Dawdling to the pavilion

Here’s an overdue update on the career situation – in May 2015 I left New Zealand Cricket for Fonterra. I wanted to wrap up the two years before it all disappears in a fond, summery haze.

Working in cricket was a bit of a dream come true – I thoroughly enjoyed being part of it and was constantly pinching myself that I was in the thick of it for a remarkable couple of years, comfortably two of our best ever, culminating in that world cup.

I was Digital Manager at NZC for that time, basically looking after the website and social media, as well as helping with PR and comms as required, including media management for the team on a couple of overseas tours and a handful of games in New Zealand.

Professionally, the highlights were:

Overhauling blackcaps.co.nz, both the front and back ends over the two seasons. We did the front end first, making the site mobile responsive and stripping it all back to make the content, text and words, the stars. Then in the second off season (the off season is when you do the ‘proper work’ in sport team!) we moved the CMS from a bespoke but vintage system we used to Umbraco, and went onto the new Microsoft Azure hosting, for all that sweet CWC traffic – there were a hair under a million page views on the site during the six weeks of the cup.

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Being part of the online cricket community. People on Twitter love cricket, it’s the ideal sport to watch with the phone or the laptop. I wanted the national team’s account to be part of the conversation and show we were prepared to use Twitter as it’s meant to be, with personality, genuine engagement and to show off our fan’s love for the game (we used Storify to bring the social stuff into the website, hopefully to good effect.) It’s meant to be fun and I hope that my enjoyment came through.

There’s too many people to mention that helped make the BLACKCAPS community what it was – special mention to Jamie Bell at the NZC Museum, who tirelessly brought stats and history to life, as well as Jess, Ruth, Graeme, Andrew(s), Moog, Aotearoa XI, Toby, … it was a privilege to get to meet everyone at the ‘tweet ups’ and at the grounds.

Vine went really well for us, cricket kind of lent itself to the six second clips – here’s one from training before the CWC quarter final at the Basin, I was sifting around taking photos as per usual, when I was instructed to stand in the umpire’s position to see if any of the bowlers overstepped – and so got to see Kyle Mills, Grant Elliott, Corey Anderson and Dan Vettori bowl close up. Seeing professional athletes do their thing so close up was quite  an experience.

I got to know one end of a video camera from the other, and how to edit. Kind of. I have much respect for the skill it takes to do this properly.

Launching the NZC mobile app – full credit  for the technical stuff goes to Tim McConnell, Gus Pickering and team at NV Interactive’s Christchurch office, I highly recommend them and their work.

Cricket-wise, where do you start? How about

  • The drawn Test against England at Eden Park in 2013
  • Somehow ending up in a taxi from Dunedin airport wedged between Darren Sammy and Richie Richardson in late 2013
  • Beating India at Eden Park in the first Test in 2014 – then being at the Basin for Brendon’s 302. The drawn ODI v India was tremendous too
  • Being at the Basin for Kane Williamson’s first double century in the second Test v Sri Lanka in early 2015, and seeing the team come from way behind to win that one
  • CWC15 – Hagley, beating Australia at Eden Park, the Guptill quarter final, THAT BLOODY SEMI FINAL WIN and going to Melbourne for the final

In terms of results, the two trips to Bangladesh were not highlights, but the experience of traveling with the group and being part of it all will stick with me for a long time. Believe everything you read about the team being made of good people. It’s extremely well lead by Brendon and Mikes Hesson and Sandle and I was made to feel very welcome on those trips and whenever I was with the team back in NZ. I’ll miss that a lot.

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Couple of snaps from Bangladesh – I was pretty green, but luckily these guys are real pros.

If you haven’t had enough of What I Did, you can read a review of summer 2013Bangladesh trip one, Bangladesh trip two, a review of summer 2014a photo review of 2014, and the Cricket World Cup report.

Cricket in New Zealand is run by some incredibly enthusiastic people, who give up their summers to bring you this magnificent game. It was very hard to leave the dream job, but the time was right to move on for me, it was nice to go out on the high of the world cup.

I would like to thank NZC’s James, Callum, Richard, Joanne and David, the cool kids at the back of the office-bus (and Nicki!) and everyone else there for putting up with me, as well as the support and opportunities. See you at the grounds in the summer. 

