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Tom Krymkowski

Net Work Ė Building a CommunityBy Tom Krymkowski

Over the past few months Iíve been doing a lot of traveling. Six media/journalism conferences. Six training workshops at those conferences. Six groups of professionals who gathered together to support each other and help the next generation of journalists find a footing on their climb up the career ladder. We were all there for different reasons; some to learn, some to teach. I think that every one of us ended up doing a little of both. We told our stories, dealt with problems, laughed with (and at) each other Ė and in the end, bonded as any group with a shared experience does. While the immediate goal of the training was to build skills and open doors, the more valuable outcome was to get to know each other.

And the degrees of separation dwindled.

Over the years, Iíve been very fortunate to work again with many of the people who I met for the first time on past projects. Quite a few have returned year after year to continue the support of our mission. A few are my co-workers and people I get to collaborate with on other work. Some are now my friends, who I also just happen to hear on air every once in a while. We all breathe life into the machine that is radio. Itís pretty incredible when you actually take time to think about it. This social network is a powerful thing, and itís the sense of community that binds it all together.

Itís hard to impart the value of this to students. Many of them have been spending quite a few years focusing on themselves and their goal of finally graduating. Once out of school, for a lot of people, the focus never changes. Itís only when you start to change your priorities that things really take off. Zig Ziglar has this great quote, ďYou can have everything in life that you want if you will just help enough other people get what they want." When I started connecting people I knew with the people and ideas that would help them out, it made finding what I needed all that much easier. So when I wanted to expand my thinking and explore the podcasting world, I went looking for a network.

What I found was even more than what I was looking for.

The San Francisco Podcast Meetup Group has been a great place to learn from others about this new animal, podcasting. We get together once a month to bring up issues, maybe solve some problems, and catch up on how all of our own efforts are going. Thereís been plenty of opportunity to shamelessly plug, and the atmosphere is pretty charged with the excitement we all feel. It shouldnít surprise anyone that there is a higher than average concentration of code writers and early adopters in the Bay Area. The technological barriers to entry will soon go down, largely in part to the efforts of the local members here. But itís all good and Iím pretty lucky. I even found a show that could use my skills.

The upside to podcasting right now, is that because of the technology involved, one isnít limited by geography in order to have content out for people to listen to. This new media IS connected, but only electronically. We leave each other voice mail, exchange e-mail, and share each otherís promos in our shows. The downside is that we may get to know people, but weíre separated by distance and time. The Meetups allow us to make real contacts with real people. We build community and stay connected.

Soon weíll take it up a notch.

On November 11th, 2005 the Portable Media Expo and Podcasting Conference officially kicks off. People are coming in from all over the world to attend this event in Ontario, California. Itís not the first podcasting event ever, but it will be a milestone for this new media. Weíre all, in our small way, bootstrapping this industry. Soon weíll gather together to make it a little more tangible. Weíll make new contacts, and re-establish old ones. Weíll put faces to names. This is all still organic. Still small enough to be personal. Each of us has been experimenting with the process. The only rules weíre really breaking are to a completely different game. And weíll tell the story in a thousand different ways.

Itís been shown that people learn well when they get to play with the subject theyíre learning. Most of us in the broadcasting world donít get to play with the medium. We just donít have the luxury and weíre kind of not allowed. Every once in a while an outtake recording surfaces, and as we fall on the floor laughing, we cross our fingers that it didnít make it to air. Any creative endeavor involves play. With podcasting we get to experiment; with format, with subject, with technique. We get to throw something up on the wall and see if it sticks. Thatís whatís happening right now. Lots, and lots of no holds barred play. And itís those people willing to try something new who will all gather together next week.

Like the previous conferences this year, I may go to learn some new things, and pass on a few experiences of my own. Iíll certainly write a follow-up of my impressions. Every person I later come in contact with catch a little of the spark that was generated there. But ultimately, this expo will be about the people who came, and what comes of their connecting. Not just a network, but a community.

Thoughts? Write Us.

Tom Krymkowski is a freelance Audio Engineer, Multimedia Producer, and Amateur Photographer living in San Francisco. He works as a Technical Advisor for npr's Next Generation Radio. When he's not on the road he farms out his skills to NPR station KQED-FM, The Pixel Corps, PodShow, and other Podcasters in the Bay Area and beyond.

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