Benjamin and Sam

Benjamin Ellis and Sam Michel – Photo (cc) Janet Davis

Two CEOs, three days, 8 hours of train journey and one Thinking Digital 2010. Talking technology, ideas and the future in Newcastle. I’ve been wanting to go to Thinking Digital for a number of years, and this year I finally made it, joining long-time Thinking Digital attendee Sam Michel (CEO of Chinwag, who were also one of the conference Media Partners).

It’s rare to find a conference these days that really pushes at the envelope of what’s happening, pulling together the leading thinkers in a stimulating environment and given fresh food for though. In the age of blog posts, on-line videos and Twitter, new ideas spread rapidly, and all too often one ends up hearing what one has already heard before, but #TDC10 did manage to produce some genuinely unique thoughts and experiences.

Not only was it a chance to catch up with folks like Documentally and the familiar faces of the Newcastle digital collective, but also an opportunity to meet and talk with people like Brian Solis (who took a very nice portrait shot) and many others that I have only previously encountered on-line. There are too many people to name in one go, but let me point you to at least two speakers, by way of their previous talks at TED :- Surrey local Julian Treasure (of the Sound Agency), and Andy Hobsbawn (and the inspirational dothegreenthing)

I caught organiser Herb Kim, to have him explain what Thinking Digital is about, via Qik, at the bustling after party (excuse the wind noise and music!)

“…What we try to do is bring in a lots of extra stuff… …from the arts and sciences and make it different… …it produces an experience where it opens people’s minds not just to new ideas, but to new people…” Herb Kim.

The next event is the 24th-26th May 2011, and booking is already open (this year sold out well beforehand). The venue, the Sage Centre, provided an excellent photographic backdrop, and people have had fun tagging and adding notes to the pictures – if you were there you might be in this one.

Thinking Digital was a great example of the journey that conferences are now on, moving from didactic broadcast, to digitally-enabled, network-building events. While you can watch a live stream, you miss much of the benefit of the event unless you are physically there. It might be about the on-line world, but the valuable action happens off-line, in the corridors, the dinners and the lunches. We’re face-to-face people, on-line tools simply provide a way to enable, bridge and extend our real-world experiences.