Here is a recipe for what sounds like an awful way to learn: Gather hundreds of people together in a few large rooms; require them to balance coffee and muffins on their laps while they juggle a notepad and laptop; place seats as close together as possible; start early and go late.

What I’ve described, of course, is the modern-day professional conference. But despite its 19th-century methods—plus the laptop and that dreaded PowerPoint—I have to admit that it often works. I’ve walked into exactly that scenario grim-faced and skeptical. When I walk out, though, I’m often reconstituted with a new sense of purpose—or at least with a hint of a new path to try.

I had another one of those experiences last week. When I returned to Phoenix from the SPJ conference in Las Vegas, I came back with quite a few great ideas. Will they take root? Hmmm. Well, the roots would have to shoulder their way through the stacks of work that remain on my desk—but I’m optimistic.

To help keep my feet to the fire, I’ve bullet-pointed a few of the ideas I came across, or the comments that struck me. And so here are a few more of my thoughts that arose at last week’s annual convention. 

  • Richard Gingras, founder of Salon.com: For every Facebook “share,” you get 10x exposure. Facebook referrals are roughly 10x those of Twitter.
  • Richard Gingras again: Facebook adoption outpaces Twitter, it is more mainstream, and it allows longer status messages, which may make people feel more welcome (and less risky).
  • I think that I met the four people at the casino who were nonsmokers. One of the people, a man, sat hunched over a slot machine while holding a handkerchief over his mouth and nose. When I caught his eye and asked why he tolerated the smoke, he just stared at me like I asked about his cell structure. (Note to self: Mind your own damned business.) 
  • 80/20 rule: 80% adding value to the stream with your comments, thoughts, humor and intellectual capital; 20% providing and pushing your own content (some say 90%/10%).
  • Online, be conversational, add attitude.
  • Yesterday I whaled on AT&T for its iworkwheniwantto 3G network. And no, I’m not done: How can AT&T still be solvent? “3G” should be changed to “MayB.”
  • Can you hear me (getting frustrated) now?

    No one says “widget-structured” better than Salon.com CEO Richard Gingras. #ilovejargon

  • From Google expert: If you don’t find what you’re looking for in the top 10 searches, abandon that search and go to “Advanced Search.”
  • Google tool for cellphone (under Advanced Search): Speak a phrase into phone, it reads back the phrase translated into language of your choice (“Donde esta la embajada Americana?”)
  • Use Google.com/trends for funny interactions. Pre-holiday search for “vodka” is huge nationwide. Two days later, “hangover” is the trend leader.
  • Google Moderator: Can’t host a candidate debate yourself due to limited resources? Google may help you host an online debate.
  • Prezi.com is cool new presentation software whose quick cuts may cause nausea, but which makes PowerPoint look like your great-grandfather’s chalkboard.
  • CNN is looking to recruit All Platform Journalists for various U.S. cities. But if you have to ask CNN what they are looking for in that kind of journo, you probably are not what they’re looking for (take that, conference attendees).
  • What possessed Apple to make an exclusive partnership with AT&T? I have two tin cans and a string, and I’m thinking of bidding for the gig.
  • Get to know Final Cut Pro.

For those who have slogged through a few days of these observations, I’m looking for a few great videos that were shown at the convention. Let’s aim for tomorrow.