Boston 140 Characters Conference succeeds despite coffee, wifi, power fail

The Fail Whale in Legos - Photo by Bjarne Panduro Tveskov -

The 140 Characters Conference in Boston yesterday started off with three strikes against it, in my mind:

  1. No coffee. I’ve greatly cut back on my own caffeine addiction, but who starts a conference at 9am on a Tuesday and doesn’t serve coffee?
  2. No wifi. Well, there was Wifi, but I couldn’t ever get on any of the available networks.
  3. No power. Well, there was power in the building, but the power cops facilities people from the venue would not allow attendees to plug in to the wall outlets, as the cords crossing the aisle represented some kind of hazard.

That’s a steep uphill climb for any conference to overcome, but it turned out to be well worth it. The saving grace was not just Boston’s always active, engaging, welcoming, and supportive social media community (as embodied in folks like @pistachio, Chris Brogan, C.C. Chapman, CS Penn, and way too many more to name them all) but also excellent editorial curation and content pacing.

Favorite panels for me included “Investing in the real-time web” with @bijan, @leaddog99, and @ScottKirsner – which got best quote of the day:

(This was from an article quoting a “Silicon Valley Investor type” – and got the best laugh of the day, despite the fact that the whole conference was witness to the strength of the “Real Time Web” broadly and the tremendous impact of Twitter in particular – including local startup oneforty ).

Also excellent were panels on the “real time news” phenomenon (@universalhub, @dabeard, @mleccese, @kordmiller, and @tmcenroe – with counterpoint later from Jeff Cutler on the difference between “citizen journalism” and “citizen reporting”), a panel on the impact of real-time and social on Health, and a music panel matching @amandapalmer with @matthewebel, @spinaltap, and @cyberpr. Although no music was planned, an impromptu version of the Sesame Street theme on iPad did occur, taking advantage of the talent on the panel.

Christopher S. Penn happily scrapped the talk listed on the schedule – a likely valuable but a bit sleepy “How To Measure Internet Marketing ROI in the era of the Real-Time Web” – and instead geeked out on comic superheros, arguing that the real time web gives all of us super powers and reminding us all that “with great power comes great responsibility.”

The crowd also heard @dewittn‘s story of being one of the disappeared children of El Salvador, and the story of @andydixn,, and social media barn raising in Nashville.

Ultimately it felt a bit like Twitter itself: sipping from a fire hose, sampling from a veritable flood of interesting talented people driven by both mission and entrepreneurial spirit to leverage the tools the internet provides (including but not limited to Twitter) to make their mark on the world. The trick being to connect with those folks and carry the conversation on beyond the conference, beyond the twitter-stream and into real projects. (But isn’t that the real trick of any conference?).

Check out the full schedule and as expected tons of coverage via twitter under the hashtag #140conf.