March is always a big week for conferences. The past four weeks alone have offered TED, ETech/GSP, SXSW, eComm and VON not to mention numerous smaller events. Amidst all this plenty, several people have asked me what I found attractive about VON. VON was started ten years ago around the almost subversive notion of sending voice over the internet instead of the telco monopolies. As that goal was achieved, the conference became a large trade show with multiple tracks and a large exhibit floor, and it became harder to find the good parts, but they were still there. The analogy I use os that VON used to be like Paris (well, ok, maybe Toulouse) where you could wander in any direction and find interesting architecture and an excellent meal. Now it's more like L.A. where there is lots of good stuff but you had better have a destination in mind before you get into your car.
Some of my favorite "gems" from VON this year were VON Camp - an "un-conference" in an obscure corner of the convention center which seemed to attract all the people I had come to VON to hang out with and the session on Real-Time Social Communications, which included Loic LeMeur, Robert Scoble, Ramu Sunkara and other luminaries from the social media world.
As the rumors swirl that Pulvermedia and the VON conference it operates may be going out of business one hopes that these gems will live on in some new form.