Kevin Ruppenthal Talks TechCon 2012

By Joy Loving and Jennifer Carter, PBS Interactive

We recently sat down with Kevin Ruppenthal, who works with PBS Technology & Operations in the Technology Strategy department, to talk about his experience at this year’s PBS Technology Conference (TechCon). The conference took place April 11-13th in Las Vegas, NV. Kevin helped facilitate areas of the event and gave an in-depth look at the role of stations at this year’s conference, and topics that are of most interest to stations.

Was there an overall message or theme associated with this year's TechCon?
The theme we were going for this year was connecting stations to other stations. 
Certainly we have email, we have Connect – we have the tools—[but] sometimes it’s just a matter of saying to someone, “Look, I’ve got this problem… have any of you faced this?” One of the ways we addressed this was with a Birds of a Feather Networking Lunch, where people could sign up to discuss topics important to them that maybe weren’t covered by an entire session. One topic that I helped out with was a table for first-timers to sit at, and the topic was: “It’s my first time at TechCon, what do I need to know?”

How was this year's TechCon different from years past?
Something we’re really proud of is that 40% of our speakers this year were from member stations. We’re starting to get them involved in the call for papers and getting them thinking about presenting and communicating what they’re doing with their fellow stations.  I’ve been involved with this conference since 2004, and this year’s roster had the most speakers from stations we’ve ever had. The rest are naturally going to be from PBS staff, as well as some experts from the industry.

What were some of the main topics up for discussion during the sessions? Anything station related?
While the conference was going on, the NEA story broke about the drop in their funding of PBS programs. Funding is always a concern for stations, especially in terms of technology and upcoming refreshes that they may need to do. Sessions about doing things such as live and/or automated production on a budget were very popular, and early feedback indicates more sessions along these lines would be desirable. 

Any thoughts for next year’s TechCon?
I’d like to see even more station speakers than the 41% we had this year; that sharing of solutions is a trend we want to continue. Between the feedback forms onsite and the post-conference survey, we have a ton of input to sift through, and that’ll guide us as we begin planning TechCon for 2013, which is already underway. The Call for Papers will open around Labor Day of this year.

Did you attend TechCon this year? What was your experience like? Please leave comments below - we'd love to hear your thoughts!

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