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Did Facebook kill Conferences?

In a recent post by Dr. Richard Beck on his blog Experimental Theology, tackles the question on why churches are experiencing an exodus of their young people.  To this end, Dr. Beck’s position is that mobile social computing trends appear to have a direct correlation with the decrease in church membership.  To this end, Dr. Beck argues the idea that prior to mobile social computing church goers found social outlets as part of their church experience.  With the advent of mobile social computing, there is no need to go to church for this social outlet.

While reading this post, I began to wonder if this same perspective could be applied to technical conferences?  I recognize that many folks within technology operations are feeling the pinch of the economy, but I wonder if tight budgets is only part of the equation.  I for one, have squirreled away funds so that I can continue sending my team to training and conferences.  I know that my organization continues to sees value and return in having it’s technology staff continue to receive training and exposure to the new wares, procedures, and philosophies for supporting enterprise technology initiatives.  I’m also personally aware that training classes and technology conferences are different then they were just 10 years ago.

I fondly remember the first off-site technology training course I attended back in 1997.  The course was on the Installation and Maintenance of Nortel’s Meridian One PBX system and it was delivered by Williams Communications at their Houston corporate location.  The attendees were a mix of Williams field technicians from across the country and a handful of customers like myself.  While we soaked in the training content, there was also an element of “war stories” that we each shared related to supporting this particular product.  These “war stories” added so much to the training experience and the connections made during this week enhanced the value of the training.  Even the first technology conference I attended a couple years later looks and feels drastically different than the ones I frequent today.  The stories offered are fewer, the business cards collected are fewer, and the overall context seems to be more consumption rather than delivery.

Maybe the social aspects of training have decreased because of outlets like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter (social media).  Rather than expense a visit to a conference, we can now Google our problem to find a suitable answer.  User group forums and events seem to be less attended than in years past, and I will confuse I am somewhat nostalgic for those “war stories”.  Whether mobile social computing has killed, lamed, or had not affect, I thought it was an interesting perspective with implications much broader than church.

Categories: social media
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