Pittsburgh, The Crazy Adventure.

I was pretty excited to jump in the car to head down to Pittsburgh for HighEdWeb’s Regional conference. Not only is Pittsburgh an awesome city, but I was going to be able to see some friends, make new ones, and present to the HeWeb community.

Getting together with a group of people who are all about social means that this conference is all over social media. When I attended #HeWeb13 I tweeted over 340 times in 4 days, and so I knew I had to warn the twitterverse that I would be obnoxious again.

This resulted in at least one unfollow. Ah well. I only tweeted 45 times over the course of the day, which I would estimate is fairly low compared to other conference-goers!

Even though there was construction causing me to make multiple wrong turns and arrive later than expected, everything started right on time with Georgy Cohen’s keynote, “Without People You’re Nothing.” What resonated the most with me after Georgy had finished was her discussion of change and how empathy plays a part in the process. The Digital Era inspires a lot of change in a short period of time, and “that’s real change that effected people’s lives, and that’s hard to deal with” Georgy said.

By thinking about how this change emotionally effects the people around us, we can become better change agents. “All we do is work on the web – we’re not saving lives or curing cancer…but we’re people, and we have to appreciate that first. …we need to respect that our colleagues have emotions too.”

She also touched on the process of working better as a team, referencing Ball State University’s UMC Compact. It made me think about my own team back at work, especially when she listed ways to “be the change:”

1. Keep selling, and always advocate. Show the measurements of data, and use them to explain why things do and don’t work. You’ll repeat yourself. You’ll repeat yourself, people might not listen, but you’ll need to repeat yourself.

2. Find your people, and build a team with like minded change agents.

3. Validate others and their ideas, then build those ideas.

4. Emphasize education. We need to keep up, and continue to teach others ourselves, or with webinars or awesome conferences.

5. Make the case with data and specific examples.
This is not foolproof nor easy, but if we want to have meaningful collaboration to do good work, we need to start the change. Teamwork makes the dream work, yo.

The schedule was tight, but in true HeWeb fashion it managed to squeeze in coffee and a small breakfast, cheese and crackers for a snack, a nice lunch, and ice cream between sessions. I focused on having a takeaway from each session I attended, searching for the coveted “golden nugget” that I could truly bring home. The first session was “Strategy, Style, and Students” by Erin Supinka, a student at RIT. She discussed the importance of students in social, something I love and was a part of during my undergraduate experience.

Even a week later and I still haven’t created useful lists. I even made some of them in my head; other community colleges, the SUNY family, students, local schools, transfer schools…put it on the to-do list!

I was told at HeWeb13 to go outside of my “comfort” track at least once during a conference. Generally I stuck to the themes of content, social, and engagement while avoiding the tech-y tracks, but I decided to attend “There are No Break Points in Your Web Strategy: Going Responsive Without Screwing Everything Up” by Dave Housley and Rebecca Pugliese. I’ve always wanted to help with the move from our site from its current state to responsive, but I wasn’t sure how. I still don’t have the tech knowledge to make it happen, but it was great to start thinking about the potential transition. I may not be able to deal with all the back end things, but there’s a lot of concept work to be done too!

I really like visuals, what can I say.

After a relatively stressful lunch of reviewing my upcoming presentation with Pat, I headed to Jeff Steven‘s presentation, “The Trouble with Tribbles: How LOL Cats Ate Our Engagement” because…cats, duh.

Jeff’s session really got me thinking about the way I structure content. It’s easy to be lazy and copy and paste a link into a Facebook status, or send out a tweet once to get a message out to the audience, but it’s so much more than that. “Mind the gap” – where is the balance between curiosity and information?

With the change in organic Facebook reach, it puts a little more pressure on me to craft uber-engaging headlines and teasers for content, as well as start to understand when and where my audience is. Another to-do list item.

Last session of the day: presenting alongside an old colleague and self-proclaimed Lord of the Web, Pat Collette. We talked about talking, and why it’s important and challenging, especially in a new world filled with technology, hashtags, and style sheets. Not only did we get the chance to reminisce about what it was like to develop a solid working relationship, we made some dreams come true with Social Media Taboo.

Overall, an awesome presentation.

Brad Frost, the closing keynote, was truly that. An amazing way to close HeWebPitt. Not only did he provide all of us with a laugh, but he really made me start to think and get excited about the prospect of responsive design as well as understanding an audience.

“People’s capacity for bullshit is rapidly diminishing” Brad said. And it’s true. We expect pages to load on our phones equally as fast, if not faster, than our desktop computers. We expect things to be available on desktop, mobile, tablet, and everything in between. We’re starting to wear our technology. Where the hell does that mean we’ll be in 5 years? 10 years? Even next year? No one knows, but we can start to think that way.

The conference concluded with (of course) food and drink at Bahama Breeze, a wonderful splash of summer amongst the dreary weather we’ve been having lately. It gave me the chance to meet some new people, talk about upcoming conferences, and solidify my love for this field and the people inside of it.

IMG_7511I took advantage of the next day to head to Falling Water, the Frank Lloyd Wright house about an hour and a half southeast of the city. Alongside Jeff, we ventured through the rolling hills of Pennsylvania, missing our exit, taking pictures of barns, and finding a covered bridge. A wonderful, relaxing experience.

We took a tour through the house, continuously reassured that “the cracks in the terrace have been here for years” and not to worry about them. It was breathtaking, awe-inspiring, and slightly concerning, but a great experience up until we were asked for money as the tour ended. Despite the sour taste it left in our mouths, I was still happy with our small adventure.

Between all of these events I had the chance to adventure around the city with old friends to great places…most of them eateries. I indulged in delicious house-made meatballs and interesting sauces, took part in the Pittsburgh tradition of eating a huge breakfast omelet at Pamela’s, and even stopped by a “small” doughnut shop – Peace, Love, and Little Doughnuts – that made fresh doughnuts with amazing toppings right in front of you. Maple Bacon. That’s all I have to say.

Thanks for the adventure Pittsburgh, I hope to see you again soon!

2 comments Add yours
  1. So glad to hear you found our presentation helpful! I completely agree with you, there is a TON of work that can be done before even thinking about the techy stuff. Good luck with it!! and whiteboard magnets rock 😉

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