PodCamp Topeka: A Low Cost Unconference Dedicated to Emerging Web Media

On October 13, social media enthusiasts, bloggers and podcasters from across the Midwest, will come together in Topeka, Kansas, for the third annual Podcamp Topeka. 

Presented by the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library, Podcamp Topeka  is a low cost “unconference” dedicated to emerging web media, including social networks, podcasting & videoblogging, blogging, and web design.

The nontraditional “unconference” format encourages the event’s attendees to set the agenda.

Registration for the day-long event is just $10, with breakfast and lunch included.

After an opening keynote presentation from Rob Walch, VP of Podcaster Relations for Wizzard Media in Kansas City, attendees will participate in a diverse array of attendee-lead breakout sessions, details of which are available on the Podcamp Topeka website.  Most sessions are aimed at those with an intermediate to advanced understanding of technology and social media.

If you’re interested in leading a session there’s still time to email event organizer David Lee King with details of  your proposed presentation topic.

In addition to the unique “unconference” format and attendee-driven agenda, Podcamp Topeka offers many valuable networking opportunities, including a post-event meetup being hosted by event sponsor PTs Coffee.

For additional information and to register, visit the Podcamp Topeka website.

  • Saturday, October 13, 2012 – 8:30am to 4:00pm
  • Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library, 1515 SW 10th Ave, Topeka, KS 66604
  • $10 Registration at PodcampTopeka.org
  • Registration includes breakfast and lunch




From the “140 Conference” to “The State of Now” – A Conversation with Jeff Pulver and Becky McCray

Jeff Pulver’s 140 Conference has taken place in New York City, Los Angeles, London and Tel Aviv. The events have explored the effects of the emerging real-time internet on a wide range of topics including business, the media, advertising, politics, fashion, real estate, music, education, public safety and public diplomacy.

In 2010, renowned Oklahoma-based blogger, small business expert, and small town advocate Becky McCray, persuaded Jeff Pulver to bring the 140 Conference to Hutchinson, Kansas, and the “140 Conference Small Town” was born.

On November 8, the conference returns to Hutchinson’s Historic Fox Theatre for a third year. Something different for 2012 – a change of name from the “140 Conference” to “The State of Now.”

Social: IRL is pleased to support The State of Now: Small Town. We’re looking forward to our third year attending and would encourage you to join us. Use discount code friendofST12 and you can register for just $40, a saving of some $60 on the standard $100 rate.

You’ll also be able to get a preview of the State of Now: Small Town and connect with Becky McCray at a special event Social: IRL is hosting in Lawrence, Kansas, the evening of October 25.

Meantime, we chatted with Jeff Pulver and Becky McCray to get their perspectives on what makes this event so special, insights on what attendees can expect to experience, and to understand the re-branding to “The State of Now.”

For people who haven’t attended before, could you give a brief outline of what they can expect at “The State of Now” and what makes it such a unique experience?

Becky – Expect real people sharing their own short stories. Expect to feel a connection, as they tell how our shared online space has changed their work, their friendships, or their life.  Expect to get more ideas than how-to’s. Expect storytelling, not PowerPoint. Expect to make friends with people nearby or far away, people just like you, but completely different. 

Jeff – When I curate these conference, I try to be the “Human DJ” trying to mix the voices and stories shared.


Hutchinson KS, saw the first “Small Town” State of Now conference. What brought about the specific small town focus, and why Hutchinson?

Becky McCray with Jeff Pulver in Hutchinson last year. Source: beckymccray.com

Becky – Jeff had dreamed up the idea of bringing together 140 characters in the real world, to strengthen our online connections. He debuted it in New York and took it on the road. As he went to Barcelona and Tel Aviv, Steve Tucker and I teased Jeff about coming to a smaller town, getting out of the big city. Of course, Jeff took us up on the offer. So then I started looking for a town near me, but closer to an airport, and also cool enough to host an event that I knew would draw people from all over the world. I had been in Hutchinson for a tour of bloggers that Cody Heitschmidt and other locals created, so I knew a bit about it. And Hutch managed to beat out the two other towns I looked at, so Hutch it is. And it’s turned out to be great. Occasionally, I get some static that Hutchinson isn’t a small enough town, but I live in a town of 30 people, so I get it. The people of Hutchinson have given us a small town welcome.  


Focusing specifically on Hutchinson, who are the speakers? What type of stories do they share?

