What is an unconference?

The idea for an unconference came while sitting in the audience of a panel discussion at a conference, waiting for someone to say something intelligent, or not self-serving, or not mind-numbingly boring. The idea came while listening to someone drone endlessly through PowerPoint slides, nodding off, or (in later years) checking email, or posting something to my blog, wondering if it had to be so mind-numbingly boring.

A fundamental law?

This observation may turn out to be the Fundamental Law of Conventional Conferences.

The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage.

It’s probably much worse than that. My guess is that if you swapped the people on stage with an equal number chosen at random from the audience, the new panelists would effectively be smarter, because they didn’t have the time to get nervous, to prepare PowerPoint slides, to make lists of things they must remember to say, or have overly grandiose ideas about how much recognition they are getting. In other words, putting someone on stage and telling them they’re boss probably makes them dumber. In any case it surely makes them more boring.

Turning things around

So then, how do you turn things around so that we can harness the expertise we just discovered and get a discussion moving efficiently and spontaneously without forcing the interesting conversations into the hallway. I wanted to see if there was a way to get the hallway ideas to come back into the meeting room. It turns out there was.

First, you take the people who used to be the audience and give them a promotion. They’re now participants. Their job is to participate, not just to listen and at the end to ask questions. Then you ask everyone who was on stage to take a seat in what used to be the audience. Okay, now you have a room full of people, what exactly are they supposed to do? Choose a reporter, someone who knows something about the topic of discussion (yes, there is a topic, it’s not free-form) and knows how to ask questions and knit a story together.

Real reporters are often the best discussion leaders. Put your DL at the front of the room, with a mike in hand. A couple of people roam the room with handheld wireless mikes to put in the face of the people who are speaking. No one lines up for a mike. Think Donahue or Oprah. The DL’s job is is to craft a story from the expertise in the room. Everyone is a source, about to be interviewed by someone who’s listening. The DL may actually call on people, so no one should get the idea that they can fall asleep or daydream. Pay attention, you might be the next speaker!

Highly structured

The discussion leader has been given guidelines in advance. Don’t let people repeat themselves, if a point has been made, move the discussion forward, quickly. No self-serving statements, you’re not allowed to give a commercial for your product, like so many speakers do at conferences. If someone starts to, quickly, the discussion leader cuts them off. You must speak to the people in the room, if you start saying things we don’t understand, thank you, smile, now let’s move on. The discussion leader’s responsibility is to the story and to the room, like the good reporter that he or she is.

I’ve heard it said that there is no advance prep for an unconference, not in my humble opinion, there’s lots to prepare for. The idea is to fully explore a topic from all angles. Every person in the room is responsible, in an ideal unconference, for understanding what’s been said before on the topic at hand, much as a panelist at an old-style conference would be, if they took their job seriously. I always spent a couple of hours, at least, on the phone with each discussion leader before the unconference.

One of the best discussion leaders I’ve ever worked with, Jeff Jarvis (an ex-reporter), started by assembling a panel in front of the room. This was at the first BloggerCon at Harvard in 2003. I walked into the room and said Time Out, and told the panelists to take their seats in the otherwise packed classroom. I saw Jarvis’s eyes light up — he “got it” right then and there. No crutches. No droning. We’re all equals in this room. No one’s ideas are presumed to be better

There’s no turning back

Once you’re in you’re spoiled. I’ve heard it said many times, by people who had a real unconference experience, that they can never sit in a dark room, with their hands folded, waiting for the Q&A period, listening to a PowerPoint presenter drone on and on, while the heads bob up and down and a dull roar of enthusiastic discussion can be heard in the distance, in the hallway.

I’m sure there are other structures that work, basically any way of organizing a discussion that involves the minds and expertise of all the people in the room will work. We’ve drifted far from the ideal, so it’s very easy to improve on the normal conference experience. Yet this year, most of us will go to conferences that make minimal use of the experience of the people who participate. It’s a shame, a big revolution is possible here, one as big as the changes that have been brought about by blogging and podcasting. It turns out the exact same principles can be applied to face-to-face conferences, with outstanding results.

98 responses to this post.

  1. [...] Dave Winer answers the question. [...]

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  2. Right on – here here – now what? Who does what – when?

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  3. [...] Personal Squash… Dave Winer talks about “unconferences“. This is the direction we’re going with out September MediaConnect Forum. I’ve had it with lecturing. We’re big boys and girls, now, surely lectures are best left to the classroom… [...]

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  4. Great post Dave. I work in the association industry which puts on the majority of conferences in the US, so this is particularly interesting to me. Two questions: How do you get the audience to become participants? I would guess you’re certain to confuse a few people who have never experienced an unconference. Which leads me to my second question: People have different learning styles — is the unconference for everyone?

