BlogTalk Reloaded made for 2 days filled with presentations, conversations and fun.
A last drink in a Viennese pub on Tuesday night / Wednesday morning, with only 7 people left, was accompanied with a last round of evaluation.

Thomas Burg said he did not have a lot of energy this time around. Understandable, but it showed.

It showed in the barely managed expectations of the presenters. It turned out that most speakers were not aware that they were allotted only ten minutes, so that there was room to let more real conversations and dialogue take place with and within the audience. This led to confusement and some irritation. The 10 minute slots also weren’t really fixed, we wanted it to try for at least one session to see if we could break the traditional broadcasting mode of conferences, and turn it into a conversation more. For that one session at least expectations of the presenters were managed beforehand.

Communication with the presenters could have been better. Around making clear that all video was being put on Google Video almost real time and asking permission, around making clear that the presenters in each panel should decide with their panel leader what to do. And also that their presentation were meant to trigger conversation, to challenge the audience. Reading from paper doesn’t fit with that in my eyes for instance.

Communication with the audience could have been better too. Changing the form of an event takes some education for the audience as well. And any event needs an explicit starting point and end point.
It is a mistake to think that more free format events are not highly structured and carefully lead. I’d say that this conference lacked a dose of that careful leadership.

I was host to the first and the last panel of the conference programme. In the first panel we tried to break with the more traditional Q&A format. After Danah Boyds keynote Adolfo Estelella and Jan Schmidt had both ten minutes to present their material. I asked all three to give me two or three questions they would like to ask the audience, and had those questions put up on the wall afterwards.

Then everybody was asked to have a look at the questions and strike up a conversation around the one that triggered their thoughts most. Ideas, thoughts and questions were captured on post-it notes. After a first mad dash to the coffee machine (which had me slightly worried) it turned out pretty well I think. It was a shame however that we did not succeed in feeding the results back to the group, or have a little group discussion at the end. We did immediately transcribe the post-it notes into the wiki. (Thanks to Martin and Matthias) I am not sure though if people found out about that quickly enough, or were able to have a look at it.

The last panel of the conference was also hosted by me. Together with Anne Bartlett-Bragg and Ricardo Cambiassi we had a lot of fun taking the audience through the after lunch dip and onto to the end of the conference. At least for me it meant ending the conference on a high-note.

Thomas Burg and Jan Schmidt owe our thanks for bringing us all together again in Vienna for another round of BlogTalk. We had two very fun days and I loved being there, meeting with people new and familiar, hearing new and existing ideas confirmed and challenged. After all, in the end everyone is personally responsible for making any event a success for themselves. And a lot of people did precisely that, but it could have been made easier for them to do so. All in all a good enough conference with a whole bunch of great people. Heaps of fun and plenty of cognitive stimulation.

In the coming days I will try and write down some more impressions, stories and reflection on my take-aways from the conference.

In the past days I visited Vienna, on the invitation of the ZSI, Centre for Social Innovation. They organized a workshop on the fringe of the yearly conference for the European distance and e-learning network (EDEN). The workshop was titled Social Software in Professional Learning Environments, and an initiative of both the PROLEARN and iCamp European projects, and took place at the technological university of Vienna.

Sebastian Fiedler and Barbara Kieslinger kindly invited me to speak at their Social Software workshop about the pioneering our company Proven Partners does in working with social software, both internally and for clients. In my presentation I talked about the rationale for using social software in our organization, and our experienced benefits, challenges and obstacles. Based on the questions I also introduced some of the examples in working with our clients with social software.

My presentation was the first, which worked out nicely as I approached the subject in broader terms, and as seen from the ‘user’-perspective. Subsequent presentations were by Thomas Burg (on tagging), Karsten Ehms (on internal weblogs at Siemens), and Ralf Klamma (on research perspectives and projects around social software). Ralf does interesting stuff on visualization issues, reminiscent of the work of Marc Smith at Microsoft Research. The few dozen people attending were active listeners, with a good number of questions.

Apart from the workshop this was also a good chance to talk to Karsten, Thomas and Sebastian again. It’s always a pleasure to meet them. And the ‘beer gardens’ in Vienna, such as Altes AKH and the Hermann’s beach bar (photo) were good places to have those conversations. And of course new faces and names were part of those exchanges as well. Such as Norm Friesen, Jan Mendling, Ralf Klamma and Fridolin Wild, and a whole bunch of others. All in all a very pleasant experience. Looking forward to returning to Vienna in the fall for the BlogTalk Reloaded conference, for which we just heard a proposal by me and Elmine got accepted. Photo’s are up on Flickr, ofcourse.