ServiceNation: The mornings after

Sorry for the five-day delay here -- a little movement called ServiceNation interrupted mah flow. (And mah sleep patterns, and mah back alignment, and mah work schedule ...)

I live-Tweeted about 300 posts that day, conducted man-on-street interviews, took a ton of pictures and a smidge of video, and live blogged over at Social Citizens about what I was seeing (with more posts to come now that I've had time to reflect), all for work. So rather than rehash here, I'd like to report on what it was like to take part in service history from a social media perspective.

Realization #1: Twitter and I are now in a committed relationship. The ability to live Tweet the whole event was flame to a fuse I didn't know I had. I went hog-wild. Every good quote, every thought, every moment could be distilled into 140 characters. It challenged my writing skill to be pithy and meaningful; my reporting skills to be fast and accurate; and my listening skills to absorb every idea presented. And I loved every minute of it.

Plus, I picked up a slew of new followers, most of whom were connected to the nonprofit or social action space. That means I'm growing my audience in a meaningful way, and building a qualified online sounding board for ideas that the foundation wants to refine and test. Of course, that runs the risk of becoming an echo chamber, so I want to have a wide array of sector representation so ideas take root, not ricochet.

Realization #2: I'm a terrible reporter-slash-stalker. The celebrities were so thick at the event you could walk on them: Barack Obama, John McCain, Hillary Clinton (my personal fave), Usher, Alicia Keys (my other personal fave), Toby Maguire, Jon Bon Jovi, Caroline Kennedy, Laura Bush, Orrin Hatch, Chris Dodd, Melinda Doolittle, Mehmet Oz, Admiral Michael Mullen, Michael Bloomberg, Arnold Schwarzenegger (who was a stitch), and Judy Woodruff.

Then there were the quietly famous: Rick Stengel, editor-in-chief of TIME; Ann Moore, Chairman and CEO of TIME; Jean Case (my boss), Laurie Tisch, Alma Powell, Vartan Gregorian, Alan Khazei, Wendy Kopp, and other rock stars in the nonprofit/foundation sector.

And then there were the unsung heroes: Leon McClain, City Year alumnus, a Philly teen who survived two gunshot wounds to go on and commit himself to helping other youth change their lives; Bri O'Brien, Disaster Relief Volunteers; Walter Atwood, CCC alumnus; Antonio Ramirez, YouthBuild Alumnus; Armando Jimenez, Bank of America Young Leader, and more.

I didn't get an interview with any of them. I was too busy tweeting. Next time, I know better, and will hunt them all down. (P.S. You can watch videos of the Summit here. It's like being there, except not. I recommend Keys, Clinton, McClain, and the candidates' forum.)

Realization #3: It's too easy to drink the Kool-Aid. Everything was "service service service we're changing the world this is great let's all join hands it's up to us call on the youth we can make a difference change is gonna come support public sector jobs sing kumbayah service service service." I was feeling so patriotic I almost turned into a flag.

Good thing I sat next to a young Llibertarian blogger who went on at great length about how compulsory service was a violation of taxpayer rights, hurt the economy, and violated the very idea of volunteering. I didn't agree with all of his points, but I saw their value, and he brought me back to earth with much-needed counterpoints. Huzzah for balanced evaluation!

Realization #4: Bloggers really do live and love in their own little world. Talk about instant family. The press room for the candidates' forum on Thursday night was a social media love fest. I met the authors behind the blogs I read for work (like Britt Bravo), as well as a few new ones (shout out to CK's Blog!). The networking potential was huge. I feel much more prepared for the next big event to put myself out there more and swap info.

Realization #5: I never want to live in NYC. This realization has nothing to do with social media. I just want to vent about lugging my suitcase 15 blocks and up and down the escalator-less subway because I couldn't hail a cab in Times Square, of all places. And I felt dirty and sweaty and claustrophobic and overstimulated. It confirmed my decision to live in DC -- much more my scene.

Realization #6: There's a lot more work to be done. A LOT. I am at the mere tip of the iceberg when it comes to understanding and using social media. I need to read more, comment more, cross-reference more, ask questions more, experiment more ... on top of my other job responsibilities. ::experiences dizzying sense of leaning over a chasm::

And let me tell you, it was tough being a one-woman press team. I was spread too thin for an event of this size. So that means more help, more training, more efficiency with equally excited and energetic writers/reporters who can help shoulder the load. Which brings me to ...

Realization #7: Because with a little bit of luck and a lot of elbow grease, we can make this work. I'm sure of it.