What's the public's role in PUBLIC media's future, particularly in shaping and contributing content? That's the subject of a two-day "unconference" that began this morning on the campus of American University in Washington, D.C.
What the heck is an unconference? An increasingly popular form of informal build-your-own-agenda event, also called a "BarCamp". As veteran "camp" councilor Peter Corbett of iStrategyLabs explained to the crowd of several hundred attendees at the start of the day, "Why isn't there a sign for where the bathroom is? Because you didn't put it up."
Public Media Camp was organized by NPR, PBS and A.U.'s Center for Social Media to kickoff an initiative to "strengthen the relationship that public broadcasters have with their communities through the creation of collaborative projects." The meeting attracted a diverse group from across the country -- executives and journalists, technologists and designers, fund-raisers and funders, students, professors, "citizen journalists," and many independent content creators and freelancers, both on-air and online. There's no shortage of laptops and iPhones, so the discussions are easy to follow at #pubcamp on Twitter.
Camp convened this rainy morning with about an hour of introductions. Each attendee was supposed to very briefly introduce themselves -- although few stuck to three three-word limit. As I did at Government 2.0 Camp, a similar event for public sector types that I attended in March, I tried to jot down a few three-word introductions that captured the spirit of this gathering. A dozen or so that resonated with me...
"digital immigrant party-crasher"
"oldest laptop here"
"old socialized anarchist"
"veteran, strategy, unemployed"
"geeky journalism student"
"social media skeptic"
"community, widgets, caffeinated"
"content, convergence, management"
"content, content, content"
"open development, sharing"
"more system collaboration"
"drive web traffic"
"it's cold outside"
And my favorite: "AOL, Friendster, future" -- care of Andrew Phelps from WBUR.org. "My point," he explains "...is that platforms come and go but community is forever." (Andrew also may be the funniest person at Pubcamp.)
My own three words: "public media newbie," having moved to NPR just 12 weeks ago after a couple of decades working on the editorial and business sides at traditional, for-profit news organizations, mostly trying to help print journalism find its way online. Much to learn still, even after 13 years in this not-so-new media business -- especially when it comes to how we engage our audience. But one thing I know: There's no way to be interactive without interacting.