The very first NewBCamp was held in Providence, Rhode Island yesterday, and I was there, happy to join in the excitement and fun. Founded by a current student at Johnson and Wales, and modelled on the wildly successful “unconference” series known as Podcamp (co-founded by Chris Penn and Chris Brogan), NewBCamp provided an opportunity for relative newcomers to social media (things like blogs, podcasts, social bookmarking, social networking, etc.) to get their feet wet, explore, and learn in a welcoming, encouraging environment.
There were several presentations on podcasting geared towards the beginner; on videoblogging, on mobile lifecasting, on social networking, on how artists are selling work and building community online, and some very fun live demos of Second Life.
The presenters that I watched — including Chris Penn and Deb Block-Schwenk, among others — did an excellent job of working with and fielding questions from relative beginners in this field. Most of the conference was livestreamed via ustream.tv, with media rockstars in attendance from all over, including some of the folks attending Podcamp Toronto this weekend.
Of course, in keeping with the basic rules of Podcamps everywhere, everyone is a rockstar.
That part is important: Everyone is a rockstar.
That’s what is so compelling about podcamps, barcamps, and now newbcamps: the idea is to give everyone — presenters, volunteers, attendees, beginners, geeks — the same level of reverence, authority, and importance.
It’s not surprising that the world of new media, which flips the funnel (more here), should also turn on its head the traditional hierarchy of the professional conference. At a Podcamp, you’re a presenter if you put yourself forward. You’re an expert if you say you are. You’re a rockstar just for being you, and for being a part of something that most of us find exciting beyond words.
The whole point of this “new media,” this “social media,” is that the power is in the hands of the people. No matter what the form of media, the power of production and distribution is no longer in the hands of the few, it’s in the hands of the many. It’s in the hands of YOU.
The real success of Podcamp (and NewBCamp, by extension) is that it extends this ethos into the real world, and it all but requires us to deal with each other — at these events, at least — as equal stakeholders in this thing.
It’s telling that one of the first “spin-offs” of Podcamp was not to create a more advanced version, not to rope off the elite and create some sort of VIP section, but to create a less advanced version, to welcome the newcomer and encourage the beginner. It’s in keeping with the underlying ethic of widening the gate, of lowering the barriers to entry, that is so pervasive in the world of social media.
Every single one of us who practices, lives, and works in this space of new media and technology was once a beginner. We all started somewhere, often with questions that some would snicker at today. It is a great testimony that there wasn’t a shadow of a snicker yesterday at NewBCamp — only a door, held open wide by some very friendly, very hardworking people.