(Sports) Geeking out

You can listen to me on Sean Callahan’s Sports Geek podcast, talking blackcaps.co.nz, our social media stuff and wot’s coming up for the world cup.

Sean’s based in Melbourne and works with a heap of teams and leagues with their digital and social efforts, as well as producing a cottage industry in podcasts. When I started my current role I found the pods (casts?) a treasure trove of tips and ideas, so I was stoked to be asked on.

All the Sports Geek podcasts are well worth a listen – if you want to dive in, three that’ve resonated with me are:

Finn Bradshaw from cricket.com.au – I’ve listened to this a few times in fairness, good history of how they’ve got to where they are, and the reasoning behind what they do.

Richard Clarke from Arsenal. Shit football team, but worthwhile listening on sports and digital. Channels galore and a new one every year felt about right to me.

Josh Tucker from the LA Dodgers. I thought Josh’s approach was not a million miles away from what we’re trying to do at NZC in terms of simply talking to fans online.

Also check out Beers, Blokes and Business, which covers a wide variety of business topics, tending digital, in a fairly relaxed fashion.

You don’t really need a Wolfram Alpha strategy

There’s a school of thought that says whenever two chaps in a garage get a 0.3 beta of a social network out the door, digital folk everywhere should drop everything and get on it.

This is bollocks. Your valuable and limited time, energy and resource is best spent on Twitter. Or Facebook. Or the platform(s) that work best for your customers / fans / etc. When an organisation proudly lists all the platforms they’re on (and the list could be pretty long by now), the question is ‘are you any good on them?’ and probably ‘do your fans care?’.

How many times have you heard ‘this could be the new Facebook’, only to struggle to even remember its name weeks after the initial squeee-ing dies down? I really question the need to spend time building up a platform whose goal might ultimately be to be brought by Facebook or Google when they get popular enough.

You won’t miss much in the early days of a new platform – often you don’t get a fair reflection of what the platform is going to be like because there’s simply no-one on it yet. You’ve got plenty of time to make ground up if you don’t get in on the early days. Take Instagram – for a long time, people on Android, the world’s largest mobile OS couldn’t even use it – folk seemed to catch up just fine.

As always, you need to figure out what platforms are the right fit for your organisation’s fans or customers and what’s right for you.

Some social platforms are more useful as handy places to store your content – think Flickr for photos and YouTube for video – and sharing your content somewhere more suitable, like Twitter or your website. Honestly, no-one really enjoys YouTube for its social functions.

Remember, tthere’s questionable value in getting involved in non-social platforms like Snapchat (where content can’t be shared or even allow a link back to your website). Sure you might get some street cred points for being there, but it feels a bit dad-rock to me if it’s not the right fit for your organisation.

In short, what I’d do when a hot new platform comes along is:

a) register your company name, because 1. it might come in handy one day, and 2. it stops the hilarious pranksters from nabbing it, and
b) keep an eye on it. You’ll know when it becomes right for you

Remember, channels are channels – don’t throw your strategy out the window because someone invites you to a pets-only mobile app.

Plain language guide to faster broadband with a master filter or splitter

Today’s announcement that the English Premier League will only be available over the internet has caused a little angst among people worried about their broadband speed. Because many folk aren’t getting the best out of the broadband connection they have, here’s the best single thing you can do to improve things at your place*. Your experience may vary of course.

What is a master filter or splitter?
It’s a piece of equipment that separates your broadband signal from the other things that run over your copper landline phone line, like phone(s), MySKy or burglar alarms. Mine sits somewhere under my house, I haven’t laid eyes on it since it was installed.

Why should I get one?
Separating the signal means your broadband has its own dedicated line and interference from all those other things is dramatically reduced, so you can go faster, have a more stable connection etc.

 
 Your master filter at work – image nicked from here.

But sir, my house wiring has not skipped a beat for the last 40 years etc. 
Most people’s houses were built before broadband internet connections shared phone lines, and their home wiring was not designed to accommodate these new fangled thingos comfortably. A master filter or splitter is the most cost effective way to make sure you’re getting the most out of your existing broadband connection.

