There’s a #NonCon (not) going on on today on twitter. Author Philip Ardagh seems finally to have had his fill of publishing conference tweets and has (not) organised a gentle but on-the-mark swipe at all the air kissing and self-reflective adulation that we in the book world seem so good at.
So it’s not without a sense of irony that (tongue-in-cheek) I set up an epilogger for the #NonCon whilst heading northwards on the train to Newcastle. Because over the next couple of days I’m attending a real life conference, Thinking Digital at The Sage, Gateshead. And with equal irony the #NonCon fun on twitter strikes at the heart of why I’m heading north to spend two days in a dauntingly large group of people non of whom I’ve met before. Over the past decade we’ve seen an explosion of “digital” publishing conferences (Digital Minds, Tools of Change, Contec, FutureBook, Digital Book World, Books in Browsers, and the list goes on). I’ve been to many and spoken at a few. But increasingly I find myself dissatisfied with these events, because for all their emphasis on “digital”, they’re still focussed on the narrow horizons of old school publishing.
So this year, instead of spending my conference dollars on worshipping at the feet of publishing’s digital gods, I’m putting my money where my mouth is and pushing myself beyond my comfort zone. I’ve been following Thinking Digital and Herb Kim, its energetic founder on Twitter for a couple of years, and it has struck me that this is a forum where real digital entrepreneurs and innovators come and share ideas and experience. Yes: I’m nervous as hell. I don’t know one end of a programming language from another and I’m more-than-slightly terrified of showing myself up horribly. But I care about finding ways for (publishing) businesses to participate in interest communities and to publish quality, curated information and ideas on- and off-line under viable business models. I have an idea I’m more likely to find people who hold some of the answers to that challenge up in Gateshead over the next couple of days than I am in the world I know.
Even though Newcastle is my “home city” (I grew up light years ago in rural Hexhamshire, and I’m excited to be going back for professional reasons) I do feel like I’m just about to be launched into a different world to sink or swim. Be gentle with me Digital People: I’m here to learn. Lifebelts welcome.