As I watch the Twitter activity surrounding a very, very large conference that’s currently taking place, I find I have absolutely no interest in operating on that scale again. The Social Age Safari has spoiled me. I find I prefer real, small-group, mind-blowing interaction vs. herds of people sitting and listening to ‘experts’ imparting their wisdom to the masses.
I don’t mean to be disparaging. Those conferences offer a lot of things smaller conferences can’t—lots of good vendor interaction, broad exposure to new tech and new ideas, and opportunities to meet a large number of people who do what I do. But when I look back at last week and the level of discussion and the intimacy of a 50-person conference, there is no question in which venue I’d rather be.
The format was perfect. I have never participated in a deliberate hack-and-sprint format before the Safari. It was a refreshing departure from the sit-and-be-lectured-to format. Throughout the Safari, space and permission were given for individuals and groups to work through discussions however they chose. And it felt safe to share in that environment. There wasn’t any judgement, and when people disagreed it was as peers and adults without animosity or anger.
One of my groups struggled for some time with the concept of and a real definition for ‘Social Age’ and spent a lot of time on that instead of ‘answering the questions.’ In another group, we very deliberately ignored one of the three questions in order to drill down our thoughts on the other two. Some groups used visuals to report back to the large group, one used an analogy to demonstrate their thoughts, and one used role playing (I was the narrator for that one!). Creativity was encouraged. People had fun.
For me, the Social Age Safari brought out more questions than it answered, and I think that’s a good thing. I struggle with working in a hierarchical environment and having a mindset that values and embraces fluidity and flexibility, and it was helpful for me to start to articulate how I view what I do and the environment in which I have to function. Both the physical and intellectual spaces the Sea Salt Learning crew created were conducive to that. Large crowds of people drive me into myself. The Social Age Safari brought me out and showed me a whole new world. I don’t ever want to go back.