After signing up for Mashable Connect, Mashable’s first conference, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. Of course I know all about Mashable, so I knew there would be tons of techies, social media peeps, and speakers dealing with topics from new media, new technologies, and how to better use social media. That is about all I knew…well, that and I had just dropped a few pretty pennies. I didn’t know what to expect, but I did have big expectations.
Thursday, May 12th
I arrive at the Contemporary Hotel, and am pleasantly surprised by the modernity of the place, and (besides the restaurants) the absence of Disney paraphernalia. The rooms were very nice – as expected, and the view from the room was not bad at all!
After getting changed, I barely make it down to the conference area for Speed Dating, I mean Speed Networking, and sit next to two young women from Orlando, and across from a guy from Mexico. As with a lot of situations where you go into it knowing nobody, you quickly attach to the first people you meet, and the four of us ended up hanging out the entire weekend. The Speed Networking was a great way to meet a lot of people in a little amount of time, but as it started late, and each session only lasted a minute or two, it was also kind of awkward.
Dinner was next and the food was bearable (don’t eat sushi at a conference). After dinner was finished, Pete Cashmore, founder of Mashable, welcomed us to the conference. I’ll admit, I didn’t know his story, and was very impressed that he started Mashable as a 19 year old in his basement in Scotland, and in six short years has turned it into one of the leading news websites around.
Behind the stage was a live twitter feed. This was a progressive idea but it didn’t work as Mashable had hoped. As Cashmore spoke, an endless stream of tweets came through about how nice his hair was. It became a running joke, and Pete Cashmore’s Hair quickly got it’s own twitter account, and stole the show. His hair was soon being auctioned off via the twitter feed as the real Pete Cashmore tried to continue his speech. The entire crowd was laughing, and Cashmore had no idea why. Needless to say, the feed was gone the next day.
Friday, May 13th
After a late night of drinks, and a very late start due to setting my alarm for the wrong time, I barely had time to scarf down some food, and stumble into the conference. Friday was the big day; there were tons of speakers from 9.30 am – 6.30 pm. Of course there was a lunch break, but even then there was a speaker.
The speakers of the day included David Jones, a marketing wiz from Havas, Greg Clayman, publisher of The Daily, Scott Belsky of Behance, Christy Tanner of TV Guide, KC Estenson of CNN Digital, Rohit Bhargava of Ogilvy, Raymie State, Chief Technology Officer of Yahoo, Josh Koppel of Scroll Motion, David Karp of Tumblr, Michael Lazerow of Buddy Media, Scott Heiferman of Meetup, Adam Rich of Thrillist, Steve Rubel of Edelman Digital, and Josh Williams of Gowalla.
A lot of speakers, a lot of sitting, a lot of listening, a lot of cold air blowing through the AC, and tons of information to try and comprehend. The presentations that stood out are Havas and their marketing genius, CNN Digital and how they are trying to enhance the online video viewing experience, The Daily as a new iPad only newspaper, and Meetup.com which in my mind is going to be the next big thing in the revolution.
After a long day, we had dinner and then were shuttled off to Epcot Center for desserts and drinks in China. An hour later they escorted us to a private viewing area along the water for the night’s fireworks. We then had a choice, stay at Epcot and drink our way around the world, or head off to Disney’s Hollywood Studios for a behind the scenes tour of the Tower of Terror, a ride in an elevator of a haunted hotel.
My crew chose the Tower of Terror, and we got a presentation from one of Disney’s Imagineers (engineers who create the rides). The most interesting thing was how much effort went into the story for the ride. When I take a ride on a roller coaster, little do I think of a story, but this is Disney after all. The ride was fun, and much more interesting with a back story. The night ended early, and I nearly got a full night’s rest.
Saturday, May 14th
Another day, more speakers: Craig Engler of Syfy, Dave Knox of Rockfish, Ian Schafer of Deep Focus, Chris Hercick of Sports Illustrated, Aaron Sherinian of the United Nations Foundation, Sabrina Caluori of HBO, Lisa Hsia of Bravo and a couple of guys who I didn’t really pay attention to based on apathy, being cold, and their cockiness.
The big news of the day was Social TV, and how channels like HBO and Bravo, along with TV Guide, are creating avenues for people to interact with each other while the shows are playing, and to interact with the cast and crew to get a more behind-the-scenes perspective. Social TV is still just for early adopters, but it’s coming quickly y’all.
Once the speakers were finished, we got ready for another Disney Park Adventure, as we headed over to the Magic Kingdom for a race using Gowalla – an app that gives you badges as you visit certain locations; think of it as a virtual passport that gets stamped as you hit new places. We found a few more people to make our team of eight and jumped on the monorail. Everyone was excited about winning.
We got off the monorail and it was pouring. We all second guessed ourselves, but decided to go forth despite the rain. After a few rides, it was clear that we were not going to actually accomplish the tasks as set out (we had to actually ride the ride and take a picture to prove it as well as check in on Gowalla). So, we cheated a few, we rode a few, and then, everyone wanted to find a place to drink. Unfortunately, you can’t drink at the Magic Kingdom. So that, along with the rain, sent a few of our members back home. A couple of us stayed and rode Space Mountain and Thunder Mountain before heading back. We clearly lost the contest.
Dinner was next, and this was by far the best meal of the weekend. I sat next to Adam Ostrow, the CEO of Mashable and just a table away from Pete Cashmore. Once dinner was over, Pete Cashmore got up and gave his closing remarks, then started the nonsense. They had a live band to play along to karaoke. This was a bad idea. The room cleared quickly. It ended up looking more like a Mashable Xmas party than a conference. Some people went back to their rooms, some went outside, some in the pool, and a handful danced the night away to the karaoke. One person said to me, “Is this a tech conference at Disney World or a bachelor party in Vegas?” It was a bit strange, that is for sure.
The conference ended and a few people stuck around to check out the parks, but most people headed home first thing, as evidenced by the endless amount of tweets my new friends sent as they were leaving the hotel, and checking into the airport, and saying goodbye to Orlando, and…
All in all, a great conference, that lived up to the hype. I will be back, that is if I’m invited again..