A few people have asked me about how PodCamp got started, the history behind it, etc. so I thought I’d take some time to recollect my perspective of how this grand adventure got started.PodCamp more or less got started on a Yahoo Group called New England Podcasting (since moved to Google) on February 6, 2006, when a few of us were lamenting that all the big podcasting events seemed to be on the West Coast – Podcast and Portable Media Expo, Podcast Hotel in Seattle, Podcast Academy, and so forth. Initially, we’d talked about calling it the New England Podcasting Expo (I still own that domain name, amusingly), and the group as a whole had both eagerness and skepticism about creating such a large event. Some of the remarks were prescient and funny in retrospect.

I’d eagerly vote for a Northeast/New England Podcast expo of some kind. My initial feeling is that it should start relatively small – so as to not make us all instantly insane – and then grow it. Maybe the first one or two should be like a meetup on steroids; if they can be managed well, tightly, then you could conceivably have one every six months, or even one per quarter. Certainly trying to go for a Podcast/Portable Media Expo right out of the gate would be cumbersome, but theoretically possible. – me

The podfather of New England, C.C. Chapman, played devil’s advocate in the debate:

Ok one thing I’m not clear on is the “WHY” for this event. I’m with John that by calling it an Expo it makes it seem like something bigger. I like the idea of having a big get together. LOVE that idea, but I’m not sure the world needs another “expo” with Podcast Hotel this month, Podcast Academy happeningi n Boston in April, the PodcastPalooza thing in Texas in June and then the Podcast Expo in the fall in Cali. Oh and don’t forget PodcasterCon in January. Kind of crowded if you get what I mean. Do we expect people to come from outside of New England to this? Just sort of playing devil’s advocate for a minute.

Michael Johnson of the Indigenous People’s Music Podcast even volunteered a meeting room or two at Foxwoods. Steve Garfield ventured this comment about the logistics of setting up a conference:

you could organize it as an un-conference see this:
http://barcamp.org/

Steve, you’re always the visionary.

Ultimately, the time frame we’d set – a couple of months – didn’t seem feasible, so we shelved the idea for a while. Then in May, I went to BarCamp Boston and met up with Chris Brogan and Bryan Person. We ran around a lot, recording various sessions, and realized two things:

1. BarCamp was extremely technical.

2. The BarCamp unconference model where everyone just kind of does stuff was a really good one.

Snarkily, after BarCamp Boston, I made something of an offhand comment:

Well, we have standing offers from CC Chapman for Babson College and Michael Kickingbear for space at Foxwoods. We’re all Type A personalities with a billion things on our plates, which means we don’t have the time to put together a full-out, hardcore conference. So here’s a thought, an idea, something for everyone to debate,
encapsulated into one word.

PodCamp.

Chris Brogan and I started talking an awful lot about a conference idea, and Chris dropped this on the group:

I mentioned a few weeks back about wanting to get together and do some technical howto exchanges with people, basically sharing out our skill sets with the mindset that someone knows something you don’t, and you know something they don’t. Tentatively, I’m thinking about a September gathering timeframe, and probably somewhere that’s train-accessible to Boston but still affordable (free) as a gathering spot. That’s all I want to share about that right now. Does that sound even vaguely interesting? If we get enough “yes” or “tell me more” type responses, I’ll put even more effort into making it really memorable (like flying a top-shelf podcaster or 2 in to visit with us all, etc).

Of course, we eviscerated Chris for implying that New England’s podcasters weren’t top-shelf, but once over that little bit of semantic, Bryan Person suggested:

I, for one, will not be attending the Expo and wouldn’t be opposed to a local hands-on session in September. Mrs. Person is pregnant and due the second week of October, so I need to be close to home. I throw this out: what about a PodCamp the Saturday after Labor Day, September 9? Just a thought.

And the official announcement from Chris Brogan:

The plan for the event is a 2 day UNconference, similar to BarCamp in format and style. We’re at the very early planning stages, and need lots of help from whoever can participate in some way. Remember, unconferences are built by the participants, for the participants, and are fueled by your participation as an attendee.

At this point, we need it all: venue, sponsors, helpers, podsafe bands

You can help by going to http://podcamp.pbwiki.com (real live URL forthcoming – thanks Chris Penn and Financial Aid Podcast), signing up, signing in, and thinking of ways we can get this all put together. The password is: nepod

This won’t be just another meet-up. The style and format of events like this is such that we can have gear show and tells, podcasting 101 talks, panels on how to work with bands on getting more podsafe music, and whatever else interests you. If you’re interested in podcasting at any level, there’s something that someone else will want to talk with you about.

Reading up about how BarCamp works is a good way to understand what we’re doing here.

At this point, it was mid-June, around June 20. The rocketship took off after this – the organizing team of Steve Garfield, Chris Brogan, Bryan Person, and me got off the ground. After about 6 weeks of search, we settled on historic Bunker Hill Community College with the help of Adam Weiss and the Boston Museum of Science.

PodCamp Boston arrived in the blink of an eye, literally. At one point during the setup process, we weren’t sure we’d have enough money to even have the event, and the next thing we knew, we were 33% over our needs. One week, we weren’t sure 100 people would come, and two weeks later, we had 400 people registered, of which about 300 attended.

Some quick looks back:

The funny thing was, the roller coaster didn’t stop at Boston. It kept rolling, kept picking up steam:

Podcamp Atlanta – March 16-18, 2007 at Emory University
Podcamp Toronto – February 24-25, 2007 @ Ryerson University
PodCamp Second Life – January 26-28, 2007 in Second Life
Podcamp Germany – January 12 – 14 in Berlin
PodCamp Copenhagen – December 10, 2006 in Copenhagen
PodCamp Kompresory – Dec. 11-12, 2006, Atlanta
PodCampWest – Nov. 18-19, 2006, San Francisco
PodCamp Pittsburgh – Nov. 10-12, 2006
PodCamp Boston – September 9-10, 2006. The first-ever PodCamp!

This weekend, April 7, is PodCamp NYC, in the heart of the city that never sleeps. We’ll have over 1,000 people registered to attend, over 60 presentations, and new opportunities to build and grow our community.

What a wild ride.

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