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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Unconferencing Conferences

unconf.jpgIn one of my conversations with Carl Ford, I was told that VON is now actively trying to create an "unconference" in their next shows. For those who know unconference, it is a pretty old concept, often used in hard-core geek gettogethers. The concept here is to set up an "ad-hoc" speaking environment, where a 'leader' stands up, talks about a topic and attendees interact. The interesting part about unconferencing is that there is no 'one-leader', like traditional speaking slots. You don't get to talk 1-way while your viewers listen, snore or just ignore. You are all peers. If you can defend your idea, so be it, or you may just be hissed (sort of like how the IETF meetings work).

The problem with un-conferences, however, is that without some moderation, it can go nuts with personal agendas, general confusion and so-forth. Furthermore, generally, for companies to fund you to travel, they want to gain some marketing mileage from it. Which is why most main-stream conferences avoid un-conferencing.

This is where is looks like VON is likely bridging best of both worlds. They have set up a wiki called "VONCamp" where you can suggest your own topics. But to keep some sanity, it is moderated, and limited to 12 or so slots. Futher, they also ensured that unconferencing does not conflict with any other panel, so people are encouraged to attend. In addition, they are also looking at being able to advertise the unconference topic leaders, just as they would be advertising conference speakers (I hope they carry this thought through to execution!)

So naturally, with all things "2.0 and social networking" I am in. I am likely going to talk about connecting Social Networks and IMS (a topic which I've done a lot of work on). I will also be speaking at a regular panel in VON amsterdam, so between the two I'll get a good idea of which works and is better!

So anyway, head on to VONCamp and support these folks!

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