So this yearâ€™s NECC was different than last years NECC. DUH! Of course – different location, different time, different issues, and you canâ€™t go home again. Itâ€™s never how you remember.
Some complaints: WIFI not robust enough. Same complaint as last year. Iâ€™m not even an expert in this regard, but I have a feeling that providing great wifi at one concentrated location for over 10,000 people is always an issue. The pipe coming in (or maybe itâ€™s the series of tubes?) is the final arbitrator of how good the connection is going to be. However feel free to explain how it could be done if you know a way, again Iâ€™m not an expert on the way the network works (or doesnâ€™t) so fire away in comments with solutions. Iâ€™m just glad that I temporarily have a wifi card â€¦ it really came in handy, especially since my hotel wanted $9.95/day â€¦ and it gives me a connection in restaurants, airports, etc. But I wouldnâ€™t have it if I was paying for it. $60/month is not acceptable at home â€¦ my time runs out in January.
Bloggers CafÃ© â€“ Location poor, NECC Unplugged being there was an intrusion:
I must admit when I first plunked down at the CafÃ© Saturday I thought it was a good location. Big windows to the outside â€¦ internet was good (BC, Before Crowd). But as the conference unfolded the CafÃ©â€™s limitations were revealed. It was in the main thoroughfare of the conference (as opposed to last year where it was a bit off the beaten track) so attendees that were not necessarily bloggers saw tables, chairs, plug strips galore (they did get that right over last year) and would park themselves to make plans, wait for friends and check mail etc. This made it crowded. Last year the CafÃ© was bigger and expandable, so conversations could spread out and move about the CafÃ©. This is one of those situations where youâ€™d really have to have seen that coming ahead of time â€¦ Iâ€™m not sure I would have noticed before the conference started that it might not be the best location. Lesson learned though. More space and a location a bit more peripheral would be better.
The other complication was that the Unconference was held there too. I can see why this seemed like a good idea at the time â€¦ and it might have worked well in Atlantaâ€™s CafÃ© â€¦ could have been moved to one end or across the large hallway it was in. But being in this location made an already not great, crowded CafÃ© location worse.Â The Unconference is probably a good idea â€¦ tweak it some and find a new place for it. If it could still be within shouting distance or so of the Bloggerâ€™s CafÃ© that would probably be good â€¦ they might go well together with some distance between them.
Closed sessions â€“ There were crowded sessions last year, and even some that filled up and were closed. But not like this year. Some in attendance felt that there were fewer sessions overall and more attendees (maybe THATâ€™S why so many didnâ€™t have their proposal for sessions accepted?) â€¦ more attendees and fewer sessions would explain the problem â€¦ I canâ€™t say for sure that is true, but it could be. If so, have more sessions. Could the conference hall in San Antonio be smaller and not able to contain as many sessions? If so maybe Washington DC wonâ€™t have the same issues.
I know for me last year I wasnâ€™t presenting or getting an award, both of which took time (probably the equivalent of a day or more) so I had a much richer experience last year as far as having time to talk and debrief AND BLOG as I learned. I was here with Lisa Parisi and Christine Southard who were co-winners of our award and who presented with me twice and I hardly got to talk to them about next years plans and tweaking our project. I had envisioned really having some great conversations with them (and I did) and I spent a lot of time with them, but never had time to have those conversations. I know that may sound strange, but we would usually be with a group or in a session or other discussion and â€¦ well â€¦ there went the time. I feel bad about the number of people I ran into that I wanted to talk to or told me they really had some questions for me, wanted to talk to me and it didnâ€™t happen. But I also had some great conversations â€¦ maybe we should have a 4 day ed tech conference where we just talk â€¦ no rules, no pre-arranged topics, just let it happen and move around and be what it becomes.
It was still a great experience and a great time and I still learned tons. Despite a few issues I think in retrospect most would do it again (Iâ€™m sure a few would argue that point). I bet everyone had discussions or learned something here that would be very hard to give up having had. Each NECC (or any other conference) has itâ€™s own personality. Iâ€™ve only been to 2 NECCâ€™s, but I suspect that if you talked to veterans you would find that some years have been better than others â€¦ some probably especially memorable for some reason. Itâ€™s the whole chemistry of the place and time and people and more â€¦ itâ€™s hard to find the exact right formula every time.
Learning is messy!