What Gnomedex teaches the conference world

This afternoon Gnomedex 8 finished for another year and over 300 people departed company. As a notion for a conference, Gnomedex is a little different. Wikipedia claims that the conference is “a technology conference tailored to the computer enthusiast” and yet from what I’ve seen, it’s an odd label, because strictly speaking it is nothing of the sort.

There is a common thread in the most part around technology, but the speakers list this year was more eclectic again. From lolcats through to the Mars Rover, with virtual rendering to the most amazing and inspiring tales of making the world a better place, Gnomedex had it all. Despite the variety, or perhaps because of it, Gnomedex worked, and people have walked away not having attended a conference, but having experienced something unique, so unique that it may have opened their minds and inspired them to greater things. One person I spoke to tonight said that the only thing that comes close is TED, which has a 2 year waiting list and starts at $9,000 a head.

In a sea of sameness, in the echo chamber of the tech community, Gnomedex teaches the world that there is a common thread of humanity and interest that binds us all. It teaches the conference world that the same old speakers and the same old topics may sell seats, but it never delivers a remarkable experience. Chris + Ponzi Pirillo, and the whole team (and a big hi to Kat) dared to be different, dared to challenge the audience instead of pander to the accepted norm, and it paid off in spades.

I wrote on my personal blog yesterday that perhaps I was drinking the kool aid, and maybe I still am, but if I ever see another enriching line up, combined with a great group of people attending I’ll be a very lucky man. It worked, and it worked better than good. As I told Beth Kanter tonight, my only challenge now is whether I can now find my path to make this world a better place.

PS: if anyone is interested in organizing an Ignite in Melbourne, drop me a line.

See also our coverage: Scott Maxwell, Boxee, Sarah Lacy + the day one Gnomedex wrap.