    A friend and I are doing an “unsession” at an upcoming conference as a way to perhaps ease our professional colleagues into this concept.

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  5. This idea is grounded in learning theory. Moodle, the open source learning management system is based on social constructionist pedagogy

    http://moodle.org/doc/?file=philosophy.html

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  6. [...] Dave Winer explains What is an unconference? Here’s the pithy quote: My guess is that if you swapped the people on stage with an equal number chosen at random from the audience, the new panelists would effectively be smarter, because they didn’t have the time to get nervous, to prepare PowerPoint slides, to make lists of things they must remember to say, or have overly grandiose ideas about how much recognition they are getting. [...]

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  7. I had the pleasure of listening to Terry Gross from NPR at Apple Computer one day. She came and got up in front of the room and said, “I don’t have anything prepared, I’m just here to answer your questions.”

    After about 15 seconds of stunned silence someone asked her a question, and then another, and another. Pretty soon she was being interviewed by the audience, and it became completely interactive.

    It was one of the best examples of an unpresentation that I have ever witnessed, and I’ll never forget her style of doing it.

    Jim Armstrong

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  8. Perhaps BurningMan in some ways embodies the unconference – a 30,000 person unconference. One of their primary messages is that there are no spectators and that *everyone* is a participant. This sets the stage for everyone to actively contribute and is another factor in making this event so unique.

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  9. I’m trying to put together a discussion and debate club called the Rooster Club and the tag line is: “A salon of peers – not podiums.”

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  10. Embarassing story: The only time I was ever asked to moderate a panel, I let people introduce themselves. By the time everyone was done, we were out of time!

    The point is, those guidelines are gold. I had two conflicting sets of guidelines for the same panel, and not enough confidence, so I froze and let everyone prattle. But a good set of guidelines is invaluable.

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  11. [...] In thinking about that, I wonder if an untrack would be a good first step (this idea first came up when I was discussing unconferences with Ben Martin). An untrack would essentially be an add-on to an existing conference. The organizers would set aside at least two rooms that have defined time slots and a theme but no set agenda other than that. The conference would kick-off by having people collaboratively develop session topics and leading them as described by Dave Winer yesterday. [...]

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  12. [...] Good starting point to think about “What is an unblog?”, thanks Dave. [...]

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  13. Thanks for developing these ideas further, Dave. I think you’re exactly right on this–when you have a group of the leading minds in a field in one room, it’s a terrible waste to allow a small number of individuals squander it by regurgitating canned PowerPoint. Finding a moderation model that keeps the audience in the game is key.

    I’m wondering, though, if I’m not allowed to pitch my company when I’m on a panel, then who will pay for my attendance, plane fare, and hotel? Does that mean that the conference will only be attended by an elite leisure class?

    Does your model include some “schmooze time” for people to meet and introduce their companies to each other? This doesn’t scale well, in my experience, if you have a hundred participants. But otherwise you have a class division between ‘speakers’ and ‘attendees’. Just like you want to make session time equally valuable to everyone, how do you help make the schmooze time valuable for all attendees, not just the speakers, panelists, etc?

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  14. [...] Dave has given us more to think about with yesterday’s post, [What is an Unconference?](http://scripting.wordpress.com/2006/03/05/what-is-an-unconference/). [...]

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  15. [...] Unconference Guidance Dave Winer: What is an unconference? First, you take the people who used to be the audience and give them a promotion. They’re now participants. Their job is to participate, not just to listen and at the end to ask questions. Then you ask everyone who was on stage to take a seat in what used to be the audience. Okay, now you have a room full of people, what exactly are they supposed to do? Choose a reporter, someone who knows something about the topic of discussion (yes, there is a topic, it’s not free-form) and knows how to ask questions and knit a story together. [...]

    Reply

  16. [...] Dave Winer offers an alternative in an essay today, “The UnConference“. He proposes taking the preselected “panel of experts” off the stage, putting them into the audience, and replacing them with a randomly chosen group of audience members. No doubt the quality of content would improve at most conferences were they to follow this unusual proposal. [...]

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  17. [...] Dave Winer goes into greater depth about unconferences. [...]

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  18. Ok so I’m at an unconference and I have a question to ask.

    Presumably there are several people in the room who are going to be most suited to answer my particular question. How does the DL find these people? How important is it for the DL to know who is in the room? Oprah has a ear piece and a team of helpers giving her info, for the DL on his own it sure seems like a tough job.

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  19. I have been organizing and facilitating conferences that are structured like this for many years. People love them. I still haven’t decided what to call them – my working name is “peer centered conferences” but I’m not happy with it.

