Why a Tech Conference Might Just Be The Best Place To Fail!

by | November 8, 2017 | 4 comments

Well I could call up any number of literary quips at this point in my day.

“All the world’s a stage—even when you fall off”.

“The best laid plans of mice and men—all look good before you press send!”

“If at first you don’t succeed—reboot and start again.”

Any one of these might act as a little bit of consolation as I unpack the equipment from today’s attempt to broadcast live version of This Week in Ontario Edublogs live from the #MindsOnMedia event at BIT17 in Niagara Falls.

The stage that Rob Scott had set for us when we arrived was great. The plan that Doug Peterson had worked out for the broadcast was brilliant. And the technology in which I had invested worked beautifully—before I left the house. In fact, it worked beautifully when I took voicEd Radio MOBILE for a test run at Monday’s Mindshare Learning #CDNEdTech17 Summit at Mars Discovery District on Monday.

Doug had gathered 5 regular Ontario Edubloggers in the room for the broadcast. The plan was to bring each of them onstage during our live hour and, for the first time in TWIOE history actually hear their voices, their thinking and their passion for their work.

But when I went to hit the “ON AIR” button, I realized that no sound was coming through the broadcast software. I fussed and I fiddled, I rebooted, reinstalled and rebooted again. As Peter Skillen tried to hold the fort, I did everything I could to figure out why all of the equipment seemed to be working, but wasn’t.

I was more than a little embarrassed. After all, when you’re trying to build confidence and energy around something as a 24/7 Radio station dedicated to education, you want everything to be perfect all of the time. But I put on a brave face and we went on as if nothing were wrong. As Doug observed later, in the 33 weeks that we’ve been doing this show from the comfort of our own homes, this was probably the best. And I think he was right. The only problem is, we don’t have any evidence of that. Without a broadcast, there is no archive. Without an archive, there is no evidence. And without evidence, today was just a moment in time, only appreciated by those who were in the room.

After our “show” ended, I spent the next hour trying to figure out why things didn’t work. All of the indicator lights on my Rolland Rubix 24 USB Interface were lighting as they should. All of the connections were secure. The broadcast software was newly installed.

And what’s more, my Microsoft Windows 10 software had just been automatically updated when I arrived on site at 7:00 that morning! (Foreshadowing for ardent Windows users)

After an hour of trying to get to the bottom of things, and acting on a little bit of a whim, I went on to the Rolland site to download the latest drivers. I installed the most recent update and tried again. Slam! Everything was back up and running. Sound was passing from my interface to my software and out onto the airwaves. I wanted to call everyone back and redo the whole show, but that wasn’t going to happen.

We talk about embracing failure, building resilience and honouring perseverance. Today’s experience might just allow me to do all three.

Here’s what I’ve learned from my #MindsOnMedia experience:

  1. There is something special about meeting people face-to-face. After 33 weeks of talking with Doug Peterson over the voicEd Radio airwaves, it was great to finally meet him in person. Since 2009, I’ve followed over 3500 people on Twitter. I would consider Doug a friend among the “followed”. Always seek personal connection.
  2. Declaring, “Well, it worked at home.” doesn’t cut it. Test everything on site. And then test it again. And, just before the curtain rises, test it again!
  3. Turn off Auto Updates on Windows 10. Thanks Rob Scott for that piece of advice.
  4. As soon as something doesn’t work, immediately look for an opportunity to try it again somewhere else. (Luckily, I get to take voicEd Radio on the road this weekend at the researchEd Toronto conference at Trinity College.
  5. The best place to encounter a technical failure is at a tech conference. Practically everyone in that room today will have an epic fail story to tell. The fact that they were in that room is encouraging!

Thanks to all who participated in today’s not-a-broadcast. Let’s try this again real soon! Thanks to Aviva Dunsiger, Eva Thompson, Cal Armstrong, Ramona Meharg and Jim Cash.

Doug and I will be back live on voicEd Radio next Wednesday at 9:15 AM!


  1. Aviva

    So glad to be a part of this process, even if it was an “epic fail” moment in your books. For me, it was a big success. It was amazing to see the radio show that I love to listen to each week (usually in a recording, as it’s hard to tune in live), and to be a part of the conversation. This was a great reminder for me of how powerful discussions can be. Always a pleasure to connect with you and Doug, and an even bigger pleasure to connect with you two together. Thanks for a great show — recorded or not!


    • Aaron Puley

      Well said, Aviva. Connecting the digital connections to the physical adds reality and personality to the mix. Our students often get stuck on the digital communications and never engage in the physical in a meangful way. This is important for us as well.

  2. Aaron Puley

    I thoroughly appreciate your thinking here and have experienced exactly what you mention during the numerous times I have presented as well. I believe it’s ok to embrace that and to model that we are all reflective learners. We may be an expert on anything and on any given day it, and by proxy we, may fail – and that’s ok. I actually just retweeted a tweet of a school sign that said something along the lines of “if you’re not failing, you’re not trying” (or something along that lines). Very true. One thing I must stress, however, and this message is for all of our colleagues and peers that present with digital tools and other various forms of technology….never say something like “technology is great….when it works” or any other negative comment such as that. I’m not saying you did, Stephen, just as a blanket public service message. If there is anyone in the audience on the fence then a comment such as that will solidify their thinking. Always be positive like Stephen has here when he says, “Luckily, I get to take voicEd Radio on the road this weekend at the researchEd Toronto conference at Trinity College.” I love that – a growth mindset!! Thanks for sharing!!

  3. Ramona Meharg

    I had a great time talking with you this morning, actually meeting Doug and Yourself, and seeing some of my fellow Edubloggers in the hot seat…and meeting them in person! The only failure was in the ability to share the experience. TWIOE is still my favourite VoiceEdRadio program! I promise to keep you #1 in my baking listening…although Noa’s Show is pretty good too… bah ha ha!


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