I recently attended WebVisions 2009 at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland. It brought together over fifty speakers to discuss a wide variety of timely topics including social media, online communities, user experience, search, and mobile technology. I also attended last year's WebVisions (at which World Pulse Founder Jensine Larsen spoke about women and mobile technology; you can listen to the podcast recording here), and of the technology conferences I've been to, WebVisions has had the greatest number of women speakers and attendees. Some highlights from the conference are below.
Friday's keynote, Makin' Whuffie: Why You Should Raise Social Capital in Online Communities, was presented by online and community marketing expert Tara Hunt. In it she discussed the concept of whuffie—a reputation-based social currency that is the focus of her new book, The Whuffie Factor—and its relevance to online communities. Whuffie is social capital; it includes your reputation, connections, levels of trust, etc, and "is only valuable when it circulates." Thus, it acts the opposite of money in that gaining whuffie requires giving away whuffie. Tara also covered five key ways to "raise whuffie":
- Listen / turn the bullhorn around
- Become part of the community you serve
- Create amazing (customer) experiences
- Embrace the chaos
- Find your higher purpose
For more information, check out her book and view the slides from her talk on SlideShare.
Another great session was Dawn Foster's Companies and Communities: Participating without Being Sleazy. This highly informative talk about how companies can and should participate in online communities covered topics including the motivations and benefits of participation, principles and strategies for building online communities, and how and how not to participate. She also discussed company blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts, and the vital roles that community managers play in nurturing and growing online communities. Ultimately communities are about the people in them, and Dawn presented the following guiding principles for community participation:
- Focus on the individuals: Participate as a person, not a corporate entity.
- Be Sincere: Sincerity = believability and credibility.
- Not all about you: Community is about conversation, which is by definition two-way.
- Be a Part of the Community: Don't try to control it.
- Everyone's a Peer: You are not the expert; knowledge comes from everywhere.
The slides for this presentation are also available on SlideShare, and for more in-depth coverage of these and additional related topics, check out Dawn's book of the same name (available in both print and eBook formats) and her personal blog.
The third session I want to mention was Amber Case's An Introduction to Cyborg Anthropology, in which she discussed topics related to how people interact with technology. This included concepts such as the following (an example is included below each concept):
- Technology devices as prosthetics E.g., mobile phones, which, by allowing their users to project their voices thousands of miles away and hear the voices of others at that same distance, give their users superhuman speaking and hearing abilities.
- Your computer is a space/time machine E.g., you can visit and explore New York City as it existed in the recent past via Google Maps street view.
- Evolution of computer interfaces E.g., in the past, computer interfaces consisted of physical buttons, lights, switches, and dials. Over time the interface has become more virtual: input was reduced to keyboards, mice, etc, and most output is presented on a monitor. Now we have mobile devices like iPhones on which almost the entire input and output interface is "liquid" (i.e., virtual) and can be made to look like anything. In the future, will interfaces continue this evolution of solid to liquid to air?
- Teleoperators Doctors can now perform complex surgery virtually from remote locations. However, if you consider a person's online representation (such as a PulseWire or Facebook profile) their "digital body," then we are all teleoperators. E.g., you can alter someone's digital body by posting on someone's Facebook wall.
This barely touches upon the full range of Amber's presentation. I highly recommend viewing the full presentation, which, like the other sessions discussed above, is also available on SlideShare.
There were many other great sessions at the conference, and you can view the full schedule on the WebVisions website. I have many more notes, thoughts, and resources from the conference which I'll try to collect together and post as well. Meanwhile, podcast recordings of the sessions will be posted on the WebVisions website, and many of the presentation slides are available under the "wv09" tag on SlideShare.
A big thank you to the conference organizers, in particular Executive Director Brad Smith and Event Coordinator Dana Cuellar, for an informative, enjoyable, and incredibly well-run conference. I can't wait to see what next year's conference will bring!
Next stop: The Open Source Bridge conference, June 17-19 (also in Portland).