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Wolfville, Nova Scotia
Canada

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Using coffee and oatmeal to build an audience on Twitter

Chris Campbell

idea

It started with a suggestion from Sandy Walsh in September in a tweet where he said, "#podcamphfx 2011 topic idea: "Effectively building a Twitter following with oatmeal" by @bitdepth" and then it grew. Roger Ebert wrote about all the amazing things you can cook in a rice cooker and I was inspired and bought one. Then I found out that you could make oatmeal in it and that became part of the morning routine. Coffee has been there for a long time and with Twitter it is the logical thing to mention when you start the day. Strangely people would mention the morning tweets which always mentioned coffee and oatmeal and then the weather or something similar. Why did people like these?

Plan for the day

Doing a session at Podcamp was a chance to figure that out and to also share some thoughts about Twitter and why I love it and what works. In a broader sense it really can speak to a lot of things that I enjoy and why. One of the great things about doing a talk is that it is a great chance to meet people and share ideas. If you are shy as I tend to be with a crowd it provides a way to meet a lot of people without a lot of effort. But there is the challenge of the speaking, which can be a bit stressful.

I love creating slides for presentations and using technology in interesting ways, but the problem with that is that it locks you in to a certain linear structure and then the technology becomes the focus. The key for me is to have a good and simple structure that gets people involved and with a screen it is easy for the focus to be there, but if you can turn things back to the people attending and not be a person who speaks and asks for questions at the end, it's the best. I'd rather be a facilitator than a professor. But that can be difficult to do. So in the way that I usually do this, I thought and thought and thought and then finally wrote down the structure on a Post-It note which consisted of the three things that I wanted people to talk about – one thing that they liked to share, one thing they liked to eat, and one thing that they liked to watch or listen to.

Since it was about oatmeal and coffee the other thing to do would be to provide coffee or oatmeal. I love making coffee, but it can be a bit complicated. The beans need to be ground and most of the time my preferred method is using the vacuum extraction method with a Bodum Santos coffeemaker. So that's a bit too much equipment to bring. The oatmeal is much simpler with only the rice cooker, water and oatmeal required. So the plan was all in place. No technology other than the rice cooker along with some Post-It notes, pens, and cups to hold oatmeal (with a bit of sugar too).

Results of Coffee and Oatmeal Podcamp Session

Sunday, January 23rd arrived and on a nice day the event began. The organizers, Ryan Deschamps, Craig Moore, and Bessy Nikolaou did an amazing job. This was the third Podcamp Halifax and the second that I went to. At the inaugural event I did a presentation called, "Small, Specific and Real" which was fun. This year it seemed bigger with a lot more people that I knew.

One of the central rules of Podcamp is the open space concept of "the law of two feet" where you are free to go from one session to another if you want to. While I love the idea, I usually don't do it that often. The sessions that I attended were good and interesting and, as always, it seemed that there was a lot of good stuff happening everywhere.

When it came to my session the attendance was very good and it was surprising to see so many people there. So I set up the rice cooker and the water and oatmeal as things got underway. The real point (and thanks for reading this far to get to it) is that you should use Twitter to be who you are and to share things that you like to share and enjoy. It's about being yourself and finding others who enjoy things that you do or at the very least derive some pleasure from your enjoyment.

The fun part of the session was when people wrote things down on Post-It notes for me. They shared an amazing range of things to share, things to eat, and things to watch or listen to. As people came up to put the notes on the board it was like a physical version of Twitter with everyone sharing little bits of themselves. The board filled up quickly and I scanned through and read out what people had shared. Then I asked a few people about what they had shared and then it grew and more people spoke. It was fun and it's always great to see a group of people who have the courage to share and speak. So thanks to everyone who came out and shared. Podcamp Halifax 2011 was a lot of fun and I'm excited about more events with the wonderful people who are part of the social media community in Nova Scotia.