With Digital Signage Expo 2011 a couple of weeks in the rearview mirror and most of the required follow up now complete it seems like a good time to exhale. The problem is that I have issues.

Writer’s block: pathetic.

A falling Klout score, and a faster-falling desire to track it: apathetic.

So many interesting topics to cover, many that I can’t write about for one reason or another: frustrating.

A growing need to write something, anything, to break the block: daunting.

A new low-carb diet that leaves me craving bread, pizza and ice cream: difficult.

So I’ll clear out some threads and see if that helps.  Thanks for bearing with me.

I was amazed by the sense of community at the recently completed Digital Signage Expo. I missed the DSF Golf Tourney on Monday, so the event kicked off for me and many others at the now institutional Preset Mixer Tuesday evening. Dave Haynes, his able partners and their sponsors are to be commended for creating a venue for real networking, community and relaxed fun. Quite a bit got done that night, and from people that I have talked to since, there was more to be done. There was a sense of camaraderie as people settled into the event. It wasn’t a night to be competitive. It was a night to be part of something and to bask for a few moments in how much we have grown up together in the past few years. Yes, there is a great deal more to accomplish as a community, but there are enough people who genuinely care about the industry as a whole that I am confident that we’ll get there. We’ll look different, but we’ll get there.

The irrepressible Phil Cohen was working the exhibit hall like a bearded Larry King. Followed by a camera crew, Phil spoke with a whole lot of people from all walks of digital signage life, creating a backlog of CohenOnContent pieces. Phil’s work has allowed many people in the DOOH business to meet the other people in the business, hear their thoughts and feel their pain and passion. He’s created a community resource, and he has fun doing it. It just makes sense that people who a living directly or indirectly from dynamic, rich media ought to express themselves beyond the written word. I’ll eventually get around to doing a “Kenny On Caffeine” parody, but it will be a homage to Phil. He has enhanced the community and literally opened a new channel.

The educational content at the show was immense, perhaps too much so.  I moderated a session on Wednesday morning on standards with a terrific panel. I thought it went really well, and I personally learned quite a bit. Unfortunately, only about 16 people were in the audience. Perhaps we were victims of nine concurrent sessions, and had the driest session description. Richard Lebovitz of DSE posited that “thought leadership” can’t compete effectively for eyes and ears with tactical session topics. Maybe he is right, but I am more convinced than ever after sharing the podium with folks representing DPAA, OVAB Europe and POPAI that the need to embrace standards has never been more urgent and the opportunity for organizations to work together to accelerate the process has never been clearer. It is really, really hard to get volunteer committees to work cohesively. Everyone has a day job. But the advancement of this industry requires not only the committees get their work done, but that they get it done together. Until we make agencies, investors and consumers comfortable with how we define ourselves and how we do business, we are going to be a bunch of garage bands hoping for a hit single. That’s no way to build an industry. So volunteer, push for cooperation, demand attention to standards from yourself, your vendors and your partners.

A final post-DSE thought. I continue to be amazed by the level of engagement and energy of the Digital Signage Federation Board members. These are a diverse group of high level people who for the most part don’t just show up: they work. New Chair Bob Stowe of Wendy’s has picked up where the past Chair Rich Cooley left off, with the same level of intensity, energy and optimism. The DSF booth at the show was a sight to behold and reflected a level of collaboration between members that was extremely effective. Particular kudos go to Alan Brawn of Brawn Consulting, Kim Sarubbi of Saddle Ranch Productions, Pierre Richer of NEC, and Executive Director Brian Gorg. Well done, everyone.

Now it is back to the salt mines. Hopefully the writer’s block is dealt with, even if I don’t get any ice cream out of the deal.