    My book “Conferences That Work: Creating Events That People Love” describes what I do [and why] and should be out next year. Feel free to contact me if you’d like more information.

    -Adrian-

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  20. Posted by Steve on March 7, 2006 at 4:42 am

    Ugh.
    I’ve been in these types of situations. And no, people don’t love them. The people you chose to ask afterwards may have loved them, but not everyone.
    Alot of corporate training is conducted this way. My own opinion of it is: if I am here for training, why should I be here at all? I can talk to the guy next to me in the hallway for free-why pay to listen to him here? A conversation with 6 panelists can be rambling; a conversation with 60 audience members is just that- a conversation. If 6 people talk just to show off, why would you think 60 will talk only when they have something wise to say? Why wouldn’t 60 talk just to show off? (the answer is, they do). If 6 people have spent the time to prepare comments, why would 60 without preparation somehow be a better learning experience? (ever been in a graduate seminar? the people who are prepared for the seminar are a lot more inciteful than the one’s that didn’t do the reading, aren’t they?)
    I’m always interested in people who believe in this philosophy towards teaching/conferences/etc. We’ve all been to college, many have been to graduate school. Years and years of adult education. I learned when the teacher was good-well organized, intelligent, etc. I’ve not learned when it was a chat session between ‘equals’. Though chat sessions between ‘equals’ is more fun.
    I suspect there may be a difference between people and people’s expectations based on their educational background. I’ve got degrees in both humanities and sciences (engineering). Since humanities have no right answers (Bush is an idiot! No he’s not! Bronte was brilliant! No she wasn’t!), a chat session is entirely appropriate (you’re not really learning anything concrete, anyway). Since science is all about right answers (this bridge will hold! No it won’t!), a chat session is entirely unappropriate. If you want to learn how to build a bridge, there’s a right way to do it.
    So, ‘chat session’ teaching/conferencing is probably more appreciated by the former humanities students-nobody is right, nobody is wrong, ‘I think we all learned something here.’ Its all about entertainment. But if you actually want to learn something, hire experts. And if that’s too boring, hire more entertaining experts.

    Steve

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  21. Potentially powerful process, especially in combination with techniques like having participants work together to create an “affinity diagram” or “interrelationship diagram” depicting what they have discussed.

    A skilled facilitator is key, however, at least until the participants become comfortable with the process, and will probably always be necessary to maintain order. Also, with present technology, participants must be physically co-located to create any coordinated output, which somewhat arbitrarily restricts participation unless they all 1) live near other anyway or 2) are able to travel.

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  22. That’s “live near EACH other anyway.” Insufficient caffeine.

    I can send a ~1 MB PDF “Quality Handbook” that explains the diagrams I mentioned (and numerous other facilitation techniques) to interested persons … my employer hands it out for free.

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  23. Perhaps unconferences would cost less to put on, since there might not be any speaker fees.

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  24. [...] Receiving $1.5 million “plus expenses” to speak for an hour, Donald Trump is going advise a crowd of wide-eyed would-be hopefuls on how to get rich. (Note: giving speeches for over a million is probably a great option, if you can get it)* [...]

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  25. Posted by Russ Mitchell on March 7, 2006 at 8:59 am

    I don’t see how the fundamental premise leads to the conclusion.

    This may be field-specific. Simply because the expertise of the audience is greater than the number of participants, does NOT meant that the audience’s expertise is *in the specialty* of the presenter. Certainly for what I do, this “unconference” idea basically is overblown: there’s already a word for that; it’s called “discussion.” Creating an “unconference” as the primary motivation puts the cart before the horse — you cannot meaningfully discuss research until you’ve actually had a chance to **hear it on its own terms.**

    Now, it may be that my field is abnormal compared to the number of conferences out there… perhaps there’s some non-research application for which this would be just perfect. ymmv… but panacea, this ain’t.

    Respectfully,
    Russ Mitchell/”Boxing Alcibiades”

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  26. Posted by Russ Mitchell on March 7, 2006 at 9:14 am

    Adrian Segar: the words for which you\’re looking is \”round-table session.\”

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  27. [...] Dave Winer explains What is an unconference?. And Stowe has a good follow-up post asking: Unconferences: But Aren’t There More Dimensions?. Sums it up pretty well in my view. [...]

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  28. Posted by Sudhir Kulkarni on March 7, 2006 at 12:55 pm

    Peer conferencing, Un Conferencing, Un Session, Un Track all of it sounds pretty much like plain old Brain Storming, or BS. The ones whose brains got so stormed at Grad School classes with such BS will tell you that these can be huge exercises in futility unless led/moderated by an expert. A journalist being DL does not sound like a good idea – no offence to the profession.

