By lunchtime, I had cried twice already. Admittedly, I’m an easy cry -- but for heaven’s sake, I was at social media conference, not a funeral. Later that afternoon, @hatcherdogg revealed that he too was moved, tweeting: “Why the hell am I crying again at #140conf12.”
Although Jeff Pulver, the mensch behind the 140 Characters Conference, “wears things that nobody wears” (like Kermit the Frog sneakers), he does not "talk about things that nobody cares" about. In fact, in just one day at the event, I gleaned at least six observations worth sharing (and caring about).
1. Social media is a boundless force of social good
Pulver set the tone up front, insisting: “You don't need a license to do good, you just have to do it, and if you are clueless like me, you don't have any boundaries.” To prove that point, one speaker recalled how a tweet from Jeff to the U.S. Air Force just after the Haiti earthquake smoothed the way for Ann Curry's rescue team to land.
2. Social media is best taught by doing
Professor Rotolo, an inspired instructor of social media at Syracuse University, had many of us wondering “why weren't there teachers like him when we were in college?” Challenged to create a video that would go viral, one of his students, Hailey Temple, actually succeeded by tapping into the "Call Me Maybe" parody bonanza (click here to see it).
3. Twitter provides access to the otherwise inaccessible
Another one of Rotolo's students, Isaac Budmen, created the first Twitter drinking game named -- drumroll, please -- #DrinkUp while at school. After the game became a global hit, Budmen sought the advice of his hero Dennis Crowley, but couldn't reach the Foursquare founder by phone or email. A few tweets later, he was having drinks with Crowley, who encouraged him to "build on."
4. Sorry, bachelors - the proposition bar just got a lot higher
Halfway through "Isaac's Live Lip Dub Proposal" it's clear that this Isaac, whose marriage proposal on May 23, 2012 resembled a full-on Broadway production, has wrecked it for just about every bachelor to come. If you are not among the 14 million who have already witnessed this smorgasbord of sweetness then by all means do so now -- and if you're single, you'll want to recruit a choreographer friend like Gina Morris, the girl in the red dress in the video and Isaac's lip dub planning partner.
5. Bet on Twitter to survive and evolve
While Twitter is likely to remain dwarfed by Facebook, the passion of its user base ensures a bright future, especially as techies like Jack Hidary look to expand its functionality. Hidary offered glimpses of things to come like TML (Twitter Markup Language), which could enable machines to learn from tweets, provide smarter crowdsourced information and introduce what I'd call “twe-commerce.”
6. From tragedy comes inspiration
As I mentioned earlier, it was an emotional day. Heather Hamilton told the tragic story of her son, Zack, and how she fulfilled a promise in his memory with Zack’s Dream Room. Funded in large part through social media outreach, Hamilton also engaged via social channels with the Sesame Street team, who ultimately produced “Zacky’s Song,” a lovely tribute featuring Elmo, Zack’s hero.
This conference was as rich with notable content as this article is brief, and as such, I hardly do it justice here. For more observations, including more of the stories that moved me to tears, visit http://thedrewblog.com. Finally, to Mr. Pulver and with apologies to Aerosmith: You’re tweetin’ my name, but I gotta make clear, I can say, Jeffrey, where I’ll be in a year.