Cong13 – a congregation of bloggers: Offline is the new online
How an unconference on blogging became the place where social-media practitioners stopped talking about themselves for a day and started talking to each other.
Following the call to Cong
Blogging is a solitary pursuit. It is you and the keyboard – the audience may be vast, or maybe only your family and a couple of friends read what you have to say, but it all starts normally with just you, on your own. Last weekend, it was different.
Some 50 bloggers followed Eoin Kennedy’s call to Cong, Co. Mayo and participated in this unconference: Instead of taking in keynotes and seminars, we gathered in groups of 10 and spoke and listened and engaged. Everyone presented at some stage, big names and newcomers got the same space and attention. This seemed daunting at first, but the atmosphere was so positive and non-judgmental that everyone I talked to was delighted to have participated.
The event was free to attendees, thanks to sponsorship by sponsor, but you had to blog your way in – resulting in an anthology of present-day blogging in Ireland. For anyone trying to get a feel for what is happening there at the moment, the collected blog posts (which are all on the congregation.ie website) are a great starting point. Full credit must be given to Eoin Kennedy who cajoled bloggers ever-so-gently into delivering the promised goods! The posts will be published in eBook-form, too, so look out for that.
Engaged, active, sharing – albeit offline
The views on social media expressed during Congregation13 were as refreshingly diverse as the people who attended. Community activists and academics, food bloggers and internet-radio DJs, recent college graduates and teachers, PR professionals from banking, transport and agencies, consultants and practitioners… all shared and debated.
The event was very, very engaging. We were split into five groups of ten, so-called huddles, which convened in coffee shops, pubs and a bookshop all within easy walking distance of each other. Two people presented in each huddle, maybe three, and everyone contributed to the discussions that followed these inputs. How much more satisfying than giving a presentation in front of a large audience that is followed by another one, and another one, with little or no hope of having conversation around it! And from the point of view of those listening, how wonderful to be able to respond directly to others’ thoughts and thus be part of the discussion immediately! Each of the four huddle slots saw the groups reshuffling, so that in the end, I had been in huddles with more than 30 others. A great way of getting to know the other attendees.
The seven presentations in my four huddles were on internet radio, community websites and Facebook pages, education and social media, customer service in transport, banks and social media (fascinating, a completely different world), and trends in advertising (and why it is often still so 20th century). Discussions centred around authenticity and credibility, technology / tools (a lot of genuine sharing), and the danger inherent in too much marketing coming into platforms.
Congregation13 had at least one thing in common with the recent Web Summit in Dublin – the access to the internet was patchy. Most managed to get some tweets out, but the planned Google+ hangouts didn’t happen quite as planned, and anything more than just a text tweet was unlikely to get through.
This didn’t matter too much, though. Real-life interaction replaced online connectivity, and a lot of content was prepared for future publication – Tweets that went out with the #cong13 hashtag over the next days, blogs which start appearing now, and interviews for podcasts and videos – many of them carried out by the affable Conn Ó Muíneacháin (@conn), editor of technology.ie. The first interview has already been published – looking forward to the rest!
#cong14, here we come!
When I first heard about Congregation, I was only half convinced. When I saw the blog papers coming in, and the breadth of topics they covered, I started looking forward to it more. In the end, I left Cong delighted that I had gone there, and with the firm intention of blogging my way into #Cong2014, too.
Looking for more?
Here are, for your convenience, a few relevant links.
The Congregation website.
The list of Congregation 2013 blog posts.
The interview with Eoin Kennedy on technology.ie
A list of “Audioboos, Tweets, Pictures, Blog Posts, even a YouTube & Listly List” put together by Rich Roberts
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