How much does it cost and how do I get one?
I paid $150, and I understand it still costs about the same, give or take. It’s a one-off fee. You get one by calling your internet service provider, and they’ll arrange for Chorus to come and install it, whoever your ISP is. Some electricians and cabling specialists can do it too, have a Google.

My own experience
I live in Auckland’s East Coast Bays, a few hundred metres from our local broadband cabinet**. When I first had a splitter installed back in 2008, my connection went from 2 Megabits Per Second to 6MBPs. When our cabinet went live, that went up again to 8-10MBPs, and when Chorus came out to do some other work in the area, noticed our wires were corroded and replaced them, that went up to 12-14MBPs. Ours is nothing special, a bog standard connection, I’m on a standard full speed retail broadband plan.

I can download iTunes music, watch YouTube, use Apple TV and surf the internet on my desktop machine, iPad or our work laptops over WiFi just fine, we’re very happy with the speed and reliability. Here’s a speed test I just did, in the mid evening, peak time for internet use. I imagine if I sign up for this Premier League carry on, that will work great too.

What else?
I have an ADSL2+ enabled router (or modem), which means I can go as fast as I can on standard modern broadband. It cost about $120, ring up your ISP if you’re not sure what yours is, they’ll tell you. Most modems or routers ISPs supply these days are ADSL2+, it’s in your ISP’s interests that you’re a happy customer.

Don’t take my word for it
Here’s a fairly typical experience – Helen Twose of the Herald increased her speed by 30%, and there’s more here. Geekzone is full of examples like this, I’ve found Geekzone an extremely helpful place to find information and ask for advice.

I want to go faster
Fibre and UFB is coming. And it’ll be great, but it’s a few years away for many. A master filter or splitter is not a silver bullet to Korean-internet-cafe-speeds, but a sensible way to maximise what you have now in a reasonably economic fashion. If you care about your home internet connection, it’s worth investigating.

 

* This is meant to be a plain language version of Steve Biddle’s excellent and comprehensive post on the same subject. If you’re more technical than me (that’s most of you), go there, you’ll learn something.

** You can check your own situation ADSL2+ or fibre wise on Chorus’ map.

Empowered to f*ck up

A few thoughts on TVNZ’s social media rules as reported in the Herald.

Before we make ‘2009 wants its social media policy back’ jokes, let’s allow for some benefit of the doubt. If you’ve ever read coverage of your own company in the papers, you’ll know there’s usually a bit more context to these stories than gets printed. And in this case, it’s hard to tell from Rachel Glucina’s article where the policy ends and her editorial begins. WOULD Greg Boyed’s burgergate tweet have been unacceptable, or is that just what RG reckons?

It’s not clear, for example, where the personal opinion line is – is it ‘Char Grill Kebab has gone downhill lately’, or ‘Peter Dunne cannot survive for much longer under this pressure’? Is it ‘everything’ or just ‘work stuff’?

The TVNZ reporters I follow do a more than reasonable job of being themselves on Twitter. Expecting them to come into line, when they’re actually taking part in the national online conversation without causing TVNZ reputation damage just fine thanks, is tricky. Some of the biggest recent scandals for TVNZ have taken place without a Twitter login after all.

If the policy is as draconian as it’s painted, it seems like a backwards step, and a possible misjudgment to try muzzling such a well connected group of natural communicators. The potential reputational damage caused by coming across as humourless and fusty is worse than the occasional off-message tweet in my opinion. Arguably, it undermines *all* TVNZ’s  social media authenticity, a weird move when their flagship current affairs programme makes a show of being part of the Twitter conversation and Welcoming Your Views.

I’ve had a little to do with writing social media policy documents, and I have to say that telling people what they can and can’t do in their own time and on their own Twitter made me feel uncomfortable, beyond ‘Use Your Common Sense*’. It wouldn’t have been easy for Michelle Romaine, an external consultant, to lay down the law on something so personal and get immediate buy-in. Again, we don’t know if there was any consultation, or if this was just an email bolt from the blue.

