300-400 people got together this weekend at Stanford to find out what would happen if you supplied them with unlimited Red Bull and Rice Krispie Treats.
Organized by Noah Kagan and described as...
The premier conference on how successful online communities and social networks:
We started on Friday night with about 30-40 people at a dinner in Palo Alto. My own table consisted of Matt Marshall of Venture Beat, Michael Cerda of Jangl, Jimi Beach of Bong Spirit (makers of Bong Vodka), the lovely Heather Luttrell of 3jane, Aaron Dignan of Brandplay, and my good friend Josh Spear...of...well...Josh Spear dot com.
First, I'd like to set the record straight. As reported by Michael Cerda, I did not have the Salmon...but I did have the Bong Vodka...which once you get past the novelty of the bottle itself, is speech-slurringly good.
The conversation started out business, but quickly turned to music...in which we were forced to name our favorite band...as if there were a gun to our heads...which there was not.
Saturday started with a breakfast mixer of Bagels at Stanford University. Hey Noah...next time...pre-sliced!
There was a excellent crowd there and good turnout. It was nice to see a bunch of people from outside Silicon Valley. And after a brief intro from Noah Kagan, we dove into the first presentation from Josh Spear and Aaron Dignan on
Brand Community Utopia. It was a great presentation and a nice way to start out the morning...a good mix of humor and information. Josh will be guest blogging here this week and he'll share some of the ideas from that presentation.
Between speakers there was quite a bit of mixing in the hallways. One of the best ways to rate a conference is not just what you get from the speakers, but the contacts and conversations in the hall.
----Another great discussion was the panel discussing “DIY - The tools for creating, analyzing, and marketing your own online community,” with (Hiten Shah of Crazyegg, Matt Roche of Offermatica, Mike Jones of Userplane, Joe Hurd of VideoEgg; moderated by Rohit Bhargava). Next time they hold this panel, however, I'd prefer to have a group consisting of four companies with the word "egg" in their name...not just two. Or perhaps with the word mojo...
I spent lunch with Jimi Beach from Bong Spirits, and despite what you think, this was not a vodka lunch...and I did not spend the rest of the conference sleeping in the back of my car. However, I did have an interesting conversation with Jimi about their new venture, theInspirit, which sounds like a really good idea:
theInspirit is an interactive talent network designed to promote individual ability to a worldwide audience. In a time of structural uncertainty for the traditional art and entertainment industries, theInspirit offers New Media styled organization and connectivity that will promote millions of talented individuals rather than a privileged few. The program is rooted by a web-based social platform that implements modern advancements in electronic networking and digital distribution. The program not only creates a direct link between artists and buyers, but also offers instruction and advice on the art of self promotion. As a result, scores of independent artists will achieve success through their networking efforts and benefit financially through the support of their fans.
Then came “The Patent-Pending skinnyCorp Method for Creating Online Awesomeness and Other Cool Stuff”
(Jeffrey Kalmikoff & Jake Nickell of Threadless). I can honestly say that of all the presentations I've seen through the years, this has to be in the top five. I would actually pay to see this as performance art. It was funny and insightful...and never did it pander to the audience. Not only did it rock...it was really informative and you could learn a lot from these guys. I gotta get them to guest blog here!
The next presentation I caught was from Heather Luttrell of 3jane, "How to monetize with ads and not piss off your audience." A highwire act for sure, but if anyone can teach you about this it is Heather.
Next up...the Dogster folks gave another really good presentation...
Lastly...there was a good discussion panel called the Founders Panel featuring Akash Garg of hi5, Sean Suhl of Suicide Girls, James Hong of HotorNot, Markus Frind of PlentyofFish, Drew Curtis of Fark, and Max Levchin of Slide; moderated by Guy Kawasaki.
Really enjoyed hearing from each of these guys. Drew Curtis is as funny in person as his site...and each of them seem to have this vibe that they can't believe their own success and are just incredibly thankful for it. That was a nice change from a lot of successful entrepreneurs I meet who make you feel like you're in a audience with the Pope. I'm a big fan of Sean Suhl and what he's done with Suicide Girls...so to meet him and have a conversation as if I'd known him for years was really refreshing.
The common thread between all of the panelists was a love and passion for what they do...except for Markus Frind who actually shared his secret with the crowd which is that you don't need passion...you just need cold hard analytical statistics...
...and he created the world's largest dating site.
Folks...you can't make this stuff up.
Would I recommend it or attend again?
I thought it was a great conference. While not all of the speakers were as strong as others, there was something there for everyone and the real value was getting a lot of really interesting people together in one place to share their thoughts on online community...and all of them had an amazing passion and love for it...
...well almost all of them.