Cafe Witness

Monday, April 23, 2007

BootCamp Pittsburgh Wrap-Up

Photo by Kimberly Reed (aka m0xie)

This past Saturday, dozens of bloggers, podcasters, students, teachers, politicians, small business owners and even a few senior citizens joined us at The Art Institute of Pittsburgh for BootCamp PGH. Considering this was the first warm Saturday (77 degrees!) of the year here in the 'burgh, we're quite impressed that so many people preferred to spend their day learning about social media instead of catching some sun.

The Statistics:

- 176 registrants
- 130+ attendees (including a number of walk-ins)
- 8 hours
- 23 sessions
- 250 mugs from
- 200 gourmet pretzels
- 1 Bostonian (Chris Brogan)
- 1 Canadian (Tommy Vallier)
- 1 Tennessean (Matthew Ebel)
- 3 after-parties

The Audience Sits, Enraptured...

How It Went

As a co-organizer of the event, I was confident in the quality of our schedule. We had sessions covering the basics of blogging, podcasting, web design and social networking, plus branding, monetization and new business opportunities.

Most attendees stayed throughout the day, which was great. Attrition at a daylong event can be high, but we layered the sessions in such a way that the more specific information could be covered after the "bare basics" sessions were out of the way.

(And after lunch...)

We also found a way to Ustream some of the sessions. It wasn't an exact science, but it definitely created a buzz from attendees and presenters alike. (It also led to interesting audience feedback, like the moment when Steve Garfield -- watching from his home in Boston -- disagreed strongly with information presented in one session.)

Now, local events like this can become worldwide at the click of a mouse...

No Money, Some Problems

The Most Important Sign of the Day

Because this was a bare bones event, we purposely chose NOT to overburden ourselves with the hassle of sponsorship. That didn't mean.

One unusual predicament: at an event like BootCamp, which is aimed at the true newcomers to the field, it's entirely possible to offer sessions that DON'T appeal to longtime bloggers and podcasters.

Our solution? We set aside a room called the "Mentor's Lounge" (really a cel animation lab), which was intended for use by folks who wanted to pursue one-on-one follow-ups to vexing questions. What it ended up becoming was just as interesting -- the "default hangout" for folks who weren't drawn to a specific session but instead wanted to chat with other attendees in a low-stress environment.

Aside from a few minor tech issues -- janky projector connections, internet login drama and a faulty mouse -- the event ran quite smoothly.

How'd We Do?

We won't know that for sure until we send and collect the post-BootCamp surveys, but informally, it looks like we did pretty well. I've already received individual feedback from several attendees who experienced the same inspirational jolt that most folks get from PodCamp, which means we must have done something right.

Ideally, this means a LOT more people are now properly prepped for PodCamp Pittsburgh 2 in August...,

BootCamp Pittsburgh After-Party @ Bar Louie

What Happens Next

THAT, I'm very interested in.

A lot of attendees were not currently blogging or podcasting, but were very interested in finding out how they could get started. That's perfect, because that's what we were there to help with.

I'd like to see what everyone takes away from the event, and what kinds of new (or old but now updated) blogs and podcasts we see created in the very near future.

As for us, the planners, we'll step back and confer. We'll figure out, based upon audience feedback and observation, what went well and what needs to be improved. And we'll update the website with feedback, reference materials AND the numerous videotaped sessions (we're editing and encoding them this week).

And then we'll turn our attentions toward PodCamp Pittsburgh 2 -- which is a mere 4 months away...

Oh, and next time, we'll probably order a little less food. There was a LOT left over, but Jia Ji from and Mike Woycheck from Wear Local made the smart decision and donated their overages to charity. (We're talking soda, water, sandwiches, pretzels, bagels, danishes... the works.)

Special thanks to our volunteers (Rachel, Josh, Erik, Ann, Jim, Rick, Jessica, Scott, Andrea, Amy and everyone else I'm probably forgetting) AND our sponsors -- Guru, WearLocal, Big Big Design, Something to Be Desired, Spreadshirt, The Maryland Zoo and, of course, The Art Institute of Pittsburgh...

... where we hope to see everyone again in August at PCPGH2!

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  • High five to us! Very Nice.

    although i dissagree with the low budget pic. we had designer graphics... for free.

    By Blogger Norm, at 12:01 AM  

  • This event was exciting and fulfilling to me on two fronts: it was an extension idea that came out of your work with PodCamp Pittsburgh, which means that you are officially the first team to do something more than just the straightforward event.

    Second, it was just further proof that Pittsburgh's social media scene is strong and still growing.

    I'm so grateful to have been able to come and participate. It really set my mind to working, and I'm looking forward to PodCamp Pittsburgh2 with even more energy now. Thank you.

    By Blogger Chris Brogan, at 4:21 AM  

  • I think I've developed a bit of a problem, Justin.

    I'm now looking at the possibilities for Podcamp Kingston.

    We have another conference happening ( in June... But it's not free, requires early registration, is single-tracked and doesn't follow the PodCamp model.

    And I'm scared attendees, specifically local ones aren't going to get enough out of it.

    Curse the spreadable nature of new media unconferences. Now I have more work to do.

    By Anonymous Tommy Vallier, at 8:32 AM  

  • Good deal. Glad it went well. :)

    By Blogger Bill Cammack, at 10:37 AM  

  • Sounds like it went great, Justin; congratulations to you and your team!

    I'm eagerly awaiting PodCamp Pittsburgh '07,, and hoping I can make it! (Dates! We need Dates!) ;)

    By Blogger KevinKS, at 10:42 AM  

  • @Norm: Yes, our graphics turned out well. The low budget had more to do with us keeping media, food and operations costs down.

    @Chris: You and me both. Just wait til August for PodCamp Pittsburgh 2...

    @Tommy: Check your email. I may be able to help you plan something that meets your (new) needs...

    @Bill: See you in PGH in August?...

    @Kevin: Tentative dates = Aug 17-19, but we're waiting on confirmation from possible locations before we set those in stone.

    By Blogger Justin Kownacki, at 10:45 PM  

  • @Tommy: Jeez, $100 and it's run by a "podcast conglomerate"? It seems like the antithesis of the PodCamp model. Once you get LunchConnect up, you should just sponsor your own conference.

    @Justin: I like to think the overabundance of food was due to Mike and myself being skilled at stretching a limited budget to its breaking point rather than poor planning. But yeah, volunteers took the extra food to local food banks and homeless shelters. Even the remaining cases of extra soda and bottled water were donated to the South Side Project to prevent any waste.

    By Blogger Jia, at 8:32 AM  

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