Northern Voice 2010Northern Voice is a personal blogging and social media conference held every year in Vancouver. It is celebrating it’s sixth year and is entirely volunteer run. I found out about the conference last year because Lauren (a knitter friend) helps organize it. However, it sold out in 2.5 days! This year, they expanded from 300 attendees to 550 and still sold out (although it took a bit longer). I got tickets the first day they went on sale for the early bird rate.

I arrived at UBC Life Sciences Centre at 8:45 am and proceeded to registration. I got a nifty name badge which had my blog URL and Twitter username. Then I sat down as the atrium filled up and they set up for the Keynote address. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen came over to say hello — we had met recently when she was the guest speaker for an SFU class I took. Then Lisa Manfield, the teacher of said class (Writing and Editing for the Web) came over to say hello too. And suddenly Sean Cranbury stopped by to say hello to Lisa and I introduced myself. Sean and I had recently emailed about Books on the Radio, so it was great to say hello in person.

UBC Life Sciences atrium

That first 10 minutes right there really demonstrates the strength and worth of conferences like this. Not only are they a great place to put a face to the name, but to make new aquaintances and network. Then we all settled in for the keynote speech by Bryan Alexander. He spoke of mystery and the unknown. It was a very interesting, reflective, and thought-invoking speech and so different from Keynotes that I’m familiar with.

Afterward, the first set of sessions didn’t really entice me, so I started wandering around the Life Sciences building. I ended up seeing Kim Werker and Kimli Welsh chatting and went up to say hello. I met Kim several weeks ago at the Forensic Workshops at the Vancouver Police Museum and I know of Kimli from craft shows (she is behind the hilariously brilliant NSFW Smuttons).

I hung out with Kim and Kimli while they tagged Mighty Ugly creations for swag bags. These little critters were created ugly on purpose which is the whole point of Mighty Ugly. Kimli was giving a talk later called “Overcoming Social Anxiety, or How to Win Friends and Influence People (in 140 characters or less)” and was giving away swag bags. The Mighty Ugly dolls were going into the swag bags and so they were tagged with a business card in explanation. I snapped a few photos of the process so Kim could post on the Mighty Ugly blog and about these guys going off into the world.

Mighty ugly critters posing with poster

Then, I decided to go to a session called Online Publishing and the Law by Dan Burnett. Dan is a defamation and media lawyer in Canada and gave a very interesting talk. It reinforced some things I already knew about libel and defamation, but was pretty shocking (and frightening) about some of the things you can be sued for. Did you know, that retweeting or reposting a libelous comment means you can be sued for libel even if you weren’t the original offender? Scary stuff.

The lunch break was delicious. It appears to have been provided by UBC AMS Catering but don’t quote me on that one. As a vegetarian, I was very pleased with the spread, and they brought out treats and coffee immediately after. Perfect way to start the afternoon! Over lunch I chatted with my friend Dale, who is one of the video-organizers for Northern Voice, his friend (and author) kc dyer. I also sat near someone who looked very familiar and introduced herself as Carol, later we figured out we knew each other from a Tea Meetup Group. Small world!

After lunch I headed over to one of the smaller classrooms for Copyright and Copywrong: Intro to Creative Commons with Martha Rans and Duncan McHugh. I was a little worried that I was already past the “beginner” level as I’ve already set up Creative Commons (CC) for my writing here and my creative endeavours at Monnibo Designs. However, it was an interesting talk to listen to, and learn more about what “commerical use” constitues. Also, I learned about two new programs: FairShare to track your CC works, and CompFight to search Flickr for CC-licensed photos. The talk ran a bit long as there were a lot of questions at the beginning. Duncan tried to quickly address music, video, and photos as well as writing.

I stayed in the same room for Finding Your Voice with Monica Hamburg and Dave Olsen. I thought Monica Hamburg was fantastic and her talk was extremely engaging, yet stayed on topic. It didn’t stray off into tangents or get distracted by questions that could wait till the end. She talked about setting a focus, how to write well, and what creates a “good voice”. She had lots of ideas and suggestions and really stressed being honest to yourself and being real. Monica Hamburg also included some quotes from bloggers. It was great that she blogged about her talk (in five parts!) pre-conference. Dave Olsen couldn’t make the conference and instead submitted a video. I didn’t find this very engaging, but other people in the room seemed amused. I stayed simply because the next talk I wanted to see was in the same room.

The Nuts and Bolts of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) was presented by Alexandre Brabant. After having a lot of SEO information covered by Lisa Manfield in the recent SFU web writing course I mentioned, it was interesting to attend another talk on the topic. The best piece of advice (besides all the basic SEO information) was to train yourself to use good SEO practices and it will become automatic. Some suggested resources were SEOMoz for detailed SEO information, Google Webmaster Tools, and resources to submit your RSS feed to.

Following the afternoon coffee break, I headed to PhotoCamp for the rest of the afternoon. This was a mini-conference session in itself which covered cameras, time lapse, fashion photography, retouching, and a range of other topics. Moderated by Kris Krüg and including local photog John Biehler, I was really glad I attended this session. It was so inspiring and really informative. It was great that it covered such a wide range of topics.

All in all a very busy but enjoyable day. I am looking forward to tomorrow as there are three sessions I definitely want to attend.