I went to a conference – actually, an un-conference – a couple weeks ago in Toronto about podcasting. It was called Podcamp Toronto and was held at Ryerson University right in downtown Toronto.

I had a great time, of course. I’ve always liked Toronto ever since our days in high school when my class went there for a class trip. We liked it so much, we went twice, two different years. We went to Crystal Beach one other year, and I don’t remember the fourth, so Canada in general was pretty popular.

So I decided to go up for the Podcamp. I had no idea what it would be like, never having been to one before. I’ve really been doing kind of a solitary thing with this podcast business. I don’t know many other people who are podcasters. In fact, people who even understand – really understand, not just know it has something to do with an iPod – (it doesn’t, really) – are still the minority. I usually tell someone I have a podcast and I get a “that’s nice” and a blank stare.

That didn’t happen at Podcamp! Everyone there totally got it. Even those who didn’t have a podcast of their own. There were basically three kinds of people at the podcamp: those who had a podcast, those who wanted to have a podcast and those who had some other connection to podcasting, usually having a service to provide to podcasters.

That last group sounds very commercial, but it wasn’t. The people who were there to promote services of interest to podcasters were really just as into it as the podcasters themselves. I think podcasting is still such a new thing that it’s still a small community.

Community. That had to be the theme of the podcamp. It came up over and over and it’s really true. As I said above, most people grow blank stares when I mention it, but here, to quote one fellow podcaster I met there, Sean McGaughey, I’d found my tribe.

The conferences were about as diverse as you could want. The thing about the podcamp model is, if you want a session on any given subject, just sign up and hold it. If you don’t have the expertise yourself, either recruit someone or hold a panel discussion.
The organizers scheduled the rooms for the sessions, but didn’t dictate what was discussed at all.

The other rule of the podcamp was called the “rule of two feet.” If you didn’t feel you wanted to listen anymore, you were free to get up and walk out. With three sessions going at a time, it was easy to sample one and go catch part of another. If a topic ended up being over your head, or too basic, for that matter, you could change to another room, or just go out and socialize.

Socializing was a big part of the experience too. From the Friday night pre-event meet-up at a close-by bar, to the Saturday night bash at another nearby restaurant, it was a very social experience. Even during the sessions and at lunch, there were always a number of people in the concourse chatting, or even interviewing each other for podcasts.

Anyway, I’ve classified this post under “Podcast Reviews” a category I put in quite a while ago but haven’t used much. So let’s talk about some of the people I met and their podcasts. Don’t be mad if I forget anyone. there were just so many I can’t comment on everyone, but I’ll hit some highlights.

Andrew Stanley-Jones from geek.farm.life

Andrew was another of those I met right off the bat at the Friday night get-together. He’s a pretty friendly, normal guy doing a podcast you’d never expect – a podcast about his farm. Andrew and his wife moved to rural Indiana from California when they discovered that for the price of an average home in California, they could buy a whole farm in the midwest. Andrew’s job let him relocate – he’s an engineer in the electronics industry – and their hobby became running a small farm. The podcast is all about their experiences and advice on that subject. Oddly, enough, it’s interesting and unusual enough to not get boring.

Andrew had a lot of fun interviewing people at the Podcamp. He might have even played one with me!

Mike Dodd and Steve Saylor from This Week In Geek

These two guys took Podcamp by storm. They were everywhere having a great time and contributing not just their expertise, but their enthusiasm.

They’re students in the Broadcast Studies program at Niagara College in the Welland ONT area. They made a last-minute decision to head off to the podcamp and scraped together enough money to pay for the hotel and hopped in the car.

Also new to podcasts, they have taken their radio show on the college low-power radio station to the far-reaches of the internet. Their energy and ability to play off each other keeps it going at warp speed and always cool and interesting.

While in podcamp, they invited a bunch of people up to their hotel room for a podcast recording session. It was a blast with about six people at it’s peak just discussing the day’s activity. Oh, did I say it was 3am before we quit? The results made it into an episode of their podcast.

Sassy Sonya Buyting of Sassy Science

Although I didn’t know it at the time, Sonya is a successful TV journalist. She did a Sassy Science series for the Canadian version of Discovery Channel – EXN.ca. She’s now working on a show called Collector Showdown on Treasure HD in Canada and the US. I kind of sensed she was a professional. She gave me a great audio promo for her podcast and I had to check it out when I got home.

She said she had just started the podcast and there is only one episode, but it’s great. Very professional and cool.

Sean McGaughey of For The Sake of the Song and Librivox Community Podcast

Sean is just a fun guy to hang out with. He’s a folk singer, comedian, podcaster, author and just plain good folks. I spent a whole podcast on him, so if you want to hear more, go there!

Julien Smith of In Over You Head Hip-Hop Podcast and Listen To Your Kids

Julien was one of the organizers of Podcamp Toronto, but he stayed kind of low key through the weekend. Yes, he was involved with several of the sessions and he was at the Friday night social, but a very modest guy. I spoke with him and got a short audio interview for my podcast, but I still didn’t know much about him.

In the interview, he mentioned his new podcast, Listen To Your Kids. I didn’t really get it until I got home and went to the website to see what it was about. I put it in one of my podcatchers to check often because I thought it was so – well revolutionary.

Let’s see if I can describe it before I rave more. It’s not like any podcast you’ve ever heard. It’s strictly audio commentary by people who call in on a phone and say what they want to get off their chest. The page says “Stop. Think for a second. What do you wish you could say to your parents.” The concept is that kids can call in anonymously and say anything that is bothering them about their life and anyone, can hear it. It’s not very active yet, but as it gets better-known and more calls start coming in, I think it’s going to be big. Listen to some of the calls and tell me it’s not.

But even without that, Julien’s other work is pretty impressive. His podcast is one of the oldest in Canada and is carried on Sirius and Podshow. It’s won a few awards and Julien was one of the first bloggers to be granted media (journalist) access to Cirque du Soliel. Wow!

Julien was totally cool and humble and one of us. It just gives you inspiration that if you keep at it and do innovative things with this medium, you will be recognized eventually.

Of course, there were many other interesting people that I met there. I could go on for quite a while, but this is already too long. I had an amazing time and would love to do it again. Though, maybe it was one of those one-of experiences that because it happened at just such as formative time in podcasting, it will be a hard act to follow. We’ll see…