The preferable option (and probably the harder path) is educating and building trust with your team, so that any mis-steps  happen infrequently and are quickly put right when they do. Bear in mind you can get away with a lot by being human and owning up to  mistakes in a human fashion, remember Heather Du Plessis-Allan dropped the C bomb on the 6pm news, grinned a cheeky grin, and folk loved her for it.

In both my roles with social media element, I’m lucky to have been given rope to try things, without the fear of heavy handed-ness should things go wrong. If people are inhibited by fear of breaking the rules, they’re less likely to try something different and push the boundaries, which is where the gold is. If you’re empowered to f*ck it up, you’re probably less likely to.

*One assumes that when hiring folk to report the news on national TV, getting someone with ‘common sense’ would be a pre-req.

Notes
I don’t watch One News

As written, this policy seems to only apply to Twitter and possibly Instagram. You can supposedly do what you like on Facebook (but would anyone see it / care?)

Char Grill Kebab *has* gone downhill lately

Some guy on the NZ Digital Podcast

A couple of weeks ago, I was lucky enough to chat to Paul Spain and Sim Ahmed on the New Zealand Digital Podcast.

We talked about the new role and the old role, tools of the trade, advice for folk and businesses thinking about getting into social media and the separation between yer professional and personal activity online. Sim complimented my eyebrows at one point, which was extremely gracious of him.

Recording the show was a lot of fun – thanks to Paul and Sim for having me on, this new off shoot of the popular NZ Tech Podcast looks like it’ll be a worthwhile listen if you’re into This Kind Of Thing.

You can listen to my episode in a variety of fashions here.

You can’t troll a troll

On Wednesday, I was lucky enough to be on Social Media Club Auckland’s When communities go bad panel, along with Anna Connell, Mike Kooge and Chris Keall.

 
The panel. Photo filched from SMCAKL site

Some brief thoughts:

Being trolled is part of the territory for doing corporate social media. Of course, social media is just people. And some people can be dicks, bluntly.

Basically, someone has to be prepared to cop it, and it’s kind of up to you to develop a range of coping mechanisms (hence my ‘harden up’ comment). It gets easier over time! Caring a lot is a bit of a pre-req for doing the job well and properly, but the downside of that is taking the nastier comments to heart and wanting to throw things against things so they break.

The solution? Realise it’s not you, take breaks, make sure you’re well supported by your company. Easier said than done sometimes, but what’s the point of doing a job that’s easy, hey?

Anna definitely  kicked the crap out of me at pithy tweet-able soundbites. Nice work. And Mike showed there’s some excellent thinking and different knowledge out there beyond the usual voices. Well done.

I was most impressed by Chris Keall’s ‘take panel questions from your phone’ paradigm. Typical innovation incubation on the fly by our top tech scribe.

I realise I talked mainly about Telecom examples, rather than the new job (which is going really well BTW). That’s because I honestly haven’t been trolled very much at all in the new role – which is a nice change! The team going well is obviously a big factor, but even so, the ‘other distractions’ don’t seem to have generated much heat online.

I haven’t been to SMCAKL for a while, but it seems to be on the right track, by the evidence presented on Tuesday night. Fair play and all the best to the organisers and sponsors, it isn’t easy putting something like this on.

 
This is the first time I was trolled on the @telecomnz account, about a day after I took the job.

 

2012 in mobile phone photos

I enjoyed doing this post so much last year, I’m doing it again. 2012 was ‘a bit calmer than 2011, but a bit more exhausting’.

At Mount Maunganui, there's piles of timber people have dragged up from the water every couple hundred meters #rena

At New Year’s at the Mount, there was still Rena debris washing up.

70s era Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet as seen at Tauranga model railway club expo

Thanks to my four year old, I’ve enjoyed getting to know the wacky world of model railways.

There we have it, chips omelette

I did a lot of bad food photography – I’ve left most of it off this post, except for CHIPS OMELETTE! H/T The Kitchen Maid.

Lunch at Euro. Recommended.

Doh! #foodtweet

I baked a lot of bread this year.

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I also started blogging as part of the Corporate Lunchbox team – it’s fair to say my contributions have been sporadic so far. These burgers are from Char Grill.

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I did enjoy a lovely meal at Depot.

