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I’m pleased to see the ever continuing evolution of PodCamp as a community gathering. It’s amazing to see how people adapt PodCamp to fit what’s appropriate in their communities and local cultures, and I hope we continue to see new innovations. I wanted to clarify something that occurred to me on the drive into the office this morning:

Keynote speakers are a violation of the PodCamp rules.

Now, the most recent PodCamp to have keynote speakers was PodCamp Nashville, and I want to be perfectly clear this is not saying their event was bad or their organizers did something wrong – they did not, and from those who attended, it sounded like a great PodCamp. This is an opinion and a request going forward.

Here are the Six Rules of PodCamp:

  1. All attendees must be treated equally. Everyone is a rockstar.
  2. All content created must be released under a Creative Commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/
  3. All attendees must be allowed to participate. (subject to limitations of physical space, of course)
  4. All sessions must obey the Law of 2 Feet – if you’re not getting what you want out of the session, you can and should walk out and do something else. It’s not like you have to get your money’s worth!
  5. The event must be new-media focused – blogging, podcasting, video on the net.
  6. The financials of a PodCamp must be fully disclosed in an open ledger, except for any donor/sponsor who wishes to remain anonymous.

The reason why Keynote speakers are a violation of the PodCamp rules relates to rules 1, 3, and 4.

Rule 1. Keynote speakers are by default not equal to other participants. They’re placed in a position of prominence above other participants.

Rule 3. Keynote speaker slots are likely not going to be put up for general availability. The whole reason to have a keynote speaker is to select someone special, so it’s unlikely that anyone can speak at the keynote.

Rule 4. Keynotes typically have nothing going on alongside of them, which means participants have no other content options, and therefore cannot exercise the Law of 2 Feet.

Of the three rules, #1 is the most important. PodCamp is built on the foundation that all participants are equal.

Scenes from PodCamp Europe 2007When Chris Brogan and I set out our own guidelines at the first PodCamp for the UnKeynote, we agreed:

  • An introductory statement and welcome by organizers is more than appropriate
  • Logistical issues should ALWAYS be presented – restrooms are here, organizers wear this color shirt or this badge so if you need help, grab them
  • Thanks for coming to PodCamp
  • A reminder that PodCamp is YOUR conference, not ours, and the experience you have is driven solely by participants, not organizers

Like I said at the beginning of this post, this is relatively uncharted territory, but important to address now. No one in the past did anything wrong, but I’d like this guideline to be in the minds of organizers from now on:

Keynote speakers are NOT okay at PodCamps.

What are your thoughts?