We laughed, we cried, we chatted, collaborated, brainstormed, and solved problems. Northern Voice 2011 was an incredible event and I had a lot of fun. Friday morning began with a touching tribute to Derek K. Miller who was a prominent local blogger and recently lost his battle with cancer. While I never met Derek, I had read his blog and it was great to see a fitting farewell from the community—his community.

The Keynote was then given by April Smith of AHA Media. She’s a citizen journalist and long-time resident of Vancouver’s downtown Eastside. April started off sounding a tad rehearsed, but you could tell she was nervous and excited at the same time. (I can relate, I felt the same way moderating a panel, and a keynote is 10x as important).

April also brought people to tears with her passionate activism and life-changing encounters with other residents of the DTES and the issues of that community. If you have a chance, check out some of her stories and videos.

Northern Voice 2011 at the UBC Life Sciences Centre

In the gorgeous naturally-lit atrium of the UBC Life Sciences Centre

After a quick break, I attended Twitter in the News with Erin Loxam from News1130, Theresa LaLonde from the CBC, Andrea Woo from The Vancouver Sun and prominent freelancer Bob Mackin. The panel focused on the effect that social media—particularly Twitter—has on traditional news media.

Because tweets are often assumed to be true (isn’t everything you read on the internet true?) that journalists need to fact check more than ever. If you’re live-tweeting a story as it’s breaking, many journalists and news sources will note that information is “unverified”. They also discussed the difficulty to engage on Twitter as a neutral news source since the forum so personality-based.

The next panel I attended was Social Media & Online Defamation with Gillian Shaw, Marko Vesely, and Patricia Graham. From an online reviewer standpoint, I found this talk particularly interesting. Many laws that apply in traditional print media do apply online—people just assume that there is an anonymity on the web and their actions don’t have consequences. The tips that the panelists had for us included: err on the side of caution; make sure statements are based on fact; and if someone commits libel against you, respond quickly.

Northern Voice 2011: Social Media & Online Defamation Panel

Northern Voice 2011: Social Media & Online Defamation Panel

An interesting distinction is, that if someone accuses you of committing libel, the onus is on you to prove that it isn’t, not on them to prove that it is. Did you know that you can be sued for republishing a libelous statement? To avoid committing libel, keep your intent clear and your attitude accurate because if the other party can prove you’re “out to get them” they can win on malice of intent.

I attended Mike Vardy‘s talk on Blogging Funny. He had some good tips about how to inject humour into your blog by identifying the type of humorous voice you wanted to use and finding your niché. Do you want to write parody, satire, crass, poetic, subtle or blue humour? Are you going to use graphics, word choice, dialogue, attitude, or a different style? A lot of his tips and recommendations were applicable to blogging in general, so it felt succinct and well-rounded; I enjoyed the talk and laughed quite a bit.

I then sat in on Theresa Lalonde’s talk for How to be an Empath: Social Media Training, but I felt that it was a lot of “here’s what we did on this campaign” and showed us examples and case studies. I would have preferred more concrete discussion of the “how”. Because I was experiencing connectivity issues on my iTouch, I excused myself from the session early.

I attended Raul Pacheco and Arieanna Schweber‘s presentation titled Communities that Rock. The talk was amusing and engaging and I want to check out their ebook. The panel (and conference) assumes you already have some experience blogging, so it isn’t too basic. From the sounds of Raul and Arieanna’s ebook, that too will be the case.

Northern Voice 2011: Communities That Rock

Full house for "Communities That Rock" talk at NV11

A lot of what they discussed was about blogging and engaging your audience through storytelling. So many of the tips were very practical, such as: identify your community and what you offer them; ask a question at the end of a post to invite comments; use your blog as your hub; don’t let social media distract you, use it as a tool.

Raul and Arieanna also talked about a lot of general tips such as SEO, how to keep people on your site after they’ve read one post, keeping your content engaging, visuals such as images, breaking paragraphs up and summarizing audio/video.

Today, Day Two, began with a very interesting keynote from Chris Wilson titled From Dial-up Modems to Post-“Social Media”: A Journey. I felt waaay young when he was talking about the first incarnations of the World Wide Web, but it was really neat to hear firsthand about his experiences. Chris was a fantastic, engaging storyteller.

I first attended the panel on Grassroots Campaigns for Change. It was interesting to listen to three individuals behind LeadNow.ca, OpenMedia.ca (Stop the Meter), and Canadians for Obama / Shit Harper Did. I was more interested in their motivations behind these campaigns than their actual “how to” because so much of it is luck. One really important takeaway was that social media should be used for organizing, then things should be taken offline to get traditional media attention. It reminded me of SlutWalk.

After lunch I sat in on Sex, Lies and Wikipedia. Tim Bray was funny and a good storyteller, but a couple times I was wondering “what’s the point in this story?” He did end up coming full circle, and I enjoyed the Wikipedia stats and some funny links. Tim closed his talk by announcing that everyone is an expert in something, and we should all go become wiki editors, especially females.

Then, I was MIA for over an hour. I had approached the WordPress Happiness Bar on Friday to help solve a problem I was having. Stephane Daury of Automattic was so patient, helpful and brilliant. He fixed the import problem I was experiencing with the BBAW posts coming from EE. Ignore me if that’s jibberish, but just know that I wanted to jump up and down, squeal, and vomit from relief all at the same time.

Northern Voice 2011: WordPress Happiness Bar

My new favourite person: Stephane the WordPress genius!

By the time I got back into the swing of things, it was time for us to prepare for our panel titled, Altruism vs. Narcissism: What’s in it for the Online Reviewer?.

Northern Voice 2011: Online Reviewers

Online reviewers chatting pre-panel

I was moderating and sortakinda the book bloggers, Kyrsten Jensen was representing the Yelp reviewers, Marina Antunes eats-sleeps-breathes movies and Nicole Christen—who I was introduced to through Northern Voice—was representing up the parent bloggers.

Overall, our panel went well. The room had more than 20 people, so that made me happy. I was a little nervous and found it difficult to segue the topics seamlessly. I think the only downside was that we were very succinct and sped through our material too quickly. I had only prepared 2 questions in the event of extra time and those got merged into another answer/discussion. Thankfully Lauren Wood—who is on the NV organzing committee—had joined our Skype planning session last month, so she chimed in with a few questions to prompt discussion.

Northern Voice 2011: Online ReviewsIn the future I think I would be happier sitting on a panel than moderating. It’s not as easy as it looks and I think I overestimated my eloquence. I need to use full sentences instead of just key words—fortunately my panelists knew what I was getting at most of the time.

All in all, a great conference that I was honoured to be a part of. Can’t wait for next year and I hope to be able to help more on the organizing end (as a website lacky).