Geeks Gather for PodCamp Western MA 5

Podcamp Western MassachusettsThere was much to be heard, said and learned at this year’s edition of PodCamp Western MA, held this past Saturday at Holyoke Community College’s Kittredge Center, in Holyoke, MA.

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This weekend’s podcamp marked the event’s 5th anniversary and second year being held at the Kittredge Center.

Like in its previous years, this years podcamp offered sessions covering topics from social media to mobile tech. There were tips and tricks on how best to use Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, and Google+, and, mixed in between, attendees caught up on the latest in third party and mobile applications to help streamline their use of social media.

The conference – or “unconference” as it’s called – had a fairly even mix of podcamp veterans and first-timers in attendance. Organizers call it an unconference because of the unconventional format if the sessions, which invite a back-and-forth between the session speakers and attendees themselves, all of which results in an exchange of ideas and knowledge that is hard to come by in the more traditional conference formats.

First-time attendees may have benefited more from the more structured, speaker-to-audience sessions that resembled more of a teacher-to-student experience. A lot if the podcamp veterans, meanwhile, found value in the back-and-forth group sessions, where the speakers acted more as moderators for the attendees as they exchanged ideas and knowledge.

With the latter sessions (which this writer preferred), attendees picked up tips on social media and writing tools such as Bundlepost, Buffer and Evernote. Some other interesting and useful tools included:

Throughout the day, the question was routinely asked by both session hosts and attendees: “What do you use to make your social media experience better?” And there were a lot of answers.

Podcamp Western Massachusetts

Me and my colleague, Lisa, attended this year’s event.

A good example of sort of the knowledge-gaining experience people found at podcamp occurred for me at about midday when a colleague of mine who was also attending the conference talked to me during the event’s lunch break about how she wished there was some kind of cellphone app that would allow people to scan business cards and have that information load directly into their cellphone’s contact list.

In the very next session I attended (a group session), not one – but two such apps were brought up by attendees. I didn’t catch the second one because I was too busy downloading and installing the first one that was mentioned, called CamCard.

CamCard scans a business card and tracks the card owner’s name, phone number, email and any social media handles. The software isn’t perfect – for one scanned business card I had to edit the information – but CamCard records the information not only in its own proprietary contact list, but also gives you the option to store it in any other contact list connected to your cellphone.

Besides the knowledge gained during the sessions, there was also the invaluable networking experience at podcamp to look forward to. And if you didn’t pick up a contact or two at the event itself, there was always the “After-Party” being held just down the road from the conference, where attendees continued their discussions over drinks and snacks.

At over a hundred twenty attendees, this year’s PodCamp WesternMA was one of the best attended annual social media events in all of New England and the largest in western Massachusetts. This year’s event also made it the oldest-tenured podcamp in the New England region (as the Boston Podcamp took a break).

Podcamp WesternMass holds it annual event at the start of each spring. For more information on this year’ event, visit the 2013 event page.

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