    Particularly when it comes to conferences where \”experts\”, \”wanna-be experts\” and \”plain old Joe\’s\” or POJs (like me) abound, I would rather listen to the considered opinion of an expert, however boring it may be, than risk the conference being hi-jacked by the wanna-be experts or even worse the un-founded in reality and expert knowledge ramblings of the POJs.

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  29. Posted by James Bullock on March 7, 2006 at 3:21 pm

    Here’s an example conference organized around the lines that you suggest, that works rather well: http://www.ayeconference.com

    Disclosure: I’m friends with most of the “hosts”, so I’m biased.

    The model you describe is increasingly popular in the “agile” software development field. The spectrum of this kind of thing runs from more structured experiential learning, to the more free-for-all “open space” organization.

    I’ve used stuff closer to the structured experiential learning end several times, for example as part of a software engineering course for college seniors in CS, and looking at human factors in QA. (Results for that here http://www.qasig.org/calendar.html, see 14-Jan, 2004. Supplementary material is draft quality.)

    You can mess it up. When it works, it’s very powerful.

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  30. On Conferences, Social Conferences, and Unconferences

    The world of meeting and events is about to experience a period of tremendous fluctuation in the next year or two. The reason? Competition – from the edges. For more than two years now, I have been keenly watching two…

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  31. [...] A nice spike in traffic on my WordPress essay blog in the last day or so. Most of the flow is the Unconferences piece which has been widely linked to.  [...]

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  32. Sudhir doesn’t want to “risk the conference being hi-jacked ” but in open formats it’s pretty much impossible for anyone to hijack an event. Because no-one has to sit in any discussion they don’t judge to be satisfying or interesting. Our potential hijacker will find himself sitting alone; and if he’s not alone, then he’s not a hijacker but someone who’s found someone who wants to spend time with him.

    Sudhir wants to spend time with the experts. Again, an open format gives him every opportunity to do so, in the company of others who are equally keen – and without the dampening effect of participants sitting there because they have to.

    The central point is that each participant gets the power, and responsibility, for managing their own experience… instead of a parental figure organising it for them.

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  33. It’s an old idea in education: Constructivism

    The teacher isn’t the sage on the stage, he/she is the guide on side – guiding with questions.

    It isn’t about stuffing information into heads – it’s allowing people to discover with conversation and discussion with others.

    You’re trying to light a candle, not dump in a gallon a water …

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  34. [...] Dave Winer ræðir um fyrirbærið Unconference á WordPress blogginu sínu. Við höfum annars verið að velta fyrir okkur hvernig mætti halda tilbrigði við örþing á vefnum. Ein útfærsla á slíku væri sú að fá fyrirlesara til að skrifa pistla sem væru birtir á vefsvæði í stað þess að þeir væru fluttir. Þátttakendur gætu þá kíkt inn og brugðist við. [...]

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  35. >>Russ Mitchell said,
    >>March 7, 2006 at 9:14 am
    >>Adrian Segar: the words for which you\’re looking is \”round-table session.\”

    Thanks Russ for the comment. The first event at one of my conferences is indeed a roundtable. But that’s only the first step.

    Here’s the hundred word outline. The roundtable teases out the interests, desires and experiences of the attendees. I then have a process for the entire group to decide what they want to talk about in smaller focus groups. The focus groups are the core of the conference and they are what happen next. Finally, I run personal and group retrospectives which 1) cement the personal learning that has occurred, and 2) allow the group to work on any shared insights or new activities participants want to do in the future.

    Sometimes these elements are mixed in with those of a traditional conference (keynotes, presentations, vendor exhibits, etc.) In every conference I’ve run, participant evaluations have given the focus groups staggeringly high ratings, compared to the traditional sessions. People really like this way of meeting, interacting, and learning. That’s why I’m writing the book, so others can enjoy such conferences too.

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  36. I find myself in an unusual position here lol Of all the places you would expect to NOT to find something that resembles Dave’s unconference.. I found one. Corrections Canada sponsors Community Forums that really aren’t community forums as you need to get invited. They are really conferences for small inter-related communities of practice. aka conferences

    What is done at these forums, looks much like a traditional conference for the first hour or so. I think mostly just to keep the traditionalists happy. After that however all kinds of interaction breaks out.

    The most usual has been a series of round table or breakout sessions all focusing on a prearranged set of open ended and closed questions. These sessions are often moderated by someone who primarily takes notes on flipcharts and keeps everyone somewhat on task.

    People mix, they mingle, the solve real problems and share knowledge and ideas. After a couple of hours of that the moderators present the findings on behalf of each group. Group members provide clarification.

