Northern Voice 2012 — Personal Blogging & Social Media ConferenceNorthern Voice, as I’ve mentioned before, is a conference for personal blogging and social media. It differs from other blogging & social media conferences in that the focus is always on the person, the creator, the storyteller. Most sessions are about ideas, practices, and passions instead of monetization, popularity, or commercial entities. When there is a talk from an organization, more often than not it is grassroots, non-profit, or citizen-based content.

In retrospect, I’m kicking myself for not going outside of my ‘comfort zone’ to check out panels that I knew nothing about. I continually attended panels that I already had an interest in, which isn’t a bad thing, but it didn’t serve to broaden my horizons. However, I really enjoyed volunteering and Lauren has even convinced me to join the Organizing Committee for 2013.

DAY ONE — Friday, June 15

On Friday the Keynote was on Internet Activism with Reilly Yeo from OpenMedia. I am already incredibly familiar with due to my studies, so I was glad to see a talk about participatory media and political interaction.

I then attended Canadian Copyright by Martha Rans. I chose this session because it relates directly to my studies in Communication (one of my classes this semester is on the cultural industries). I am kicking myself for not letting my headspace go more ‘personal’ and I kept falling into ‘student’ mode. However, Martha mentioned the Artists Legal Outreach which is an awesome organization that she founded to provide pro bono advice for artists on their legal rights. It is also important to note that Bill C-11, the Copyright Modernization Act just passed through third reading and is headed to the senate. So Canada almost-officially has an updated Copyright Act.

Then I pretty much missed the next talk I wanted to see because I was in the Atrium on the coffee break (and the talk ended super early). The conference this year was at W2 and SFU Woodwards. It is a lovely central location but I missed the ‘cohort’ feel the conference had at UBC. In June on a Friday and Saturday, the downtown is pretty busy, whereas at UBC it felt like we were in a secluded island. To me it felt much easier to approach people I didn’t know when we were at UBC, but I think a lot of smaller groups of friends took the opportunity to venture out of the conference zone.

I also had trouble keeping track of the time since the W2 Cafe always seemed busy; I was consistently late for nearly every talk I attended, but that’s my own fault. And I stupidly forgot my camera at home on Friday. …. I think I was just a complete scatterbrain on Friday.

Aside: For lunch I went to Bambo Cafe (my favourite downtown lunch spot) which I really miss now that I don’t work downtown fulltime. So I had a lovely homemade soup and sandwich. So incredibly tasty. I also recommended one of the sponsors go there on her lunch break (she was manning a booth), and she said it was such a great suggestion. So next time you’re in Gastown-ish (or the new “Hastings Crosstown”) go to Bambo Cafe!

John Biehler's light wand

Photo by John Biehler via Flickr

After lunch, I went to Photocamp. I love that every year Photocamp is completely different from previous years.

John Biehler kicked it off by showing us his “light sabre” which he built out of parts he printed with a 3D Printer. You program the light wand to spell or display something over a span of X seconds. Then set up your camera on a tripod and set the exposure for X seconds too. Then you walk the light wand across the field of vision and it “writes” in light. There is a whole Flickr Group for digital light painting.

I was also talking with John afterward and he was telling me about the 3D Printer Village that they’ve arranged for Vancouver Maker Faire. So I’m looking forward to Maker Faire even more.
After John’s light wand bit, Syx Langemann spoke on some serious photographic lighting matters addressing lenses, framing, aperture, light sources, and flashes. I liked how he described light as a “hug” not a “punch”. He also gave some tips on doing portraits to draw the subject out of their shell. Quite a bit of the technical stuff went over my head as I’m not a full blown photographer and probably not even an amateur, just an enthusiast. Then Ariane Colenbrander talked about bags, straps and slings for photography gear. There are cross-body straps designed specially for women, which would be awesome to see on regular messenger bags.
Photocamp wrapped up with Morten Rand-Hendriksen who mentioned a few different neat things, but focused on WordPress & Facebook and photography. WordPress has a new Facebook plugin that enhances the functionality of any posts you want to promote via FB. For example, setting a featured image in WP is normally only necessary in certain themes, but the FB plugin uses that featured image as the preview image on Facebook, so it’s important to note some of those details. Morten also mentioned a few different plugins, WordPress SEO by Yoast, ImageMagick Engine to retain a photograph’s colourspace, and FancyBox lightbox plugin for enhancing WP galleries.
The final session I attended on Friday was by Daniel Cown on Online Privacy. He mentioned the personal dilemma between Privacy and Peacock. There are pros (networking, productivity, engagement, friendship) and cons (privacy, career, livelihood, isolation) to being active in social media, and in the past year I’ve really started to evaluate my own personal pro/con list regarding the different platforms available. This session was a nice full-circle to Martha’s Copyright talk at the start of the day as Daniel mentioned some legislature and regulation surrounding online privacy.
The freakiest part of Daniel’s presentation was the “average life in the day of Tara”—a random person they found online and tracked her throughout cyberspace as an exercise in online sharing and privacy. They changed her name and didn’t tell us her online handle, but they said in four hours they discovered all sorts of regular things (favourite places to eat, friends, where she grew up, where she went to school) but also some frightening things (electronics she bought and tweeted about, family history she blogged about, FourSquare placed that she “checked in to” basically announcing to the world that her house was at risk, pet names, best friend names, and other that are often part of ‘secret’ questions for financial accounts).
DAY TWO — Saturday, June 16
After the Keynote by Blaine Cook, I attended the sessions on Democratization, Social and Political Change through Social Media. These were two separate sessions, each with two presenters. The short time span allowed us to get a feel for each presenter’s personal experience and then Q&As. I really appreciated that they explained what and how they did things, recognizing that there are many models out there, and this are just the guidelines that happened to work for them.
In the first session, Tyler Morgenstern presented on Reimagine the CBC, and Marguerite Marlin told us about her website to encourage interactivity with politics. In the second session, Richard Loat took us through his food bank charity event, Five Hole for Food, and Stephen Bohus walked us through the citizen activism he initiated called City Hall Watch against The Rize building proposal for Mount Pleasant.
While some of these projects were more successful than others, the important take-away is that we stand up and say something for what we believe in. Even if we don’t immediately see a difference, the fact that we caused a stink at City Hall, or protested against funding cuts, or disagreed with uses for taxpayer dollars, we are making a statement about how we—as citizens of this city/province/country—feel.
In the afternoon I did a volunteer shift at the check-in booth. While it was fairly quiet, it was still nice to contribute, chat with people who wanted to know what was happening here, and then help strike the conference setup. All-in-all a great day. Thanks to the NV12 crew, speakers, volunteers, and sponsors!