Just hangin' out reading the news and that cc @cateowen

The fantastic @cateowen let me sit in the 3 News chair. In fact, most of the cool shit I did this year is thanks to Cate. Ta 🙂

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I got to be Jeremy Clarkson for a weekend.

THE JUDGE

And here is THE JUDGE!

#ladsweekend prep coming along nicely

Had yet another v. successful Lads Weekend, at ‘catching fish’ and ‘binge drinking’ levels.

Fish for tea #ladsweekend

 

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Work-wise, I enjoyed myself thoroughly, even though it was another challenging year. Lot of issues, lot of change. I was even on the bloody telly at one point. I’m missing a lot of the folk in this picture.

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The Telecom ONE unconference was another raging success, with bonus manly-disregard for safe trailer stacking practise.

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My rugby team The Chiefs only went and bloody won the title. I was very happy.

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Scenes from last night #aintnopartylikeahamiltonparty

The 40th birthday parties kicked right in.

Retrieved these from someone's paper recyling. Bit weirded out but mostly stoked.

Two childhood flashbacks – I fished these MAD magazine paperpacks from a paper recycling facility because HOW COULD YOU THROW THEM AWAY?!?!, and commandeered the family lego for my kids.

In other Lego news, a bad-ass spaceship.

I got on Instagram, and found it’s useful mainly for taking photos of ‘things’, or close up photos of objects. They could be it Def Leppard tapes or drawings of a man with a toilet for a hat. For proper photos, it’s still Flickr.

I met Hillary Barry. She was lovely and didn’t mind having her photo taken with Mr Arkward arm.

I had a STORMING year, tech-wise.

This photo is the remains of my beloved HTC ONE X – which I smashed, to be replaced (thanks to me bursting into tears in front of our FANTASTIC device team in a most un-manly fashion), with Samsung’s S3, which I also lurve. Both these phones are big, with bright, vivid screens and superb cameras. Fast. You name it. I rely on it / them a lot to get stuff done, whether it’s work, organising our chaotic weekends or just fecking about on the bus.

At home, I obtained an iPad 3 and the Apple TV for home. Will save the in-depth run down for a future post, but yeah, they’re all fantastic.

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My wee chap and my wee girl (she’s a bit bigger now). Family is the whole point, team.

Top parenting tip: multiboxes and coaxial cable make great toys for ten month olds

 

This ain’t no funky follow party

In the last month or two, I’ve been on an unfollow binge.

 
 @richirvine ‘following’ stats July – October 2012

When starting out on Twitter, I followed my mates who had blogs, then sportspeople, then local media and online types. I was as free and easy with the follow button as I am with peanut butter on toast. I’d go through other interesting people’s follow lists and follow away with what turned out to be reckless abandon.

Like (I suspect) many professional SM-folk, I followed many people out of professional obligation. Competitors, customers, industry types – which is all well and good, but for the odd occasion they spoke up about something that may become an issue for the employer, the trade off was often a whole lot of irrelevance.

Slowly things became more and more out of control – people you thought would be fun turned out to be too noisy, too whingy, over share-prone or self obsessed. I’m loathe to begrudge anyone a decent bit of self-obsession (hey, check out the domain name of this site!) but this was *my* Twitter – I wanted it to be awesome.

I think everyone owes it to themselves to make their Twitter great. Those pithy little updates and avatars are much more personal and important to me than, say, Facebook with its ever-shifting rules, ads and stuff a mysterious, unaccountable algorithm thinks (THINKS?) I’ll like.

And so, I started unfollowing. My inspiration was this article, Why I just unfollowed everyone on Twitter. Killer quote: “It’s exhilarating.” Unfollowing *everyone* seemed a little extreme (quite tempting though!) but like eating chips, once I started, I found it hard to stop.

Many of the accounts were pure newsfeed accounts I’d long since lost interest in and had been mentally skipping over anyway. Many people were the professional-obligation crowd* and others were friends of friends I’d followed because they were friends of friends, but it struck me I was getting mentally involved with people I didn’t actually know. Which, on paper, felt weird. Unfollow.

Google has a few tools for managing Twitter followers, but I found it easier to just go through my follow list in a web browser and start unfollowing manually. It didn’t take very long, I unfollowed a 2-300 people and I’m much happier. My Twitter feels leaner, sharper and has more meaningful updates, better signal to noise ratio, all that.

