Alexdc’s twitter stream pointed me to a list Mashable.com put together of their top 10 blogger-related conferences. I think they missed the mark on one glaring omission (SXSW Interactive, the highlight of my conference year), and gave too much weight to conferences that haven’t proven themselves yet, most notably PostieCon and to a lesser extent Rick Calvert’s Blog World Expo, which looks to have a pretty good head of steam. I have had great experiences at SXSW, BlogHer, Gnomedex, and the Bloghaus last year at the Consumer Electronics Show, and would put those first three and possibly the fourth at the top of my list of big events. I also applaud the inclusion of participatory events like BarCamp and PodCamp, and have found those I participated in to be extremely valuable. (Update:) And jeez, how could I forget to mention BlogOrlando, which this year had a truly international draw and was one of the best events of the year.
But I think overall this list might lead people away from what’s in front of them. The intro sets up the list as what to do if online interaction isn’t enough for you — “Blogging can be a lonely business. And if online blogger communities donâ€™t satisfy you desire to mingle…” If you’re in that situation, I strongly recommend first looking to your local community and specific areas of interest, wherever you are. The proliferation of new social technologies online have only made this easier.
Your top ten list should start with:
- Events in your area. Unless you are specifically trying to cover the national technology scene, if online blogger communities don’t satisfy your desire to mingle, use what’s around you first. Get to know the other writers, thinkers, and doers in your area. It’s a lot cheaper and more convenient than traveling nationally, and it just makes sense to connect locally first. In addition to keeping your eye out for PodCamps and BarCamps and the like, try meetup.com and upcoming.org, for example. Or noonhat, for smaller, ad-hoc meetups that can help you discover fresh faces. One of the great things about BarCamp Atlanta was that it hipped me to smaller groups that I didn’t know much about, like atlHack, the Jelly co-working intiatives, and the Ruby meetups here.
- Things happening in the real world that you care about. Events about blogging itself are only part of the equation. Whatever it is you think about, write about, and participate in, seek out events in that world. This may, and in many cases will, have nothing whatsoever to do with technology or blogging. Plan your travel based on what really interests you, and pick one or two of the big national events about blogging-qua-blogging if your budget allows.
- The event you organize. It takes good planning but not much more to bring together people you’d like to connect with locally. If there are no pre-existing gatherings for what you’re in to, try setting one up at a coffee shop.
- (More of a conference hack for the big events) Events where people you want to connect with will be attending or speaking. Look over the rosters and attendee lists of these events. Are your professional and peer group going to be in attendance?
In short, don’t forget to look in your back yard, and nurture your own interests in addition to thinking about the medium as a whole.