ShellyBlog Shelly Brisbin's life consists of several long tails. She writes about them here.

January 24, 2013

Pack Rat

People talk a lot about hoarding nowadays. I’m told by multiple sources that there is a reality TV show featuring people who do it to the extent that their houses and lives are destroyed. Sounds super-entertaining, huh? That’s another subject, and one on which you probably wouldn’t like my opinion. But whether it’s inspired by basic cable or not, the word “hoarder” comes up all the time when people need a word to describe their inability to unburden themselves of the objects they have accumulated. Is it a different thing when you need to carry the objects with you?

Before I go on a trip, I feel compelled to stockpile things that I might need; electronic equipment, cables, batteries, and bar tools have all ben stuffed into roll-y bags for trips both long and short. Lately though, what with iPads and phones, and tiny audio recorders, I don’t carry so much excess heavy stuff. All of my pre-travel pack ratting is digital.

To wit:

I’m about to go to San Francisco for five days. I expect my days and evenings to be packed with events, and that I will tumble exhausted into my bed at ridiculous times of night. And yet, my iPad Mini, iPhone, and iPod Nano are each stuffed to the gills with movies, music, podcasts, and audiobooks. Why? Because I detest the thought of reaching for a digital entertainment and finding that I don’t have it.

I need a movie for the plane ride. Better take four, in case film noir seems more appealing than a musical once I’m in the air. But wait! About half the time, plane cabins on morning flights are too bright to watch a movie, and I scroll through podcasts to find a Fresh Air interview, or a friend’s vacation story show. And what of those late nights when I fall into bed and grope for the device charging next to me? I’ll need some audio drama, or the latest episode of my favorite hometown radio show–until I fall asleep after 20 minutes.

Speaking of that radio show, though, it needs to be on the iPhone, along with the New York Times audio digest I listen to first thing every morning. I must be able to download the new shows while I’m gone, even though I packed gigabytes to take with me on the trip. I will dutifully fire up the slow hotel wi-fi just when everyone else is getting up too, impatiently checking to see that my newspaper has made it onto my iGadget when I exit the shower.

Music? This is the thing I am least likely to consume. I listen to podcasts when I walk or ride public transportation conveyances. Music is for writing time, or as a salve for bouts of insomnia at home. But wait! I might not be able to sleep in the hotel. Better take 4000 or so songs with me.

There’s one more media type clogging up my gigabytes: despite the fact that the average audiobook is at least eight hours long (many are far longer), I have loaded up 11 (ELEVEN) fiction and non-fiction titles. Because, like, how do I know whether I’ll be in the mood for World War II era spy novel, or a critique of the modern military general staff? Maybe it will be a book about how the British interacted with the Union and Confederacy during the Civil War. That’s on standby in case the Tom Perrotta novel with the great reviews seems boring. In any case, there is no chance at all that I will finish any single book during my trip.

Why do I do it? Why, when confronted with one of the greatest cities in the world, and both business and pleasure reasons for visiting, would I go to such lengths to make sure that I can entertain my ears in four or more different ways, on three machines? I don’t know, but TSA hasn’t regulated the digital heft of our iDevices (so far), and disk space continues to be of inconsequential cost. So I might as well, right?

August 20, 2008

New Media Expo’s Middle Year

Last week’s New Media Expo was, to a large degree, what I expected it to be. Frankly, I had hoped that my original expectations would be proven wrong, because I like attending this event, and I think its focus on the podcasting aspect of new media (despite the more inclusive name) is a valuable concentration for those who are more interested in making and producing audio and video than they are in finding new ways to market themselves in 140 characters.

Despite assurances to the contrary, it has seemed to me since the announcement that NME would move from the isolated Ontario California to the bright lights of Vegas, that the change would not produce the kind of cred the show needed in order to grow. I think I wrote at the time that a move was inevitable, and a good idea, but that I questioned Vegas as the next step in NME’s evolution. The basis for that conclusion, borne out by the 2008 show, was that a city like Vegas, with its myriad distractions, and a venue like the Las Vegas Convention Center/Hilton, with its cavernous spaces, could not hope to support the networking and community aspects of NME that most repeat attendees prize.

In my blog drafts folder is an unfinished post about the NME conference program. In it, I suggest that despite the innovation inherent in the Podcamp format, NME’s nuts and bolts attention to the tools and techniques of podcasting make the conference a better choice for serious (hobbyist or pro) podcasters than the most recent batch of unconferences. It’s fair to point out that many of NME’s speakers are repeat presenters, and that’s a bit disappointing, and frankly, indicative of the lack of growth in the podcasting world. But it’s also clear that at NME, marketing from the front of a seminar room is kept to a reasonable level, and that the focus is less on trendy “social media”, and more on making, distributing, and selling better content.

But a respectable group of speakers and an organizer who I sincerely believe wants to produce a conference that is good for podcasters (Tim Bourquin is a podcaster himself, after all) is not enough to leverage the successes of NME past. Like it or not, the community aspect of this event is integral to its success. It’s not merely a warm fuzzy for what Bourquin calls hobbyists. Podcasters have tended to create formal and informal alliances, reference one another in text and audio form, and evaluate the viability of attending a conference based on “who else is going”. Then too, a lot of podcasters think of themselves as “social media” creators, and that demands, well, some socializing.

Much of this community-centricness was baked in at the crowded Ontario Marriott bar, and on an exhibit floor that served as a daytime mingle spot for those who couldn’t afford the sessions. This year, the usual social networking tools made it possible for people to plan meetups, but the lack of natural gathering spots, and a dearth of sponsored evening parties made it hard to find the people I wanted to see or meet, beyond a group of friends who communicated via Twitter and text message, all pre-arranged. The tepid show floor experience ensured that visits there were shorter, depriving attendees of another chance to see and be seen.

How to fix? Linda Mills of Podcast User Magazine twittered about rumors that the next expo might take place in San Francisco. And at this writing, no dates for a 2009 show are posted on the NME site. Further, Tim Bourquin, in a very informative post on the difficulties of running trade shows on a small scale, suggests that he might be leaving the business.

I for one hope that NME can be revitalized. San Francisco is a great choice for next year’s event. I would also like to see a Midwest (Chicago) or East Coast (Boston) event. Podcamp attendance patterns could provide good gudeance about locations that could best support a podcasting conference. Finally, I would like to see Tim hire a community-builder for NME. This person’s job would be to develop events and venues that would be conducive to more social options. Two important parts of this job would be finding sponsors for open events, and seeking out affordable, public meeting places that would draw NME attendees willing to socialize on their own dime.

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