    It’s after that point that things seem to fall apart though. I have been to many of these in the past couple of years and have yet to recieve any kind of follow-up or summary of all the info. I expect that it goes into someones silo, but am not always sure whos.

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  37. Actually, you set me straight before the session even began. I said something about a panel and you stopped me and said, to paraphrase, ‘There is no panel. The room is the panel.’ And my eyes did, indeed, light up. You taught me that the only job of standing up in front was to bring out the wisdom in the room, to enable the entire room to accomplish something. I said later that I saw I needed to be Oprah (or Phil, take your choice). As far as I’m concerned, you reinvented the conference at that moment and I’ve wished for every conference since to make its mission bringing out the wisdom of the room rather than treating the room as a mere crowd. Good conferences draw good groups of people but don’t listen to them. Great conferences let people talk.

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  38. [...] Jeff Jarvis on BloggerCon I. “I’ve wished for every conference since to make its mission bringing out the wisdom of the room rather than treating the room as a mere crowd.”  [...]

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  39. You know how at the Berkman meetings we go around the room and gives our names?

    At the new Boston Media Makers meetings, we go around the room and talk about what we are working on. I bring up pages on a big screen and show videos that people either have made or ones they’ve seen. This introduction time takes over and hour and is a wonderful thing to be a part of.

    Here’s a new blog for the Boston Media Makers that has my meeting notes and a few videos…

    http://bostonmediamakers.wordpress.com/

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  40. [...] Dave Winer recently wrote What is an unconference? [...]

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  41. [...] Dave Winer has come up with the idea for an unconference out of sheer desperation – conferences are malignantly boring.  Here’s the full text, or you can read his post here. [...]

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  42. [...] Dave Winer has come up with the idea for an unconference out of sheer desperation – conferences are malignantly boring.  Here’s the full text, or you can read his post here. [...]

    Reply

  43. [...] BarCamp is an ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees. It’s an unconference, so everybody will participate in the happenings, unlike traditional conferences, where one person talk and the other’s listen. [...]

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  44. [...] I recently read a quote on a posting, stating the Fundamental Law of Conventional Conferences. The sum of the expertise of the people in the audience is greater than the sum of expertise of the people on stage. [...]

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  45. [...] And while I missed Esther’s opening remarks, people say that there were a lot of ideas from the Unconferences manifesto in her talk. She’s going to try to include the audience more in the discussion. It’s good to see she’s feeling the influence, but I think they could go farther, faster, by having a session or two that’s done totally unconference-style, to give the community (she has one too, even though the talk here is of other communities) the experience. This would give everyone a data point to think about in the coming year, the minds could accomplish a lot, with the information and the time. [...]

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  46. [...] Yesterday, Dave Winer, creator of the Unconference format (though not the name itself) drafted a manifesto of sorts. The piece, titled “What is an unconference?” has many useful points and I have to agree with pretty much all of it. Here are a few useful excerpts: [...]

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  47. [...] Jeff Jarvis on BloggerCon. “I’ve wished… (Via Scripting News.) Dave Winer wrote an essay on the unconference… here he links to one of the comments… many of which are worth perusing. Despite how much fun it was to present at the CUE conference, I’d like to the OCDE Educational Technology department incorporate these philosophies into its events, if not actually host an unconference. I’d still like to do a read/write web focused k12 hypercamp, too. Of course, the OCDE is not holding me accountable for such events, so these remain on the back burner… but somehow the back burner ideas are managing to find their way to the front in our department, which is going a long way toward making the long hours worth it. [...]

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  48. Posted by JV on March 16, 2006 at 9:05 pm

    We’ve been organising conferences for several years at our company and participants love them (9/10). One major improvement in place since 2000 was a themed session with 4 x 10 minute “trailers” by the presenters, each with a slight variant on the theme. Participants then select one of the four presentations after the final one speaks. Worst case scenario is that you only waste 10 minutes on one speaker. We found it cuts out all waffle and forces the speaker to “sell” their break-out discussion. A small group (10 – 20 people) breaks out into a small group that can easily “discuss” the topic with minimal facilitation and no need for roving mikes. Only those interested attend. In a small group, there’s no tolerance for grandstanding and everyone can share their experience.

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  49. I am preparing to speak at a conference next week. This was a GREAT post to read, since I think every presenter fears being the talking-head and having the audience faze out (mentally and physically). Thank you!

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  50. [...] His ideas are worth a read — and worthy of implementation IMO. What is an unconference? [...]

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  51. These ideas are worth a read and not just in English. I tried to translate it for Hungarian readers.

