I’m in Milwaukee for the beginning of the long anticipated high ed web conference (#heweb09). So far, we’ve had our fair share of flying by the seat of our pants mode — arriving a day early without a room, or a plan, or a roommate with a plan (thank goodness that one was rectified). Wandered around the hotel a bit before finding the planning committee putting the finishing touches on swag bags (I walked in just as everything was finished–my timing is dead on) and getting ready to a walking tour of the conference rooms. Introductions were made easy for those with picture twitter avatars, and I felt like I had stepped into a room of friends I hadn’t seen in a while.
Isn’t it like that?
My experience with social media and conferencing is somewhat limited; after all, I’m a big part of the stuff that Penn State does, but I know an awful lot of those people face to face. At a regional or national conference, the complexion is different. More textured with different backgrounds, different high ed input, different hopes and anticipation for what the next several days will bring. When you don’t really know the people you’re about to meet, that “new kid” fear from elementary school can hover under the surface, and that adds another dimension as well. But friendly faces are a wonderful thing, and as always, meeting new people turns into laughter and excited conversation and interesting dialog. Over beers last night we got to talk the functionality (and horrors) of php coding and scalability of large applications, the good (and bad) examples of Second Life, and the disappointing surprise for non-smokers that Milwaukee still has smoking sections in bars. Like, the whole bar. 🙂
And then your roommate arrives and then comes through with an actual plan for lodging, and although it’s a comedy of errors navigating the unfamiliar streets, the car, the walking, the hallways and the lock on the door, you manage to drop into bed to the dulcet tones of the band practicing down the street, which is still serenading you the next morning, even though your alarm is set for weekdays and you finally realize it’s only Sunday, and you have much to look forward to: new friends, old friends, conference swag, real hotel rooms, mind opening conversations, and amazing stories of what other people are doing in higher ed.
Let the adventure begin.