Apr 30th, 2009 @ Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

BCNIPhilly rocked.

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Brian James Kirk, Christopher Wink and I presenting about TechnicallyPhilly.com. Picture taken by Adam Hemphill.

Before I comment at all about BCNIPhilly I’d like to thank the countless people involved. The people who manned the desk, floated around the floors, helped handle food, helped run the schedule and all of the hundred other tasks. You all rock. Thank You.

It was just as the event was closing down that I was approached by one of the participants.

“Sean, I just want to say that I’ve really enjoyed this event. And, most of this year, I have been feeling a little….” she hesitated for a beat, “f–ked.”

I nodded and began formulating a response to make her feel better when she jumped in.

“But after today … I feel a little less f–ked. There’s hope.”

And thus was BCNIPhilly.

Just like that attendee, I had an amazing time at the conference. Not only because I got to meet a ton of new people, both in the Philly community and those involved in cool journalism products all around the country, but mostly because the talk of doom-and-gloom was at a minimum. Finally, a bunch of optimistic, smart people got together and had some passionate and enlightening debates that focused positively on the future. There was no alarmism, no negativity, no people falling asleep in the sessions (that I saw, anyway). Instead, it was “What are new, cool ways we can make money?” or “This is the innovative project I have been working on to strengthen my company’s reporting.”

Real people on the ground floor were exchanging theories, ideas and concepts. The session “Journalism school in 2012″ was led by students. The kind folks at the Inquirer and Philly.com offered first-person accounts of how they manage the flow of copy in their newsroom. The Web Ninjas of the Washington Post laid out a clear blueprint for anyone who’d like to push innovative products in their newsroom and *gasp* have them make money.

So was it a success?

The final attendee count for BCNIPhilly was 126 journalists, students, educators editors, and executives. There were 12 boxes of pizza, 2 crates of water, 4 crates of juice, 15 boxes of coffee, 166 cupcakes, and a lot of donuts.  But there were also business people, interested members of the Philadelphia technology community and other people who were excited to talk media.

Before the event started I wrote down the following goals to gauge its success:

  1. To trend on Twitter. Don’t ask me why, I just thought it would be cool to have a journalism conference in Philadelphia get noticed by outsiders who wouldn’t normally know about an event like this. I wanted a 35 year old in Nevada to visit Twitter and ask himself “What the heck is BCNIPhilly?”
  2. To have everyone participate. I wanted the presentation board to be 80 percent full and have the sessions featuring people partaking in friendly but vigorous debate. I didn’t want it to just be a series of people talking to a bunch of blank stares.
  3. To finally get together this online community that has been building around journalism innovation. I wanted the names and avatars in my Google Reader to be sitting in front of me, arguing with each other without the filter of the Web.
  4. To promote Philadelphia. I love this city and did not want it to be overlooked for the conference. Once it was decided that it was here, I wanted to promote all of the great stuff Philly has to offer.
  5. To have new ideas, conversations or products come out of the meeting.

How’d we do? Well:

  1. Were were #3 on Twitter behind a global, panic-inducing illness and the biggest offseason event in the country’s most popular sport.
  2. The board was slightly less than 50 percent filled, so good but not great. However the level of discussions in every session I managed to peak my head in was excellent.
  3. I heard the following statement several times: “Oh, your *insert name here* on Twitter!” While there were some people I wished could of made it, I was satisfied with putting names to avatars.
  4. We got the GPTMC to contribute bags, rocked Phillies hats and had the afterparty in beautiful Old City. I even managed to sucker one attendee into grabbing a steak at Pats.
  5. It’s too soon to tell, but something tells me the Web Ninjas presentation alone is sure to spur some new products.

All in all, I think it went swimmingly, however I could not attend every session and speak to every attendee. But before people say words like “year” and “again” and “next,” I’m interested in what those who made it to Temple think. What was awesome? What stunk? If you don’t want to comment publicly, drop me a line on my contact form.

And I’m currently sorting out my notes for anyone who would like to throw a similar event in the future. More to come!

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