Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Hunt

My first NECC was a wonderful experience. I did not show up with an agenda to fill, but I did have the seemingly manageable goal of meeting some people I follow on Twitter. The social service Twitter has become the backbone of my personal learning network and I feel very close to many of the people I follow, both personally and professionally.

Just because I feel close to a person doesn’t mean this feeling is shared, and of course there is always that fine line that separates a loose association with another person from being labeled a stalker. As difficult as this balance is to strike, I was determined to meet these people that I have come to admire. Having provided me with valuable resources and a never ending supply of great ideas, I wanted to introduce myself and try to express my appreciation for their willingness to share their lives, in 140 characters or less, with little old me.

Early on Sunday, I spotted Liz B. Davis as she was hurrying down the hall to something important. This is not surprising as NECC is filled with many important meetings, sessions, and opportunities for food. I resisted the urge to chase after her, and felt ridiculous standing there with absolutely no plan in mind.

I have been accused of being a face poser, or someone who has a Twitter picture that doesn’t look like them in real life. The picture that I use (top left corner of this page) does look like me if I have facial hair, wear stupid 3D glasses, and take my own picture with camera while making a silly face. I chose this picture because it does best represent the silliness that is within me. The problem is that I look more like the picture below. So tracking down my Twitter friends is difficult because from their perspective, some strange guy is trying to get their attention…

Having this first “attempt” at meeting a Twitter friend go so poorly, I thought that maybe I should just be more bold and step up the plate and get it done. What did I have to lose?

My next attempt at meeting someone from my list happened on the vendor floor. I saw Angela Maiers not 15 feet away from me, walking away. I shouted her name out, and she stopped and turned to me. Only then did I realize my mistake. Ms. Maiers is a very attractive woman, and I locked up like a deer in headlights. I think I may have mumbled my name and that I followed her on Twitter, I don’t really remember, but I am sure that my conversation skills deteriorated rapidly from there. She was polite and skillfully broke off contact with me, and I knew I had ruined a chance to just be a respectable adult.

Up to this point, my lack of social skills had turned my, “Twitter Hunt” into,” Twitter Crash and Burn.” As a teenager I learned that having a wingman could always help me to bridge the social gaps that I alone could not fill. The problem at NECC was not that I didn’t have friends to pick up my slack and help me to reach my goal, it was more that with a variety of interests and opportunities we did not stick together during the day.

Fred Delventhal is actually someone who I knew from my experiences in Second Life (SL) as Riptide Furse. My first meeting at NECC with Fred was brief, but I was able to follow it up later at a Tweet Up. This seemed more appropriate to me as we both had a beer and was similar to a time we had in SL drinking virtual beer and falling over on the floor. Good times!

Having met Scott Merrick in SL as well, I was delighted that he said that he was giving out free hugs at NECC on his Oh! Virtual Learning blog. This was the friendly, warm opening I was looking for! No pressure for the socially inept such as me. Now all I had to do was track him down and I could cross him off my list. Luckily for me, he was not hard to find. All I had to do was visit the Second Life Playground for a few minutes and I got my hug!

The one person that I most wanted to meet was Kevin Jarrett. After first reading his blog a couple of years ago, I realized how little I had achieved in a similar position in my own school. My friends who have heard me speak of him have even accused me of having a bromance, or man crush, on Mr. Jarrett. While this term offends me, it is probably an accurate portrayal.

At an ISTE meeting in SL in my early days in-world, I was waiting for a speaker to begin and Kevin was handling the security- making sure everyone had their microphones off. My mic was stuck in the on position somehow (these things happen in SL), and I may have yelled at my kids or something, saying, “Stop it! Get out of the kitchen!” or something similar. I was very upset when Kevin instant messaged me asking me to turn my mic off or he would be forced to boot me off the island. The last thing I wanted was to have him kick me off ISTE Island!

I spotted Kevin early on Monday at the Blogger’s CafĂ©. He was talking to some people and I just didn’t want to interrupt. Plus, considering how my earlier attempts at Twitter friend contacts had failed, I was feeling even more self-conscious. I ended up walking away.

Monday night I was surprised to get a Direct Message (DM) from KJarrett saying he was looking for me! Yes, it was kind of thrilling. I couldn’t imagine that he would even know me. Now it was on!

Wednesday morning I was collecting my things to make a quick departure from the D.C. area when who should I see coming up the opposite escalator from me? Yes, I would be just feet away from Kevin Jarrett in the middle of the two escalators’ path. Feeling emboldened by his DM, I shouted down the escalator to him, exchanged a few words, and briefly shook hands with Mr. Jarrett. Awesome! I was able to leave the conference happy.

There were quite a number of people that I did not get a chance to see in person, or attempt to meet. Cathy Nelson was someone I really wanted to meet. She was very nice to me once, and I just wanted to thank her in person for her kindness. But, it was not to be…

If I were to rate my Twitter friend hunting skills, I would have to say C or C-. As badly as I mishandled some encounters, and couldn’t locate some of the people on my “who I want to meet list,” I did have a couple of successes. Perhaps in the future I will perfect my social skills, or just pay a silver tongued wingman to hang out with me the whole time I am at a big time educational technology conference.


Cathy Nelson said...

I don't know how we did not cross paths! I did not go to the tweetup because I had to prepare for a panel discussion presentation for SIGMS Forum--a surprise that someone handed me Monday during the day. But I did spend free time in the BloggersCafe. Maybe next time!

Angela Maiers said...

I felt the same way as a first time NECC attendee! It was the strangest feeling being around so many people that I admire and follow. It is still a very surreal feeling that I have not quite managed to make sense of yet. Thank you for stopping me and taking the time to say hello!I look forward to continuing the conversations on Twitter! :-)

Al said...

Cathy, thank you for leaving a comment! I really was searching for you, but life is like that sometimes. Thank you for your support. I hope to go to Denver, but that is a long time from now. I will need to break open a few more piggy banks! If I do get a chance to go I will be looking to hello.

Al said...

Angela, I appreciate you taking the time to comment. Your twitter posts have added hundreds of valuable resources to my delicious acct. I really did want to thank you for sharing so much. It has helped me to better do my job helping teachers and students with technology.
Perhaps in the future I will learn to verbalize!

Kevin Jarrett said...

Al!!!! What the heck!!! :) :) :)

I cannot believe that a) you didn't come up and poke me in the shoulder in the Blogger's Cafe and b) the only time we saw each other was on the escalators!!! I literally just saw this post via my Wordpress blog dashboard. I need to pay more attention to my linkbacks!!!

So glad you enjoyed NECC and I'm sorry about nearly booting you off ISTE Island during that presentation! Putting myself in your shoes, I can totally see how that would freak you out. Mea culpa!!!!

Glad you are also enjoying my blog and I hope to continue writing stuff of value to you (and everyone else).

Loved the video you submitted - it was cool seeing it during the New Member Welcome. Where is it online?

Take care man!!! Until next time!!!


Al said...

Kevin, thanks for commenting! I wish I had said something but you were constantly surrounded by people and you move quickly from place to place. All that and you took over 1000 pictures! Plus you had your family at NECC, and were working with some of your students there... It is amazing to me that you can do so much.
The mic issue on ISTE Island is not a problem. You were doing your job, I can respect that. I have kind of taken on a similar role - although on a much smaller scale on VSTE Island and hope that I handle things as politely and effectively as you did that night.
I am glad you liked the video, it was fun to make and it was an honor to have it shared at NECC. it is stillavailable on the ISTEvision Contest & Events channel.
I am going to try to get to Denver, and if I do I promise to begin The Hunt again!