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Gnomedex 9-Day 1: A Conference Unlike Any Others I've Been To Before.

by Ken Yeung on August 26, 2009

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Gnomedex 9Last week I was off to Seattle for yet another conference. Having attended a few over the past year, I had my expectations that this one wouldn’t be any different – you sit there and learn more about how these presenters talk about how social media is the greatest thing since sliced bread and talk about authenticity, transparency and listening to your customers – all things that I’ve heard over and over and over again.

So why did I go to this conference? Just what was so special about this conference that I just had to go? It was called Gnomedex and it was a conference I didn’t really understand. Along with myself, a couple of Network Solutions folks came along to help me understand what this conference was about – Steve and Shashi. I had heard it was a combination of it being a typical web conference mixed in with a heavy dose of a TED event. Turns out that the rumors were true.

Started by Chris Pirillo, this nine-year old conference brought in some interesting presenters to talk to the crowd about the Internet and technology. It didn’t focus on case studies or the latest tools or struggles plaguing companies getting into the social media realm…at least not in the first day.

Gnomedex 9 - Chris Brogan & Julien SmithWhile I only had the opportunity to hang out during the first day due to some schedule conflicts, I felt that Gnomedexwas a worthwhile investment in attending. The presenters that Pirillo brought to the stage, for the most part, offered their pitch that was of some interest to the audience. It all started out with Warren Etheredge giving a rousing speech on how to give an interview and how listening is something that needs to be done in order to have a successful meeting – whether you’re interviewing them or not. After that, we were treated to a talk by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith who talked to us about their new book Trust Agent and the steps needed to help build credibility with our customers.

Keep in mind that throughout these presentations, no one really mentioned things like email marketing, online advertising, social media or a website. Instead the focus is on improving yourself professionally and what is interesting today in regards to technology. All the things that Etheredge and Brogan/Smith said are completely adaptable for any facet of the technology industry and Gnomedex kept that theme going throughout the day.

There were a few science’ish type talks that were given by Phil Plait (skepticism online), Christine Peterson (life extensions for geeks), and Firas Khatib (Fold.It) and for the most part, were great talks and interesting, but probably tailored towards the wrong audience. Too much science and less relevancy towards the interests of the crowd.

Gnomedex 9 - The MakerbotThings did pick up when Bre Pettis was brought up on stage and he talked about personal manufacturing and how his company’s invention: the makerbot helps people share their wares. This is a pretty cool invention that creates 3D replicas of an image that you can mass produce to sell to your customers. After that, momentum and interest kept building up as we launched into hearing about SPAM from a “rehabilitated spammer” Todd Friesen who spoke about the techniques used by spammers to make themselves lots of money, in an aptly named presentation called “SPAM: Sites positioned above mine”.

Gnomedex 9 - Drew OlanoffThe final presentation was given by Drew Olanoff who you may know is the guy behind the widely popular website BlameDrewsCancer.com and is himself a cancer fighter struggling to overcome this horrible disease. He gave a very rousing and sometimes emotional and passionate talk on his struggles and how he has drawn strength from his friends, family, cancer survivors and even total strangers who are supporting his cause. In the end, he was the only recipient of a standing ovation from the crowd (the second one in the past nine years of the conference).

Gnomedex definitely impressed me with its programming and the type of people it could bring in. I’ve been to a bunch of conferences over the past year and what surprised me the most is that the wireless Internet held up throughout the entire weekend – something typically unheard of. I think that Pirillo did a great job in organizing and the sponsor booths were pretty well placed and they even had a recreation booth sponsored by Microsoft Bing called the (get this) “Bing-Pong Room” that featured…ping pong under a black light. It was awesome.

When it was all said and done, I think that it was definitely a great thing for me to head up to Seattle for Gnomedex. I’m looking forward to seeing what Pirillo has in store for Gnomedex 10. I’m pretty sure that I’d be there.

Photo Credit: All photos featured here were taken by Kenneth Yeung.

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