    Andrei

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  52. The AYE conference website just published a short article I wrote on using a roundtable to start a conference (see my March 7 comment above).

    http://www.ayeconference.com/Articles/Getting_To_Know_You.html

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  53. I facilitated a session at “Intranet Week 2005″ hosted by the IQPC. When I was initially called and asked to present, I didn’t think I had enough value to add to make it worthwhile for the audience.

    Then I pitched the following; Instead of presenting, what if I facilitated? What if my topic (collaboration using intranets) had people in the audience contributing “best practice” ideas? I can tell you that I got a hell of a lot out of it. My “speakers’ marks” were 3.7 out of 5. Some of the feedback was interesting. It read like this:

    2 (out of 5)”Not what I was expecting”

    5 (out of 5) “Not what I was expecting”

    All I know is that I sold myself on the idea. I would jump at a chance to go to a conference where most of the topics were facilitate and not “presented.”

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  54. [...] We’ll be trying to find the intersection in the Venn diagram between our blue-sky ideal of journalism and newspapers, and the hard economic realities. Should be fun, especially since we’re following an unusual conference format – the “unconference.” [...]

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  55. [...] It’s great to hear BarCamp is comin to Bangalore and it’s about time! BarCamp is an “unconference” – organized by attendees, for attendees. It’s an open, welcoming event for geeks to hang out with wifi and smash their brains together. It’s about love and geekery and having a focal point for great ideas. [...]

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  56. [...] I’m in Philly at the Annenberg Journalism School for the Norg unconference: A remarkable, perhaps historic, gathering of newspaper people and bloggers starting a conversation about saving news. Will Bunch, a columnist on the Daily News and blogger wrote a post four or five months ago about newspapers reaching their nadir. Karl Martino, a blogger who started PhillyFuture, a gaggle of local bloggers, responded and together with colleages — Wendy Warren, an editor at the Daily News; Susie Madrak of Suburban Guerilla and with hosting from Annenberg — they put together this day. [...]

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  57. [...] Jeff Jarvis blogs from an unconference in Philly on the future of news.  [...]

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  58. [...] I’m glad to report that the unconference worked and I just told unconference guru Dave Winer that in email. [...]

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  59. [...] It seems from reading Karl Martino and Jeff Jarvis, that yesterday’s unconference in Philadelphia was a success.   [...]

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  60. [...] I think Dave Winer’s “Unconference” is a brilliant idea. [...]

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  61. [...] The concept based on Unconference, an idea by Lenn Pryor when discussing BloggerCon but popularized by Dave Winer in his blog. [...]

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  62. [...] I’ve had many volunteers and folks step up saying they’re into coming to our ‘unconference’.  So to be clear – to keep it an unconference – we CAN’T plan for anything ahead of time, I am NOT in charge (though I’ll call the bar and make sure there’s food there) and we DON’T have an agenda until everyone shows up. [...]

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  63. [...] The Big in Japan team (well just Alex) is headed to India to attend BarCamp Bangalore next week.  You may recall we hosted BarCamp Dallas earlier this year.  What is BarCamp? BarCamp is an “unconference” – organized by attendees, for attendees. It’s an open, welcoming event for geeks to hang out with or without wifi and smash their brains together. It’s about love and geekery and having a focal point for great ideas.  Attendees are strongly encouraged to give a demo, a session, or help with one. You can help by taking notes on the wiki, blogging the event, helping to promote the event, or helping with logistics. [...]

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  64. [...] I will be headed to India to attend BarCamp Bangalore next week (assuming my Visa is approved). So if you need me, you might not be able to find me.  I am really excited about the whole DIY conference movement – you can keep track of my travels  on Flickr where I will be posting my pictures as we go.  The tag is barcampbangalore. You may recall we hosted BarCamp Dallas earlier this year. What is BarCamp? BarCamp is an “unconference” – organized by attendees, for attendees. It’s an open, welcoming event for geeks to hang out with or without wifi and smash their brains together. It’s about love and geekery and having a focal point for great ideas. Attendees are strongly encouraged to give a demo, a session, or help with one. You can help by taking notes on the wiki, blogging the event, helping to promote the event, or helping with logistics. [...]

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  65. [...] For those who are new to the term Barcamp, here is the definition BarCamp is an unconference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees. The BarCampChennai focusses on Web 2.0, Social Media and Next Generation Internet. [...]

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  66. Your explanation of an un-conference is helpful. It might help for folks that need a little more structure to have a book to discuss. Also, in a perfect world, it would be great if young students could learn this way. Unfortunately, they need the structure to keep them on track. I would love to attend an “un-conference” and see how it works. I have a feeling that the people doing un-conferences are just really talented people that are on the leading edge of innovation. Bringing those folks together probably is a wonderful experience. There are other groups though that would be just as much as a snoozer to listen to in an unstructured event as the PowerPoint expert would.

