Most likely because I’m heading to Boston this weekend for PodCamp Boston (5!) – and PodCamp Philly the weekend after – but I’m finding myself caught up in daydreaming memories of old friends.  Not old friends as in “I don’t talk to them any longer” but old friends that have stayed in the circle and grown limbs and branches and roots.  My life took a hockey stick turn upward in 2004 when I ‘found’ podcasting, and over six years later that community still inspires me even if we have grown and spread out.

Any amount of digging online will show that I’ve been involved in online ‘new media’ communities in full force since 1996 – even farther back if you count crazy dial up modem BBS, IRQ channels, and Lord help me – Prodigy and CompuServe groups.  Podcasting – even above blogging – holds a sweet spot in my heart as (even if I don’t normally like to admit it) I was an integral part in its formation.  I vividly remember a time where podcasting and new media and ‘radio on the Internet’ was not just unknown, but really rebellious.  We felt like pirate radio broadcasters, and when we found another podcaster or ‘podsafe musician’ we brought them into the fold and promoted the hell out of them.  It was our secret society.  We created our own celebrities.  Above all else, we looked out for each other, helped each other and learned from each other.  We were our own fans and our own support system.  Geeks were just coming into fashion and we relished the idea of becoming bigger and greater than anything that had come before.

We succeeded.  Maybe too much.

I often wonder if our cozy little podcasting community had grown too large, too diluted, too mainstream, too commercial – but then when I took a closer look, we are the roots of a very strong tree that branches out over Twitter, Facebook and all the other spots online we adopted early and lead into the mainstream.  Some are top of the food chain in their industry, some are reinventing themselves again.  Some – like MySpace and Second Life – have culled down to very unique communities, but they still thrive as a part of us and separate from us.

In no particular order, I wanted to take a look back at some important ‘podcasting’ people in my life over the years.  Even though some of us may not chat much anymore – hey, most of them are big shit famous in the fishbowl – they still inspire me and every time I look back at where ‘we’ were six years ago it makes me *proud* for them.  If you know these folks, you know how amazing they are now – but I want you to know how amazing they have always been.  If you don’t know them – yet – you need to.  In no particular order these people inspire me every single day.  I would not be where I am in my life today without them.

