There is software somewhere tracking all the IMEI’s on the phones that were momentarily clustered in the intimate auditorium of the Sage, Gateshead. A three day hotspot of creatives, thinkers, do’ers and disrupters.
The transmitted signatures have now spidered their way back across the country, across the water, across the world. And the digital echo of an amazing meeting of minds still hangs in the air.
It will be a little time till my synapses form the links I need to fully understand the connections made and the concepts and ideas discussed.
Since getting back a much needed sleep has ensured a full shutdown and re-boot with my new firmware now in place.
This was my second Thinking Digital Conference, another mental, social and physical growth spurt, not only survived, but that has invigorated me to exhaustion. I have more than a few plans forming from realisations I feel could only have happened at that geographical location. At that time.
There were times to focus, as we sat silently absorbing as the babble of speakers took turns to share. There were times to talk as huddled round in the breaks, paper was passed across conversations as personal details were exchanged.
You’ll certainly find more in-depth breakdowns discussing the highlights of Thinking Digital floating round the web. To avoid sounding sycophantic I’ll merely offer a window to some of the things I heard and explored.
For a conference that had a lot to live up to after the success of 2010, that had to do it on less cash, I’m more than a little impressed by Herb Kim’s ability to, in my opinion, ‘go one better’.
My role this year happened within the Thinking Digital University at Gateshead College
The panel entitled ‘The State of Social Media’ had to cater for a mixed audience from net novices to super users.
With everyone taking “social” a lot more seriously we were to ask What is this brave new world of the “third wave” going to look like? What problems will it solve? What problems will it create? Will the world really go “social” to the same level it has adopted PC’s & the Internet?
You really had to be there. No really, you did. As there was little to no wifi or 3G in what seemed to be a ‘Faraday cage’, there is little record of the conversation that was had. The side effect of this was an intense focus in the room. So much so that I overshot the finishing time by 20 mins.
The list of participants initially had me worried as they all seemed to be wearing some kind of marketing hat. I soon realized these people we much more than just selling. They had been chosen for a variety of reasons and I soon got to be enthralled and educated by the likes of the amazing Dr. Mariann Hardey, (@Mazrred), she lectures on social media and communications at the University of Durham Business School. She said she fell into the marketing side of things and following a conversation we had in a dark corridor she promises to write a paper citing our chat around ‘Sith Marketing’.. The only way I feel I can explain how ‘the dark side’ uses social media.
Sat alongside Dr Mariann Hardey on the panel was Wayne Gibbins (@WayneGibbins), the Global Communications Director for Viadeo who was really a coder in a suit and thus earned more and more respect from me as I got to know him over the next few days. Viadeo were one of the key sponsors of the conference and took it really well when I found a bug in their sign up process, responding to my concerns and promising a fix within moments of it’s discovery. I smiled to see them shocked that the massive amount of cash they placed behind the bar on the closing night got drunk after only a few hours. The array of Geeks at the closing party were obviously in a hurry to destroy the braincells they had just force fed over the previous days. I was one of then exercising my social glands.
Paul Fabretti (@PaulFabretti), Was also present. Digital Director for Origin Creative in Manchester with a string of successes too long to mention here.. Paul is no stranger to Thinking Digital and opened his mind letting ideas spill out into our musings.
Finally there was Rob Lawrence (@itwasmyidea), he was open about not being a massive fan of Twitter and it seemed that as a result he was involved in an inhuman number of projects with some world famous endeavours already under his belt.
It was these guys I spoke with for the next few hours as we tried to make sense of it all. There was no Netutopianism in the room. Just the good the bad and the ugly tales of our online adventures used as a datum in order to have a guess at the future.
We soon realized that it was the dreamers turned do’ers forging the way. Some of the conversations at the conference relevant to the audience were echos of old thoughts in the minds of a few of these unafraid to experiment.
The thinkers helped with navigation and direction but the do-ers would get there anyway. They are not afraid to try and fail repeatedly till they find their path. I tried to summarize in a tweet with “Keep an eye on the exits, Listen harder than everyone else and break it to make it better.”
I won’t attempt to review the entire Thinking Digital Conference in a single tweet. In these sci-fi days of augmented reality and pocket video conferencing, it’s the subtleties once again. The handshake with a stranger who turns out to be an old friend you have never shared meatspace with. The subtle combination of body language and expression that is still undigitizeable. The unplanned engagement that turns into a realisation which could only have happened in that corridor, at that time, with those two people.
This is why you had to be there. This is why the physical conference is not dead.
..And at the moment, this is something Thinking Digital does better than anyone else.
..I’m @Documentally on twitter.