Out of the basement and into the spotlight: Ottawa’s online communities do a good job of getting offline too

Joe Boughner (web | twitter) is an Ottawa-based blogger and web consultant who has been known to attend a networking event or two in his day. When he’s not swimming mindlessly in the social media fishbowl, he can be found hanging out with his 11-month old daughter and his brilliant wife who, he admits, is way better at all of this social media stuff than he is.

Far from fulfilling the stereotype of lonely bloggers living in their mothers’ basements, Ottawa’s online community has proven quite adept at getting together in the terrestrial realm. For those who like the social aspect of social media, there is no shortage of events around the city where you can put faces to names and voices to avatars.

Among the longest running are two local takes on well-known event series: Social Media Breakfast (web | hashtag) and Third Tuesday (web | hashtag) (disclaimer: your correspondent spoke on a panel at Third Tuesday in March 2009). Both draw crowds of about 100 and both mostly focus on bringing big names from the social media / digital outreach world to the nation’s capital.

Pro tip for newbies: names notwithstanding, there’s no breakfast at Social Media Breakfast (coffee and pastries are served though) and Third Tuesday is rarely on a Tuesday. Don’t ask. Both events charge $10.

For a more local flavour, check out Case Study Jam (web | twitter | hashtag) (disclaimer: your humble scribe is founder and co-organizer). This event features short presentations from Ottawans trying (with various levels of success) to incorporate social media in their work, followed by small group jam sessions where presenters and attendees bounce ideas off of each other. It’s free to attend but you have to register and it’s a much smaller space than SMB or TTO.

In a similar vein, Social Media Book Club (web | twitter), Girl Geek Dinner (web | hashtag) and GenY Ottawa (Facebook | hashtag) offer regular opportunities to share and network with like-minded folks from their respective niches. Having never attended these events (yet), it would be inappropriate to comment on them in too great a detail but the organizers are passionate and the attendees always seem to come away energized.

For those who prefer a deeper dive, Ottawa is quickly assembling a roster of larger-scale unconference type events too. The city has played host to two ChangeCamps (for those who want to reimagine citizenship in the age of participation), Podcasters Across Borders and PodCamp (for content creators) and is about to host the homegrown CreatorCamp. These events allow participants to set the agenda by pitching sessions, thereby creating truly unique opportunities to learn and network with some of Ottawa’s best and brightest.

And if the idea of sitting around talking about social media with other social media people kind of turns your stomach, there are plenty of other opportunities to bring your online networks offline to talk about and do entirely different things. You can find incomplete but impressively-diverse lists at meetup.com or on eventbrite.com, or you can check out the listings on local blogs like Kids in the Capital (for family-friendly meetups and playdates), Ottawa Tonite (for arts and entertainment events) or Apartment613 (for damn near everything).

Do you want to share your favourite local events in Ottawa? Send us a note!

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