    Good food for thought.

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  67. [...] BarCamp Bangalore kick started today. The general topic of discussion is the Web 2.0. Now what makes these BarCamps interesting? The style in which its conducted. Unconference!!! [...]

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  68. [...] BarCamp Bangalore was held last Saturday (April 22nd) at the Yahoo! Bangalore office. This was my first time attending a BarCamp and I found the whole concept of unconference interesting and intriguing after I understood how the system worked. Anybody can walk up to the board and put a sticky post-it note and book a slot and a room and talk about their latest technology fascination or project in the Web 2.0 and related space. [...]

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  69. [...] Kamla Bhatt writes on her experience at BarCamp Bangalore. This was my first time attending a BarCamp and I found the whole concept of unconference interesting and intriguing after I understood how the system worked. Anybody can walk up to the board and put a sticky post-it note and book a slot and a room and talk about their latest technology fascination or project in the Web 2.0 and related space. [...]

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  70. [...] I have been hearing more and more these days about groups moving to the unconference model. An unconference has no "speakers" and "attendees" only "participants." Dave Winer coined this term and this idea in 1998 (See his definition here or Doc Searls here). His fundamental principal is: [...]

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  71. [...] Chris Pirillo has decided that this years Gnomedex will be an unconference. Unconference is like the latest buzz word you want associated with your conference, but in most cases, the conference planner have no idea what an unconference. Chris knows. [...]

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  72. [...] How fortunate are we New Orleanians to have the crawfish boil. If we didn’t have the crawfish boil, we’d have to invent it. Pity those cultures that have to substitute highly-structured contrivances for civility. Crawfish Boil, New Orleans, Unconference Posted by Alan Gutierrez Filed in New Orleans, Aside [...]

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  73. [...] Alan’s Blogometer » Crawfish Culture How fortunate are we New Orleanians to have the crawfish boil. If we didn’t have the crawfish boil, we’d have to invent it. Pity those cultures that have to substitute highly-structured contrivances for civility. (This was so good I had to crosspost it! If you have a comment please leave it for Alan at the original article-Loki) [...]

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  74. I love the comment a salon of peers rather than podiums. A great way of increasing exponentially the value of a gathering.

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  75. [...] In the nature of an unconference like BloggerCon, the approach to the topic will be protean, not fixed. But I think the starting point for the politics discussion will be to examine whether and how blogging and other new participatory media can make a positive contribution to the 2008 national election in the US. There’s a real risk that these great tools will just make negative, attack politics more potent. I don’t think it has to be that way. [...]

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  76. [...] I’m at the back of the main ballroom at VloggerCon in SF. If you’re here, the people on stage are asking the audience for questions after they did presentations. Folks, that is not an unconference. Please. No audience, and don’t ask questions, say things, tell stories. Most of the smarts are in the room not on the stage. If you’re here come by and say hello. I’m wearing a black hat and a black polo shirt. And geez, people are lining up at a microphone and making speeches. There should be a session here about what an unconference is. Maybe we need to do one of those at BloggerCon. (And there’s a dull roar from the hallway conversation.)  [...]

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  77. Although these tools don’t have to be used in a negative way, inevitably they will be just like all other forms of media.

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  78. [...] They are calling this an unconference. The idea being that in the room at any one time there is more knowledge in the room than a panel of speakers can ever have. Everyone in the audience becomes a participant and a discussion leader walks around and guides the discussion. [...]

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  79. [...] Over the next few weeks we will schedule a series of Social Media Club “Founder’s Circle” events around the country, and hopefully around the world, to discuss the future of social media in society. These half day and full day unconferences will bring together communications professionals, bloggers, podcasters, journalists, tool makers, service providers, teachers, artists, and others who are passionate about social media for the purpose of making connections and reinforcing local communities around our shared interests. The events will be slightly more structured than a typical Open Space, but will fully embody shared leadership and encourage active participation – with some sessions being very short monologues or demonstrations (no powerpoint), more sessions embracing Dave Winer’s principles for Discussion Leaders and others using the World Cafe format. [...]

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  80. [...] For those of you unfamiliar with the concept, UnConferences, you can read about them on Dave Winer’s blog, as he was the one who has been promoting the idea. [...]

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  81. [...] Интересный формат для проведения неКонференций (Unconference) — Open Space Technology: его евангелизм и его критика, а также, статья на Wikipedia. [...]