Becky – At Hutchinson, we have the people you’d expect in a small town: business owners, teachers, people from nonprofits, farmers and ranchers, and more. And they came from 18 states and 3 countries last year. Then we also have people from big cities who have a connection to small towns, like Ron J. Williams of New York City who has family in small towns. So we’ve had Val Wagner of North Dakota talking about making time for social media in agribusiness, Grant Griffiths sharing how he launched an international high-tech business from his basement, and Jay Ehret of Waco, Texas, talking about selling your soul for business. Then we had Steve Tucker touching our hearts with the story of an online friend who passed away, Laura Girty talking about what happened after her son died and came back to life, and Joe Cheray talking about surviving incest in a small town. That is a pretty amazing mix of stories! 


Some of the stories shared at the State of Now events are intensely personal. What do you feel motivates people to step outside their comfort zone and share at these events in a way they might never typically do?

Becky – I really think it’s because Jeff asked. He offered to share the stage, and he invited the people of small towns to step up. And the stories just came pouring out. It was like no one had ever asked before. 


From the first couple of years in Hutchinson, any stand out memories you can share?

Jeff – My memories start before the first conference. “School Bus Racing” in Hutch was a surreal experience.  For me it is always about the people and the communities that get formed.


Jeff, As a native New Yorker, what were your key personal takeaways from the “small town” experience and that first Hutchinson event?

Jeff – As a result of visiting Hutchinson, I have made it a point to include the stories of some of the people I met in NYC at our annual global event. It helped that in August, 2010, I drove across the Midwest for 6 1/2 days. I visited quite a number of small towns during that journey. Key take away was that I needed to return to Hutchinson and make this an annual event. Our conferences provide a stage for people to share their stories. It doesn’t matter where they are from or who they are. Everyone’s voices matter. And we try to offer as many people to speak that we have room for.


Until recently, “State of Now” was known as the 140 Conference. Why the change?

Jeff – Mostly because I wanted to take away the false belief that we are a Twitter conference. Our conferences provide a portal into what is happening at this very moment and the continued effects of the evolution of the real-time web on our lives – both from a personal and business perspective. “Exploring the State of NOW” was the original tagline. Now it is the formal name of the conference.


State of Now returns to Hutchinson on November 8. Anything you can share on what attendees can expect to hear or who they can expect to hear from?

Becky – The call for speakers is still open, so I can’t reveal any secrets. But I can say that I see lots of returning favorites, and even more new names. People from Iowa, Wyoming, Michigan, New York, Louisiana, and Kansas are already in there. I know this will be another amazing year! 


For someone who hasn’t attended before, what would you say to encourage them to make the trip to Hutchinson?

Becky – Let’s share some of what people who have made the trip said: 

“Rather than leaving with a bunch of tips, tools, and systems, I left with a bunch of ideas, concepts, and connections.” –Scott Wendling

“Some things are just too small to miss.” -Jay Ehret

“Hutchinson was the perfect place for this small town event. It’s filled with warm, welcoming people and unexpected surprises. We traveled 650 feet underground into the tunnels that run under the city and got to experience life as an ant. After the conference there was a party at the Kansas Cosmosphere and Space Center. We got to see space suits and space ships that actually went into space. Who could have imagined that this small town in the middle of America could hold such wonders.” -Nelson DeWitt

“I encourage anyone within 1,574 miles of Hutchinson to attend.” –Greg Falken


State of Now: Small Town

Hutchinson, Kansas – November 8, 2012

Event website: http://smalltown2012.stateofnow.com/

Register with  promotion code friendofST12 to save $60.

Join Social: IRL and Becky McCray in Lawrence, Kansas, October 25 for a special evening event sponsored by Lawrence Public Library, Lawrence Chamber of Commerce, and Social Media Club of Lawrence. 

“Behind the Brand” with KU Athletics

Last night, Social: IRL joined KU Athletics at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence, for our latest “Behind the Brand” event.

Attendees learned how KU Athletics use the web, mobile, and social media to engage with fans. We heard about both challenges faced and opportunities discovered, and learned some of “what’s next” as KU continue to evolve their online and mobile strategies.  We also addressed issues such as pros and cons of student athletes being engaged in social media, the reality of Tweets becoming news stories, and social media implications of NCAA regulations. Attendees then enjoyed a special behind the scenes tour of Allen Fieldhouse and the Wagon Student Athlete Center, not just seeing parts of the complex many attendees had never had access to before, but discovering fun and interesting facts about the Jayhawks along the way.

Thank you KU Athletics, web designer Kevin McCarty, and interactive media manager Annie Werner for making the event possible and for being such gracious hosts. Special thanks to Kevin McCarty for the great presentation and for leading the tour – your passion for communicating the history and tradition of KU Athletics was abundantly clear.

Here’s a Storify recap of the event, made up of attendee tweets and photos.  Click to view.


