Thoughts on Northern Voice’s popularity problem

image by bascoYesterday, Darren wrote about Northern Voice’s “popularity problem”. It’s a nice problem to have! This year’s conference sold out in just three days, leading Darren to speculate that individuals who aren’t “in the know” probably missed out on registering. I think he’s right. I also agree that part of the problem is that NV only happens once a year. I don’t think hosting Fall and Spring editions of the event is going to solve the problem though. The real issue is that NV has always tried to cater to two different audiences across an enormous country – techies and noobies from eastern and western Canada – and perhaps that just isn’t realistic anymore. If there are going to be multiple NV events in a year, I think they need to be distinguished by target audience and perhaps by location.

I wrote a post-mortem for last year’s event which was actually rather negative. I think the main thing that keeps me coming back despite the problems is that I fall into the techie audience, and NV is basically the one opportunity each year where techies from across the country (or at least the western part of it) can get together in person relatively easily and inexpensively to interact with one another (other events, such as Mesh, cost about $500 not including travel expenses). For me, that’s the real value of NV.

What would the two events I’m talking about look like? Perhaps Northern Voice for the noobies, and BarCampCanada for the techies. And recognizing that our country is massive, we probably need eastern and western versions of each of those events. An idea that was floated back when Northern Voice was getting started was that it could travel around the country from year-to-year, so we might have “Northern Voice: YVR” one year and “Northern Voice: YEG” another. Obviously that didn’t happen, because it’s just too difficult to manage. I think “Northern Voice: West” and “Northern Voice: East” would be sufficient. Same goes for BarCampCanada, which has had its date pushed back numerous times for precisely the same reason.

I don’t mean to suggest that we should completely segregate techies and noobies, because we’d lose out on the opportunity to learn from one another if we did that. All I’m suggesting is that Northern Voice could be targeted at noobies and BarCampCanada could be targeted at techies. That would help solve the problem of having everyone try to register for the same event immediately. Some techies would go for NV and some noobies would go for BarCampCanada, sure, but I think there would be less issues with this than with Spring and Fall events targeted at everyone.

In case you’re wondering why I’m calling it BarCampCanada, it’s because I’ve always thought that NV got it backwards when they applied the “unconference” style to the Friday meant for noobies (this year seems to be different thankfully). And since most major Canadian cities already have fairly well-established BarCamps (that tend to be more for the techies than for the noobies), why not get them to help organize larger east and west events?

Anyway, as I said, it’s a nice problem to have. Those are my armchair thoughts on the situation. I’m looking forward to seeing everyone at Northern Voice 2009 – both techies and noobies!

Registered for Northern Voice 2009

Early this morning I registered myself and Megan for Northern Voice 2009, taking place in Vancouver on February 20th and 21st. As you may recall, I submitted a speaking proposal back in December. Unfortunately, my submission wasn’t one of the 18 selected, but that’s okay. I’m glad to hear that the organizing committee received over 100 proposals as it suggests to me that the conference will once again have high quality content this year. Thanks to the committee for considering me and undertaking the nearly impossible task of narrowing that list down!

There are only 300 tickets available for the conference and as of earlier today, they were 75% sold out. If you haven’t already done so, you had better head on over to the registration site and book your spot! Keep an eye on their blog and Twitter account for updates. I suspect they’ll once again have a waiting list, but you don’t want to be on it.

Hopefully they announce the schedule soon – I’m keen to see who’s speaking!

You can read my previous posts related to Northern Voice here. You can also look at my photos from 2005, 2006, 2007, and 2008.

Are you going to NV2009? Let me know!