Like any time I dramatically cut back on RSS subscriptions (here’s another good article) or what have you, I don’t miss it. And because I’m a recidivist offender when it comes to welcoming feeds, accounts or noise into my life that will easily distract me, no doubt I’ll have to repeat the process over at some stage, but I’m (generally) OK with it.

Yes, I’m aware this post makes me sound like a dick, but I assure you that’s not the intention – I just want my Twitter to be a nice place, and make it about what works for me rather than trying to be everyone’s mate. Or something. One of the things I love most about Twitter is that you control completely what you see and can quickly change it if it’s not working for you. Don’t put up with noise, claim back your Twitter people! For you!

 

* This is a valuable search tab I have saved for making sure I don’t miss mentions of the employer, with the added bonus of seeing who says what about the employer when they think you’re not seeing it, by not using the handle.

Project [R]Evolution

A few thoughts on the recent The Project [R]Evolution conference.

I thoroughly enjoyed Dan Neely from the Wellington Regional Emergency Management Office – his points about responding fast, but accurately in a crisis resonated with me. It takes some maturity in an organisation to get on social media and say “we know there’s a crisis – we’re still finding out what’s happened, but we’ll let you know when we *do* have news.” It’s a reflection of today’s ‘always on’ society that Dan, like me, probably sits on his couch of an evening with a sneaking voice in the back of his mind saying ‘I wonder if something’s going wrong?’. Ahem.

Conference regulars Brown, Brislen and McDonald held an entertaining panel – there was refreshing honesty, and I enjoyed seeing panellists who didn’t completely agree on every point under discussion.

Alec Ross, Hillary Clinton’s Senior Advisor for Innovation was everywhere in his time in NZ, on the telly, radiogiving interviews and mixing it up with the locals on Twitter – impressively, showing up in conversations he wasn’t even taking part in. He stepped on stage looking like he’d just popped in from the set of the West Wing – his Powerpoint with huge ‘Power’ and ‘$’ slides created a slightly OTT and surreal feeling. His content was heavy on the history but light on the war stories from the Obama campaign, which the crowd (well, me) had come to see, but still, I enjoyed seeing a guy on top of his game present. His killer lines (“it’s a bad time to be a control freak”) were delivered with relish and style. Things got slightly lively in the Q+A with a Wikileaks question and half hearted heckle, but Ross handled it like a pro, defining the terms on which he was going to address it, then addressing it and moving quickly on. He’ll probably run the world one day.

I missed the most part of day two, but pitched up late afternoon, just in time for Christopher Barger – like I tweeted, I found much of what he said affirming and common sense, and I thoroughly enjoyed his tough guy myth busting shtick. If you were a largeish corporate business who’d never attempted social media before (are there any left?), his preso would be an excellent place to start.

Richard MacManus and Emily Banks were the ‘future web journalism’ one-two to end the day. Richard, who I imagine gets asked by checkout operators and service station attendants what hot new web publishing platforms they should be checking out, talked us through this blog post mainly, neatly summarising the developments that are slowly creeping up on our monitors and mobiles. Banks talked us through how Mashable approaches the new journalism landscape, as well as some more nefarious approaches. Which were, um, really intriguing. I’ve ordered a copy. Interestingly, she chose the ‘Coldplay’ clip from opinion-dividing The Newsroom to illustrate the ‘first’ and ‘not wrong for long’ pressures modern news outlets face.

Overall, the conference had a great tone, loosely based around change through technology, as well as a broader, historic perspective. Presenters like Michael Jones and Tim Forseman offered much food for thought. Jennifer Duval Smith‘s panel and the quickfire speakers (yay!) gave a board range of local angles. Refreshingly, social media was part of the mix, but not the focus. Which is better, I reckon. We *may* be at the point where we move beyond ‘hey, the internet exists, isn’t it awesome?’ and talk about what we do with it next. Well done to all the organisers.

As usual, the number one highlight of the conference for me was catching up with folk I don’t get to talk to very often, and meeting folk I felt like I knew already from the Twitter and that. It was a great turn-out.

PS: Here’s the slides.