, which uses the phone’s GPS and compass to display markers for restaurants, bars and other nearby businesses on top of the camera’s view. Read more at ReadWriteWeb.

HistoryPin.com connects the past with the future — users can scan their surroundings to see what they used to look like. Say you’re sitting in the library; through user-submitted photos and video, iPhone and ‘droid users can point their phones at the stacks in front of them to see what they looked like 20 years ago, or if they were even there 60 years ago.

Star Chart. This app allows users to point their phone at the sky day or night, inside or out, and see a map of the stars complete with constellation outlines. Smart Person Tip (thanks Christine): Point the phone at not just the ceiling, but the floor. The sky is above and below us.

You can see more examples on Mo’s blog here.


The next session I checked out covered Pinterest, the current darling of social media. Led by my friend Lesley Lambert, who also happens to be one of the most social-media-savvy Realtors on the planet, the hour offered an overview followed by a deep-dive look at ways to best use Pinterest as an individual and a business. Rather than try to rehash LL’s brilliance, I’ll simply direct you to her slideshow here. The big takeaway: show you’re human, and the humans will flock.

12 p.m.: Lunch. Bistro Boxes. Nom.

HCC’s catering group provided the lunch boxes, which ranged from Boursin cheese and veggie wraps to roast beef and tarragon sammies, along with sides, drinks, and cookies for dessert. The cranberry-orzo salad side was my personal fave.

Shortly after lunch, WGGB, an ABC affiliate, interviewed a few of us for the nightly news. While my segment is akin to Malcolm Jamal Warner’s on the Cosby Show episode in which he finds a dead mobster in a pond (seen here at the 8:20 mark), I’m still super proud and I love the Etsy shout-out of LL’s Twitter Earrings at the close.

Next on deck: The Speak Up! Audio Session with Mike Thompson and Drew Thompson Hooke of The Workshop. For the first time in PCWM history, Mike and Drew had to repeat their session three times throughout the day to meet camper demand.

Audio Session with Mike and Drew

They covered everything from the pros and cons to different types of microphones (cardioid vs. omnidirectional – look at my lingo!) to production tricks when creating vids, podcasts, commercials, and more. Plus, they ended their presentation with demos of two technology-based instruments – a MIDI glove and a propane-tank drum wired to a soundboard. If that’s not a cool factor IDK what is.

Mike and Drew hope the developing prototypes have potential in the gaming industry, and I can’t see why not. Thanks to them, I now know what it sounds like when I flip the bird. (It’s kind of like traffic jam-meets-Rosemary’s Baby.)

Me and the Music Glove!

After listening intently to Speak Up!, I switched gears and led my own session – Social Photography. Make it Work. (My thanks to Tim Gunn.)

My presentation was geared toward the novice and intermediate social media user, and looked at different ways SM can be used to improve visibility online for individuals and brands. I reviewed some of my own tips and tricks, and attendees offered some, too. Here are a few:

BigHugeLabs.com. Whether you want to create a masthead for your blog, a facebook landing page, a Twitter background, or find complementary colors for the trim in your bedroom, BHL is the place to start. It’s a hotbed of easy-to-use photo editing tools that are as fun as they are useful.

PhotoFetcher. A WordPress plug-in that allows for easy set-up of photo galleries. I had not heard of this before… thus the awesomeness of PodCamp.I must also admit I haven’t yet figured out how to add it to my blog, but when I do, I’ll report back.

Picnik/Google+. Picnik is moving its creative tools over to Google+ in April, but I suspect the features will remain largely the same. For now, anyone can use Picnik’s premium tools at no cost.

Thanks, Seth Kaye for this HappyJax photo.

At this point, there’s one session to go at PCWM4, and we’re all a little punch-drunk with knowledge. For me, that means there’s no better place to go than a session led by web-channel creator, Creative Strategy Agency owner, pizza-lovin’, loud-laughin’ Alfonso Santaniello.

Al led a discussion on Google+ that included instructions on how to claim your Google+ vanity URL (go here) and a lot of tomfoolery. He’s a good sport to lead one of the last sessions of the day that nevertheless welcomed about half of all of the day’s campers.

Al and Julianne

Here’s Al mulling over what he’s going to say while Julianne Krutka and Thom Fox mug for the cameraphone.

That’s the long and short of it… overall, our largest year ever, with a few constants (it snowed again) and a few surprises (Robo-Glove comes to mind, not to mention the impromptu Happy Birthday song for Republican reporter Patrick Johnson.)

Were you there? What’d you think? Did you miss it?


Show. Me.

Wait, I'm hosting a what now?

It’s official – my first episode of Social Media Circuit, a webshow I’m hosting on The Businews Channel, has dropped on to the interwebs!

After months of secret meetings, photo shoots, video tutorials, script writing, and scheduling,  the 20 hosts of The Businews Channel are off and running in all directions. From social media to travel to fashion and everything in between, our motto is ‘where business meets entertainment,’ and we’re already living up to the moniker.

Check out our uber-formal group shot, for instance:

Fabulously Attractive.

Social Media Circuit airs every week on Thursday and stays online in perpetuity. Watch and share, and if there’s anything you’d like to see covered on SMC, drop me a line here or over at Twitter – @writerjax.