#SOSVenezuela: learning, and recharging batteries in Stanford

Today was a special day for Venezuelans near San Francisco. While anti-government protests were taking place all over the Venezuelan map, the Stanford Venezuelan Student Association gathered a luxury panel of experts to discuss the situation in Venezuela.

They brought those of us who came from Venezuela and now live in the Bay Area together to learn, get inspired, and continue to support the fight of those back in Venezuela who continue to face lack of freedom of expression, jail, torture, and death.

The panel consisted of Prof. Axel Capriles, Prof. Francisco Monaldi, Prof. Pedro Palma, Dr. Miriam Kornblith, and Prof. Larry Diamond.

A few comments that stuck with me:

After the amazing interventions by the panelists, we were pleasantly surprised to learn that among us was no less than Ex-President of Peru, Alejandro Toledo. He inspired everyone in the room with his words. I captured his intervention in the video below:

We felt honored to be in the presence of a leader that endured very critical challenges along with his fellow Peruvians at the turn of the century and was able to prevail. We were very thankful that he joined us for this event and that he raised his voice along with Pastrana and other Latin American leaders against the violence in Venezuela. If only CURRENT Latin American (and other) Presidents had the same courage!


We left the event re-energized, and empowered with information to continue standing up to the reality faced by people in Venezuela today.

Do I REALLY need to go to this conference?

In the past three weeks, I have “participated” in 4 conferences:

How did I do this without going broke with plane tickets and conference registration fees, more importantly putting my family in a far distant second place? The answer to this question has a lot to do with the reason I put the word “participated” in double quotes: I really wasn’t physically at the conference (in all cases, except for a morning that I actually did swing by the Web 2.0 Expo Exhibit Hall).

How can you be at a conference and not BE there?
An interesting trend I’ve observed this year is that more and more portions of conferences (in some cases all the presentations on the main stage) are being streamed online:

  • NTC online streamed a fair number of sessions at a cost of $150 for NTEN members, aside from the amazing coverage of the conference through attendes via the #11NTC hashtag on Twitter.
  • JDRF Government Day made the JDRF Government Day Blogger Roundtable session available for free via Ustream and also helped those of us on Twitter to follow the conversation through the #JDRFGovDay hashtag.
  • In the case of “Ideas Economy”, all main stage presentations (there were a number of breakout sessions) were streamed through FORA.tv at a cost of $150 (early bird passes). Twitter conversations about this conference could be followed through #ideaseconomy.
  • As for Web 2.0 Expo, their Exhibit Hall pass was available for free if you used a discount code they offered through Twitter and all the keynotes were streamed (are being streamed, as a matter of fact, as I write this). The hashtag #w2e served as a container for comments about the conference on Twitter.

Can you really BE at a conference without BEING there?
This is a tricky question because ultimately you do get what you pay for. Was the experience and the lessons I took with me from “participating” in these conferences comparable to the opportunity of being THERE? Heck no! I couldn’t network equally. For sure, I couldn’t attend all sessions I would have been interested in and talked with the presenters (if I sat close enough to the podium to run for it at the end) with more specific questions for them or to get a chance to meet them personally.

But also, I didn’t spend as much money AND I didn’t travel, except for the BART ride from Berkeley to San Francisco for Web 2.0 Expo! This seems like a convenient tradeoff for me considering that I work on a (very) limited budget and the fact that most of the time conferences are not worth attending every year, but (I’ve found to be the case) every other year.

So, though a first take on this trend of conference content being made available online at a lower cost may make you think that the business model for conference organizers is being questioned, I see it differently. They are growing their audience and bringing in additional income that was not available to them until streaming technologies have made it more affordable to offer this kind of content live.

What do you think is going to happen with conferences in the coming years?

NTC 2010: Here we go!

April will be a great month for nonprofit groups. The 2010 Nonprofit Technology Conference will be taking place in Atlanta. I will be having the chance to speak in two different sessions there this year, which I am very excited about!

As we gear up for three great days of technology conversation among nonprofiteers, I recently received from Holly Ross (the hear of NTEN, the group responsible for organizing NTC every year) an invitation to highlight our sessions, so I thought I’d blog about it instead, responding the questions she sent our way here…

1. What’s the most important trend in nonprofit technology for 2010?
At the 2009 NTC, I did an Ignite session about Ning For Nonprofits. Back then, there were not that many nonprofit groups taking advantage of this platform to build niche communities.

Today, more and more groups are developing their own social networks on Ning (many others are also using other tools such as Joomla or Drupal) to improve their outreach and fundraising efforts. No wonder Mashable featured a great article by Geoff Livingston with 5 Tips for Creating Non-Profit Online Communities.

I see this is an important trend in nonprofit technology this year.

2. Why do you think your session topic is important for nonprofits to address
I am fortunate to be able to participate in two different (though related) topics this year:

Both topics revolve around the concept of communities and social networks. So they are very relevant to this growing trend mentioned in question #1.

3. What’s the one thing you want attendees to remember from your session
It is possible to still retain your sanity while running an online community… see my reply to the next question for evidence of this?

4. Which Muppet do you most identify with and why?
That’s a tough one, but I am going to have to go with the Swedish Chef!! He still cracks me up to this day. I guess what I love about him is his goofy nature.

You expected me to answer Animal, huh? 😉

5. Where can people follow you online (twitter, blog, etc.)?
It’s kind of hard to miss me since I am online so much, but if you must get the links, here there are: