back it up, back it in

Photo by PatriotWorld

Photo by PatriotWorld

I went to Podcamp Boston 3 last weekend, despite being busier than I’ve been all year, because Podcamp is not to be missed.

For those of us who are deeply into social media — whether it’s blogging, podcasting, twittering, facebooking, flickring, or any combination of the above (and more) — this is our chance to gather (gasp) in real life, meet face to face, and get each other up to speed on our latest projects, and get a feel for the current zeitgeist.

Who am I kidding. It’s a tribal gathering. It is just flat-out exhilarating to be in a room full of like-minded people, people who are just as fascinated by all this, all this online nonsense that is simultaneously being heralded as the next great thing, the next great bubble, or simply a sign of (a) flaking off on the job, (b) extreme narcissism, or (c) downright anti-social tendencies.

Whatever the case, whatever you believe, this much is true: It is good to be among one’s own. I was personally giddy with joy the whole time I was there, and the afterglow honestly hasn’t faded yet.

Ironically for a conference full of hardcore Twitter users, Twitter was scheduled for some “routine maintenance” right in the middle of the day on Saturday. This was a fact that had escaped the notice of most attendees until the dreaded moment was upon us…

Photo by Steve Garfield

Photo by Steve Garfield

Photo by Steve Garfield

Photo by Steve Garfield

Photo by Steve Garfield

Photo by Steve Garfield

Now, a cynic might say, Aha! Now all you geeks will be forced to speak to each other face to face!

But the thing is, Twitter was how I was connecting with people at the conference. Yes, it was back-channel, and chatter, and making plans for lunch. But there were several people who I was planning to meet at Podcamp simply by tweeting them at some point in the proceedings and saying Let’s meet in the hallway.

Without Twitter, how were we to ever find each other?

Naturally, most did what Twitter users do when Twitter goes down: complain, joke, and wait (more or less) patiently for its return.

And improvise, using whatever technology was handy:

Photo by Cindy Coy

Photo by Cindy Coy

Jokes about our twitter dependencies aside, what really is the fallback when Twitter goes down — or when any technology goes down at a conference or major event?

This isn’t about Twitter, really. It’s about planning, back-up, and redundancy.

We face a real vulnerability when we rely too heavily on any one platform for basic communication, and the risk increases when we start to use these platforms for business purposes. An open source version of something like Twitter has recently been released, and people are endorsing (at least in theory) the wisdom of reduced reliance on one private, fallible company.

This holds true for any communications technology, not just start-up flavored web 2.0/social networking platforms.

What is the plan when the phones go down? Email? FedEx? What is plan B, and how much of a wrinkle will you create by switching to Plan B?

Now, I’m thinking in these terms right now largely because I am about to help put on a very large outdoor party for about 15,000 people. I am backing up my back up plans like you wouldn’t believe.

I’ve got documents duplicatively stored on hard drives, on flash drives, in Google Docs, in my Gmail archives, and in laminated hard copy in three different undisclosed locations.

Frankly, it’s the only way I can sleep at night.

What is it they say?

Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

Being able to improvise is huge (believe me, I prize my background in improv theater, and count it as one of my most valuable skills), but being able to write an alternate script (or three) in advance isn’t too shabby, either.

That way, your light-hearted comedy is far less likely to turn into a farce.

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