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Some Notes from Podcamp

by Tom Johnson on Mar 28, 2009
categories: technical-writing

Attendance at PodcampSLC tripled from last year. More than 100 people attended, filling the main conference auditorium at Neumont University in Sandy, Utah.  I especially enjoyed the opening address from Scott Johnson of He recommended that you try throwing everything against the wall and see what sticks. As a cartoonist, he showed dozens of cool figures he's drawn, including one drawn with a sharpee on a toilet seat. He loved drawing cartoon figures. It was his passion -- and it totally shined through. He was without question the most successful.

Thom Allen is a natural-born conference organizer. Everything from the setup to the schedule to the recording and orchestrating was smooth and flawless. I was thinking about the name "Podcamp," though. My understanding is that a camp involves more spontaneous, informal, unplanned sessions. It's a mentality difficult to pull off. During the time scheduled for breakout sessions like this, everyone just talked with each other. The only unconference I've ever attended was one Ann Gentle threw together at the Doc Train West 2008. She asked participants to write something they could share for 15 minutes on a white board, and then we moved through the topics. It actually worked.

One thing I love about Podcamp is the tech-savvy audience. 95% of the attendees have laptops and are on Twitter. When the wireless is down, it's almost like the power is out. I also liked the 30 minute time length for sessions, with 10 minute breaks between sessions. I learn just as much from a 30 minute session as I do from a 50 minute  session. And I could probably learn the same from 20 minute sessions too. The time is long enough to get exposure to an idea, method, or topic the speaker is introducing. That's really the benefit of a conference: exposure to new ideas. And meeting new people.

I also enjoyed my brief exchanges with Jason Alba and Joseph Scott. Jason recommended that I increase my WordPress consulting fee to $250 an hour. People assume that price correlates with expertise. This is what he charges (for business consulting), and gets it. He also recommended that I write a book. When you write a book, people assume you're an expert, he said.

The book idea stuck with me. I really should write a book, even if it's only a short self-published e-book. At the very least, I could use it as an enticement to get people to subscribe to my blog. If I did write a book, it would be an irreverent, thought-provoking one that presented a nontraditional, radical perspective on the tech writing industry.

Joseph didn't present, but he shared that WordPress is working on a plugin for uploading and sharing video using the same service as Right now, the only way to get HD videos onto your blog is by increasing your space on a blog, uploading and posting the video on your blog, and then inserting the embed code into a blog. Joseph said to keep aware of some upcoming developments with WordPress and video.

I had to miss a couple of Podcamp sessions to attend a lunch with our IT department's CIO. I was as nervous about the lunch as I was about my presentation. The lunch went well, but to do justice, it would require an entirely new post. The events that take place in one day are too much.

Jane and me at PodcampSLC
Jane and me at Podcamp Salt Lake City

About Tom Johnson

Tom Johnson

I'm an API technical writer based in the Seattle area. On this blog, I write about topics related to technical writing and communication — such as software documentation, API documentation, AI, information architecture, content strategy, writing processes, plain language, tech comm careers, and more. Check out my API documentation course if you're looking for more info about documenting APIs. Or see my posts on AI and AI course section for more on the latest in AI and tech comm.

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