  • Brad P – Brad and I met at the very first New Jersey Podcasters Association meetup.  Before Twitter, Facebook or  Brad is about as real and genuine as you can get.  He’s got an amazing outlook on life, the planet, and his family and while he’s completely unique – there should be many more of him.  Even his oldest daughter is cool!  I consider Brad a podcasting purest, staying true to his voice and message and I sort of use his shows as a touchstone to get inspired.
  • Chris Cavs – Chris started the New Jersey Podcasters Association in 2005 – talk about early community management!  I remember trying to meet at Panera’s with several sets of podcasting rigs getting weird looks from the employees and other customers (now I see people on Skype there all the time).  We’ve all faded out of the area (or podcasting) but the friendships Chris helped foster are still alive.  He’s up in Maine now being mountain man, much better suited to his rugged outdoor type than traffic-laden New Jersey.  He always reminds me of what passion for something is supposed to look like.
  • Steve Lubetkin – I get to see Steve in person every few months still because he only lives an hour south of me.  We met in the New Jersey Podcasters Association and he was the smartest one of all of us. Steve has ‘real’ radio background and never looked at the rest of us as nuts with our junky (at the time) microphones and thought less of us.  He’s a great technical and business help and always knows what the hot things are to be paying attention to.
  • The Diva – Kera and I go back to Second Life and podcasting.  The story she tells me is that she found me listed as a member of the New Jersey Podcasters Association and was excited to see a woman there (I was the only one).  From there she saw I was into Second Life and joined so she could come and ‘meet’ me.  She was also the first all-female podcast show I had ever heard!  At this point we will fade to black because she and I were very mischievous and had the time of our lives inside a virtual computer generated world – mostly shopping!  Over the years we’ve had each others back at conferences and parties, and is one of the really ‘girly-girl’ friends I have!
  • Chel Pixie – Some of my first memories of Chel were in Second Life going to see a certain musical bird (Matthew Ebel). I think it may have been one (if not *the*) first time she heard Matthew’s music before.  Over the years I’ve seen her grow from being in flux to a driven, multitasking, multitalented business woman.  Today she is an amazing friend and idol for my 9 year old daughter who loves her more than anything.  Chel also wrangles Podcamp Boston & there isn’t a day that goes by that I’m not completely blessed for her friendship.
  • Whitney Hoffman – Whitney and I knew each other because we were some of the first podcasters on the block – let alone female.  I distinctly remember meeting Whitney for the first time in person at Podcamp NYC at a Women in Podcasting talk I did.  She came to hear me babble and make the entire audience cry (I was a few months pregnant and off my rocker hormonal, so I figured the whole flipping’ audience should join in with me.)  She also ran PodCamp Philly for the last three years until the rest of us kicked her out (!) so she could concentrate on her soon-to-be bestseller book she’s writing.  Honest to God if she needed a kidney I’d give her one.  When I come across people that don’t understand how you could meet someone ‘online’ and become such good friends, they haven’t met Whitney yet.  Bonus – both my kids think her boys are the the coolest creatures that ever walked upright.
  • C.C. Chapman – An early podcasting idol of mine, his first podcast was the very first one I had ever downloaded.  On his show I heard Matthew Ebel’s music for the first time.  To say that both of those events changed my life is an understatement.  I remember meeting C.C. for the first time in person at Podcast & Portable Media Expo in 2006 in the Podshow hospitality suite.  For those of you that don’t know, that was really big shittin’ deal back in the day.  Podshow story aside, I was scared to *death* to approach C.C.  I don’t normally get weird when meeting famous people (and he’s never ever consider himself that), but he was his typical amazing self and let me geek out and ask for a picture.  In later years we wound up working together for a bit – it makes me think of two twisters hellbent and driven crossing paths from time to time.  I see him follow his passions and path and admire him for that.  Right now he’s bringing a voice to fathers in the digital social space, and as a mom and friend nothing could make me prouder.
  • Matthew Ebel – Hearing Matt’s music for the first time was like *hearing* music for the first time for me.  Having broken away from commercial radio, the concept that an artist could control their own talent, music, and direction was awe inspiring for me (especially since I had worked at a record label as a technical project manager).  I remember courting Matt in Second Life and trying to get him to play a live set just so I could hear him play live.  Thankfully I’ve seen him play live in person a few times and over the past few years or so I’m glad to call him a friend.
  • Christopher S. Penn – Crazy.  My first memory of Chris was in Second Life – as a ninja of course.  He’d pop in for music or business functions and just be so witty and brilliant.  Oh, and FAST.  Meeting him in person at PodCamp NYC I realized there is in fact a human being that drinks more coffee than I do.  Powered on hard all the time, Chris is driven and focused, and I’m actually very jealous of that.  Something else that I discovered – but not many people probably take the time to think about – is that he is fiercely dedicated to his family and that above all else inspires me.
  • Chris Brogan – What impresses me about CB is not what he’s doing now, or even planning in the near future.  It’s where he came from and how he got here.  Chris sort of reminds me of Harry Potter, destined to be the ‘chosen one’ but succeeded on that path because of heart, talent, a little luck and friends that love him.  He and I go back pre-PodCamp, or at least right before the very first PodCamp five years ago.  I actually hesitate bringing Chris up because he is so *on fire* and everyone wants a piece of him.  That’s why I’m more than happy to let him *be* now.  He has a different path to take now from where he started, we all do.  I think friends, close or casual, are still true friends as long as they each know that when there’s a need, they each step up.  I admire the steps he’s taken, the path he’s on now, and the fact that he pours his heart and brain out for complete strangers.
  • J.C. Hutchins – Another Second Life and podcasting encounter.  Not with J.C. at first, but with a fan-built structure in the 3D world that represented a location in his book series 7th Son.  I was completely blown away at the amount of loyalty that his fans had, and that they would create an entire virtual world around a book series.  Fans would host a version of a book club – hosted in a virtual world about a podcast novel!  After all, he was ‘one of us’ – a podcaster – and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.  Like what I imagine the first rush of a drug in your veins feels like, I was hooked.  J.C. was the very best story of meeting in person I think I’ll ever have.  C.C. and I were hanging out at an after-conference party at the Roger Smith Hotel in NYC, both of us in the lobby trying not to be rude to each other – but clearly more interested in whomever was about to walk in the front door.  We were both waiting for J.C.  I don’t think I’ll ever be that weak in the knees again over meeting someone I admire so much.  #GeekCrush is putting it mildly…

For the sake of using this as a journal and fully exercising my right to put whatever comes to mind on my blog, I think I’m going to start writing about other friends I’ve made along my way.  Now that I’m involved so heavily in PodCamp and Social Media Club my life has gotten even bigger and more full of friends.  Who’s inspired you and helped make you who you are today?