I attended my second Calgary FlickrMeet last night. A bunch of Calgary Flickr members met downtown to hang out, shoot some photos and talk about stuff. Picture a bunch of photo geeks walking around taking a bunch of photos of everything, from every angle :-)
It was fun to see many of my Flickr contacts in person - much like Northern Voice is great because it's a vivification of my blogroll, FlickrMeets are fun because they are Flickr in the flesh. The event itself was organized online through Flickr. It's a little ironic, but the main reason to go to the FlickrMeet isn't to take photographs, but to breathe life into the online Flickr community. While a fair amount of interaction occurs online, it is face-to-face events like this that make the community "real".
I believe this applies to online learning as well. A fully online experience lacks the "realness" that is added by face-to-face interaction. As an example, I am working through David Wiley's Intro to Open Education course at Utah State University. He's offering the course readings and exercises for folks to follow along online without even enrolling in the course. But in this case, it's a completely online and impersonal experience. I happen to know several of the participants, so I definitely feel some connection, but for someone who is enrolling in the course without bringing along their own network of friends and colleagues, it would be a very abstract and distant experience. I anticipate that the Open Education 2007 conference will act as a face-to-face contextualizing event for me - I'll finally get to meet David Wiley in person (after communicating with him online for about 7 years now), as well as a few other "classmates."
Back to the FlickrMeet - it was a great mixture of interests and skill levels. Every level of photographer, from professional (with high end gear), to amateur (with modest gear) to newcomer (learning to use their gear). It was great to learn from the pros, while helping out the newcomers with some of the tricky things like aperture settings (why does a higher aperture number mean LESS light gets in? etc...) The cool thing is that all egos were left at home, and it felt much like a social learning party. The way education should be.
I wound up shooting 240 photos, keeping only 37 of them. I shot with three lenses, starting with a 28-135mm f/3.5-5.6 IS, moving to a 17-35mm f/2.8 L, then to my 50mm f/1.8 prime as the light faded. Surprisingly, I had more fun with my nifty fifty, and liked the photos it took better than the much "better" and certainly more expensive lenses. Oh, and the new Canon 40D is NICE. Stupid progress. I still love my XT, though.