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  82. [...] Thin ice here, Buddy. Watch your step. Building a business is a lot like peddling your ass. But it doesn’t have to be, and the graceful way Mary Hodder makes her way through the minefield of obnoxious self promotion to emerge unscathed and still on message is something we can emulate. Her younger colleague, Mena Trott, hasn’t yet developed that gracefulness. Arianna of course has nothing to be graceful about. How many of us can say we stiffed Nancy Getty on the cost of our wedding? And Halley, my god… Halley… well, there was more flogging going on at this gathering than you’d expect at Miss Behavior’s B&D Salon. Some of it was graceful. Some of it was not graceful. The least graceful is the personal sell, the one that sells the CEO and leaves the product behind on the t-shirt table and the logo saturated lanyards. All of it of course flies in the face of the behavioral norms of the Winer style unconference, and to his credit I haven’t heard Dave ragging on about it much (although he does seem to agree with me that there was confusion about when and how to make a pitch). I think the first rule of the unconference was pretty well modeled… don’t be boring. Allow participation from everyone. The second rule, NO PITCHES, wasn’t acknowledged. [...]

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  83. [...] Now that I have an iPod—I gave in to the peer-pressure exhibited on the subway—I’ve been catching up on mp3s on my list of “things to listen to.” Topping that list has been the BloggerCon IV files. BloggerCon is a conference dedicated to users of technology—namely bloggers. Each of the 1.25 hour conversations is filled with a discussion from inspired people in an unconference format. I am about half-way through the conference now, and decided I needed to start blogging some of my half-baked ideas before I lose them. Thus, in no particular order, here is what my mind churns out—”brain crack” in the words of Ze Frank—while I listen: [...]

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  84. [...] Doc Searls asked some open ended questions on the radical middle in this post back in December. So I emailed Doc and suggested he contact Johnnie Moore to learn more about holding the circle and open space. I never heard back from Doc and forgot all about it until seeing this photo within the flickr Mashcamp photos. Great to see open space making its way into Silicon Valley I thought to myself. Following Doc and Ryan King’s recent back and forth on Bar Camp v Mashup Camp Dave Winer wrote this post on what is an unconference. As someone who attended his last conference in 2000 and has declined offers to speak on panels since then all of the above registered. [...]

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  85. [...] What is an unconference?, definition by Dave Winer [...]

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  86. [...] What is an unconference? Posted in BlogSchmog, Of Course, On the Road | [...]

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  87. [...] Yesterday, Dave Winer, creator of the Unconference format (though not the name itself) drafted a manifesto of sorts. The piece, titled “What is an unconference?” has many useful points and I have to agree with pretty much all of it. Here are a few useful excerpts: First, you take the people who used to be the audience and give them a promotion. They’re now participants. Their job is to participate, not just to listen and at the end to ask questions. Then you ask everyone who was on stage to take a seat in what used to be the audience. [...]

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  88. [...] Yeah, we have UnConferences, so why not UnExams ? Well, not a great thing to be posting with your First[and Worst] Public Exam 40 hours from now. But, just wanted to say… [...]

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  89. And debate club called the Rooster Club and the tag line is: “A salon of peers – not podiums.”

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  90. The best unconference you can have is to stop having conferences and instead switch to web conferencing. The advantages are many. You ‘attend’ the conference in the comfort of your own home and you can typically have an electronic copy of the entire conference. GoToMeeting is an online meeting/web conferencing software with a free trial. Try GoToMeeting for the ultimate unconference.

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  91. Great stuff on this post.. One aspect we cannot forget is the draw that conferences have to certain members. A large portion of a conference’s audience have no interest in participating. They are there to hear the veiws of the presenters and to learn. I would suggest a panel type forum where there is absoulte diversity among the group, but where the conference is not an open forum at all times… This would maintain the integrity of the conference and in my opinion also maintain the professional edge that is paramount to all the members and participates..

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  92. [...] Market St, that is called Podcast Hotel, but it’s a pretty ordinary conference, not even an unconference, and nothing like the podcast hotel we [...]

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  93. [...] 3/5/06: What is an unconference? [...]

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  94. [...] Rojas asks if there’s interest in an unconference to discuss the podcast player. I would certainly participate and help organize the event. [...]

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  95. [...] my chagrin. I suggested that Hypercamp was not their next step, that they ought to try a structured unconference, like BloggerCon, with fully empowered and respected discussion leaders who are benevolent [...]

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  96. You’re brilliant Mr Winer, just re-read this post again after a recent unconference experience.

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  97. [...] me, this year’s Gnomedex was the kind of conference I was talking about in my What is an Unconference piece. I know we can do much better, I’ve seen it done, by the participants in the four [...]

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