Let me tell you a little bit about myself. My name is Dae Punt and I came to the Dutch Joomla!Days 2009 (I’ll refer to it as #jd09nl from now) to do live reporting. My friend and collegue Marc Nederbergh took care of recording and editing video and I did text coverage of the event. I work for two companies: My own company Punt & Partners automatisering B.V. is a System Integrator for Small and Medium sized compnies (1-100 seats). We fill the gap between customers who want to buy solutions and manufacturers of products, who merely want to sell their products. They obviously don’t speak the same language and that’s where we come in. We build, implement and maintain networks, small or big, internet or site-to-site connectivity, solutions for remote access, BlackBerry BES, but we also guide our customers through growing and shrinking their IT infrastructure in times of prosperity or crisis. I also work for Marc’s company, which is called CleverInsert B.V., a company that builds intelligent web solutions with the same philosophy. CI’s Content Division is called CleverContent and that was the T-shirt you could have seen me wear if you were there, at #jd09nl.
We use, support and share a lot of Open Source Software in both companies and that’s how we ended up at #jd09nl as volunteers, doing what we did. I’m writing this article to share my ideas about the event and I hope other people (organisers or visitors of Joomla!Days events or any other event) may benefit from our experience.
Before this event started, there was a website called www.joomladays.nl
It’s strange, but it’s 2009 and some people still have to be convinced of the need to have a website for their events. I hope you’ll conclude with me that, after reading this article, we wouldn’t have been able to do what we did without without one. And we’re talking Joomla!Days here, so need I say more?
About the site
From day 1 the site was multilingual. I have a very straight idea about multilingual websites: Register several domain names and make sure the Top Level Domain Name (TLD) matches the country you’re organising the event in. In my opinion the main domain name of the #jd09nl website should have been joomladagen.nl, which exists, but wasn’t used as such.
joomladagen, because that’s what we call it in The Netherlands and .nl because that’s the country hosting the event.
International events attract international speakers and visitors. Supporting more that your native language is very important and that’s why I would have registered a joomladays.nl as well, redirecting (in either a visible or invisible way) to joomladagen.nl, but “telling” the site to display English language. If you’re using Joomla! you may find Nooku very helpful.
The website featured a hashtag Twitter-feed, showing all tweets from Twitter, containing the #jd09nl hashtag. I thought it was very brave to do this without any moderation, but I wasn’t surprised that nobody abused this cool technological feature. Depending on the event you’re organising and the type of visitors, this may or may not be a good idea. It is Twitter and everybody can say what they want, so think well before you let anybody’s opinion show up on your front page…
Because of Twitter and the hashtag feed it was very easy for anybody to inform others of the event, share ideas, and “meet” new people, even before the event had actually started! That by itself was a great surprise to me.
When I arrived at the event, the organisers had built a live website called live.joomladays.nl, showing the Twitter feed on the right of the screen and a live Flickr photo feed on the left of the big projected screen. All pictures (no video, unfortunately, although Flickr supports it) with #jd09nl in the title showed up automatically. Funny thing is that, during the event and its presentations and tracks, there was a lot of interaction between the people present, without the need of talking and interrupting the speaker! Twitter was not (yet) used for interaction between the speaker and the audience. It was just a “background” thing and I was surprised how everybody (myself included) seemlessly contributed without asking anybody for instructions or rules. Guess that must have been the geek-factor Flickr featured an Open jd09nl Group that allowed people to group their pictures, taken and stored individually. Don’t forget to explain people about photo geotagging. Of course, your website is a good place for this kind of background information, which is off topic; in the end it’s just extra information and not what the event is all about.
Saying this, I realize that at the same time a lot of people who had never used Twitter before, became curious and opened a Twitter account to see what the hashtag business was all about. I think if the joomladays.nl website would have had a bit more information about Twitter in general and its potential meaning to the event, more people could contributed to the event more actively.
It’s June 2009 and a phenomenon called Twitocalypse has caused a lot of problems. In a few words: Twitocalypse is a kind of millennium problem for Twitter. Every tweet has a number and Twitted has crossed the magical border of 2^32 tweets, causing some Twitter clients to fail. A result may be that tweets don’t show up, your iPhone returns empty searches when you search for #jd09nl etc etc. I had no idea about this problem, but I did suffer its consequences. After the event I learned about Twitocalypse and I found out that Tweetie on my iPhone has this problem, but TwitterFon doesn’t! Knowing this before the event would have saved me a lot of questions, frustration and time! I suggest event organisors who want to include Twitter in their event use their website to inform people about the phenomenon and possibly feature a list of good and bad clients. As I said TwitterFon for iPhone doesn’t suffer from Twitocalypse and neither does ÜberTwitter for BlackBerry, but there may be more…
Also, keep in mind that video usually turns up presented as Flash video, supported by most desktop systems, but not by any mobile phones (iPhones, BlackBerries) and PDA’s. If your video platform supports “rewrapping” video content to .mp4, it is properly recognized by iPhone and BlackBerry. We ended up reposting all video to Youtube, which takes care of this automatically, but it takes time for Youtube to transcode video content to mobile phone friendly content. Youtube finished transcoding all video content after the event, which was a pity to find out. Try uploading a video file to Youtube and immediately check if your iPhone can find it. You’ll see it takes time and somtimes it takes a lot of time…
Last but not least: The written word
I’ve had a personal weblog for many years now. It’s running on WordPress for a number of reasons (I do like Joomla! very much. Really!) and I decided to publish my written coverage on my own personal weblog. Of course we wanted to offer one coverage experience, so we used clevercontent.nl as an “umbrella”, merging Marc’s video and my posts, using RSS syndication. That way the original author (me) and his opinion stay at the source (my weblog), enabling future changes to posts (when I’m proven wrong, I tend to revise my opinion). It turned out that this required minimal styling of my RSS feed and unfortunately there was no time to do the same for joomladays.nl, which resulted in my posts being copied and pasted. I didn’t mind as long as my name was mentioned somewhere, but of course it felt like a failure of good technology. If this would have been discussed before the event, the joomladays.nl website could have been prepared to properly syndicate my written contributions and, hell, why not everybody’s written contributions? I’m sure I wasn’t the only one present with a personal weblog, commenting on what was going on. I’m convinced clever use of RSS feeds, tag support and proper styling of the content could have made the joomladays.nl website richer and more actual, since all information can be syndicated realtime, while the event is taking place!
Make sure you add enough links when naming people (looking up their Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook account name may be useful to help building social networks and make sure you find the right user account for the right person). This will allow readers to do further background checking on people or topics.
My WordPress blog posts get tweeted (published on Twitter) automatically, as well as republishing on Facebook and Hyves, allowing everybody to read the stuff on the network they prefer. There’s lots of good and usually free plugins to take care of that. Make sure you check them out and use whichever suits you!
Also: Keep in mind that search.twitter.com only “remembers” tweets for a limited time. If you search #jd09nl after a week or two, you’ll find all old tweets are gone. If you want to keep a permanent record of hashtagged tweets, I suggest you use one of the many services that provide tweet printing (on paper or otherwise).
I thank everybody for making the #jd09nl event the success it was and I wish everbody good luck organising events, wherever they may take place. Technology may have its limits, but there are no borders involved! If you have any questions, feel free to comment on my post or contact me.