Taste, Tweet, Meet – A Social Media Wine Tasting

Taste Tweet MeetWe always enjoy the networking components of events we host or attend, so are excited to partner with our good friends at Holy-Field Vineyard and Winery for an event that truly focuses on the “social” aspect of social media, “Taste, Tweet, Meet.”

With “Taste, Tweet, Meet” you’ll enjoy a casual but highly informative evening tasting Holy-Field’s award winning wines. The tasting will be accompanied by a selection of hot and cold appetizers. And you’ll have plenty of time to network during the tasting and afterwards while enjoying a bottle of wine on the deck – a beautiful and peaceful spot overlooking Holy-Field’s fourteen acre’s of vines.

Limited tickets are available at just $25.00 each, which covers the wine tasting event, a generous selection of hot and cold appetizers, and a special bonus thanks to our friends at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival – two free tickets to the 2011 Ren Fest.

The event takes place the evening of Friday, September 23, at Holy-Field Vineyard and Winery, 18807 158th Street in Basehor, Kansas, located just 6 miles from The Legends and Village West.

Keep reading for the full details. Tickets for this event are limited.

Register for Taste, Tweet, Meet at Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery in Basehor, KS  on Eventbrite

DATE – Friday September 23, 7:00 – 9:00pm

LOCATION – Holy-Field Vineyard and Winery,18807 158th Street, Basehor, Kansas.  Just 6 miles from The Legends and  Village West. Visit Holy-Field’s website for directions.

TASTE – You’ll get to taste eight wines from award winning Holy-Field Vineyard and Winery. Everything from dry white to dessert white wine, dry red, sweet red, and fruit wines. The tasting will be lead by Holy-Field’s owner Michelle Meyer, who will give us special insights in to each wine’s creation and how best to enjoy it.  Appetizers will include: Chicken kabobs, stuffed mushrooms, bruschetta, spinach and artichoke dip, fruit & cheese, dessert.

TWEET – Of course tweeting is entirely optional, but when you have a bunch of social media users in a room it’s pretty much inevitable. Tweet using event hashtag #WineTTM and share your thoughts on each wine you taste, food pairing ideas, and anything else that’s on your mind.

MEET – It’s all about “social”, so be ready to connect with others you meet. And when we’re done at 9pm, no need ro rush off. We’ll open up the deck behind the tasting rooms. Buy a bottle of your new favorite wine, open and enjoy with friends.

BONUS – Each attendee will receive TWO free tickets to attend the 2011 Kansas City Renaissance Festival. The 2011 Ren Fest takes place September 3 through October 16, and is open weekends and Labor Day. The festival features 7 themed weekends, 20 entertainment venues, and over 100 artisan booths. You’ll collect your free tickets when you arrive for Taste, Tweet, Meet and will be able to use them for one of the next four weekends.

REGISTER – Spaces are limited. Visit our registration page now.

Holy-Field Vineyard & Winery are a “growing” legend for producing award winning fine wines from the fertile soils of eastern Kansas. More than 12,000 vines spring forth on fourteen beautiful acres tended under the personal touch of owners Les and Michelle Meyer. Holy-Field’s ten grape varieties ripen to produce fifteen distinct wines. Holy-Field wines are the recipients of numerous domestic and international awards and medals and have been have featured in the Wine Report, numerous magazine and newspaper articles and several television stories

Take it Offline! Attend one of these Regional Social Media Events

In addition to Social: IRL’s own events, we’re always pleased to support other events we believe offer valuable learning and networking opportunities. Four events we’re recommending in Kansas and Missouri.


Social Media Club of Kansas City – Breakfast with Scott Monty

September 2, 2011

Kansas City, MO

Registration $15

Visit event website


140 Conference: Small Town

September 20, 2011

Hutchinson, KS

Registration $100

Visit event website

Social: IRL are pleased to sponsor this event.
Use discount code friendof140 and your registration will be reduced to just $40.


Social Media Masters (produced by the national Social Media Club)

October 21, 2011

Kansas City, MO.

Registration $299

Visit the event website

Use discount code SMCLAWRENCE to save 30% off registration.


PodCamp Topeka

October 22, 2011

Topeka, KS

Registration $10

Visit the event website

The Silicon Prairie

The Silicon Prairie

Click to Enlarge.

While we’re fortunate to work with clients and host conferences across the United States, we’re proud to be based in Lawrence, Kansas, in the heart of the Midwest.

We love to showcase the incredible innovation and technology emanating from the local area so were glad to see our neighbors in Kansas City get some well deserved recognition in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week, being described as the “Silicon Prairie” and a national hub for information technology.

Great recognition not just for Kansas City but for the entire region.  You can read the complete story here.