Podcasters Across Borders 2007 changed my life. By changing my life, it also changed the lives of countless others_ forever.
OK, what am I talking about?
As part of Podcasters Across Borders, participants were asked to bring a kids book that would be donated to a local Kingston, Ontario elementary school. My guess is the idea to do this was initiated by one of the co-founders (Mark Blevis) who, along with his wife (Andrea Ross), host the amazing Podcast, Just One More Book! - where they review and discuss children's book (one of my favorite examples of how Podcasting is perfect for finding niche markets).
Us Podcasters did not let the kids of Kingston down. We delivered close to ninety books covering a variety of themes and age groups. Being the type of person I am, I forgot about this initiative, so when I had a couple of minutes on the first day of Podcasters Across Borders, I headed up Princess street with Marko Kulik of Pets.ca and Julien Smith from In Over Your Head and Listen To Your Kids and we strolled into a local bookshop to make some choices. I grabbed three titles that meant something to me growing up. Marko and Julien did the same. We talked about the books, we looked at other books and it made us all reflect on just how much reading has played an important role in our lives and how these books would - hopefully - do the same for a handful of young people we will never meet.
It was a powerful moment.
We also had another incident where Bruce Murray from The Zedcast thought that his camera was stolen. The organizers from Podcasters Across Borders made the announcement to the group and said that if everyone donated four dollars, Bruce could get his camera replaced. Within seconds a box was being passed around and three hundred dollars was collected. It turns out that Bruce's camera was "misplaced" not "stolen." Instead of giving the money back, Christopher S. Penn from the Financial Aid Podcast and Marketing Over Coffee (as well as one of the co-founders of PodCamp) suggested we donate that money to the local elementary school as well, instead of trying to figure out who gave what.
It was unanimous. We donated the money to the kids.
Change can happen.
It's in all of us. The critics of Social Media and the people who think that Podcasting is just for that small, fringe group (like Pirate Radio back in the day), I don't think truly understand the power of the individual when online social networks transpose to real world environments. By their very nature, Online Social Networks engender people with similar interests, values, goals and beliefs to connect in ways that were previously either not possible or too complicated.
People, inherently, want to do good. They want to feel good and know that they contributed to their community - regardless of whether they are virtual or not.
One of my favorite new quotes (which I use in my presentations) is this one:
"43% of Internet users who are members of online communities say that they 'feel as strongly' about their virtual community as they do about their real-world communities." - USC-Annenberg School Center for the Digital Future - 2006.
After this weekend's Podcasters Across Borders, I know that I fall right into that forty-three percent. I knew it before the conference_ I'm really feeling it now.
The real meat of this posting is that we all can do simple and easy things to make each other's lives and communities better with little effort (not trying to be preachy - just being passionate).
It turns out that the simple act of asking me to bring a children's book to donate to a local elementary school actually did much more for me then I could have ever imagined.