Running A Great Un-Conference

February 28, 2007

I’ve had years of experience working on teams developing traditional huge conferences.  Put 10,000 of your friends in a big hall, give them extremely granular detail on what YOU think they should learn, WHO they should learn it from, and tell them to the minute WHEN this should happen.  You may have noticed that most of those shows (think Comdex, for example) have died slow deaths.

 That’s not how adults want to learn.  Much like pre-schoolers, they want to decide what they want to play with.  And who they want to play with.  And which type of toys to use, how long to play with that toy, and who to share with.

 A new concept in conferences is a BarCamp where the participants decide the topics and agendas at the beginning of the first day.

 Darren Barefoot of Capulet Communications has a great list of 11 tips on running an un-conference.  He’s 50% of the the driving force behind Northern Voice, the Vancouver blogging conference that just completed it’s third yearly assembly.



Virtual Worlds
Catherine Winters (Second Life)
Jeff Henshaw
(X-Box Live)

  • Halo II has over 500 million hours of gaming on X-Box Live
  • People can rate you after playing with you online, and offensive actions can cause severe complaints
  • SL offers the ability to find those people you might have something in common with, and interact with them
  • You go to similar places to meet people — ifI’m intersted in bowling, I won’t go hang out in a coffee shop

The Machine Is Using Us

The Social Web for Karmic Good
Lynda Brown, William Azaroff, Alexandra Samuel and McLean Mashingaidze-Greaves

  • Social media to make change in the real world – how does it intersect with the idea of economic benefit?
  • It could be part of your competive edge — providing resources for the community, and you’d stand out in a crowd
  • Will this drive a more entreprenurial model for NPOs?
  • What is the social / environmental impact for our business — how can we partner?
  • Need to find out what these groups want — is it all financial?
  • If you’re going to be a world thinker, you’ve got to include the world — you need to communicate globally
  • Think about return on interaction, not investment
  • How do we know when we’re really inclusive? Is it when “we’re” inside the bubble?
  • Don’t hold on to perfection too closely — it’s an iterative process
  • It takes time for the concepts to trickle down — people in the arts are trying to understand

(You know you’re in trouble when someone in the front row is asleep.)

Legal Rights and Liabilities for Bloggers
Kevin O’Keefe

  • It’s not the damages, it’s the cost of defense — insurance will cover that
  • It’s not likely to get sued, and a simple retraction will usually solve the issue
  • Posts can be seen worldwide, and can have a wide effect
  • Be concerned about liabilities in other countries
  • If someone defames a third party in comments on your blog, you (as the blogger) are not liable
  • Lawyers get paid to be creative — try to find particular legislation or cases that may support them
  • Legislation protects personal info from improper disclosure
  • Trade secrets — value is secrecy. No value if disclosed
  • Blogging while working — loss of productivity? Or personal and professional growth
  • You have freedom of speech, but you don’t have freedom to be employed — employers can fire you at will
  • A blog is closer to a Rotary meeting than a web site — help your employer understanding what blogs are
  • Newspaper publishes letter in print, they can be responsible. If it was comment online attached to an article, no liability
  • Save a draft, and consider an angry price
  • Consider insurance
  • Consider resources like EFF
  • Resources on

Building Rich Communities with Wikis
Stewart Mader Using Wiki in Education

  • Ten case studies — what tool are they using, how has it changed their classes
  • Publishers weren’t excited about the book existing online as a wiki — but that wouldn’t allow interaction and sharing
  • Some chapters are open, and some are closed
  • It’s not proprietary, and there’s a loss of control for the publisher
  • We need to have a community around it for it to work
  • Atlassian Software Systems (software for the project)
  • You don’t have to put something down in print to show that you’ve “published”
  • Publishing online will become wildly richer with the application of community
  • You no longer just see the finished product, but the process that you went through to get there
  • Wikipedia — You Either Get It Or You Don’t
  • Peer review during writing, allows input from other authors
  • Readers can give feedback either in comments or in changes
  • People who might feel uneasy in a physical situation are more willing to speak online
  • There’s a radical rethinking on how you build a website, by using a wiki — must be very simple
  • Book chapters belong to authors under Creative Commons

John Willinsky Teaching English Language Arts

  • Raising a generation of “rip, burn, download” with no concept of Intellectual Property
  • We need to have educators think about it as “go public”
  • Water is Taught By Thirst (EmilyDickenson)
  • Using Adbusters in the schools
  • They bring materials into the classroom (through the Wiki) that would otherwise never apply — a sharing of IP
  • Wiki becomes a cumlative index — class ended in December, but the students are continuing to work and add value
  • Students continue discussion with external blogs
  • Using software we’ve designed for peer review in the intellectual community for “hot-not fashion
  • “I didn’t come here to learn wikis, I came here to learn to be an English teacher” (student)

Social Software for Learning Environments

D’Arcy Norman

  • Creation of groups and blogs for learning
  • Not a top-down learning environment, created by students
  • Self aggregating community

Chris Lott

Chris works as resident “disruptive technologist” at the University of Alaska Fairbanks Center for Distance Education, with a special emphasis on using social software for online learning, specifically to create a rational constructivist learning environment and functional classroom community of learners embedded in the real world community of practice.

  • The third space — being an active learner for life
  • Students will retain the records and archive for
  • We need to disrupt the academy
  • Computers are stupid, students are smart
  • If the instution sponsors it, it’s a long time committment
  • Information fluency is the next step from literacy

Jon Beasley-Murray Posthegemony

  • Good to maintain tension between Higher Ed and Blogs
  • Students can maintain blogs and disagree
  • Critical thinking against the university as much as for it
  • Risks of blogs from a tenure perspective “my university would never hire a blogger” attitude
  • One of the great promises of blogging is that universities will be faced with student disagreement

Sylvia Currie

  • SCoPE Induviduals who share an interst in education, research and practice
  • Blogging to enhance the learning experience
  • How do you design the experience for education and collaboration?
  • Grade 1 and 2 blog from teacher in MooseJaw

Listening to Anil Dash at Northern Voice in Vancouver:

  • The tools of control go to those who keep the lines of communication open
  • Letting go of the ego of “everybody has to come to us
  • Using VOX for “your world online”
  • Has anyone every read an entire “New Yorker”?
  • Twitter — kind of provides a buddy list for text messaging
  • David Snowden in Knowledge Management
  • I like the idea that it’s around forever — for my mind, it makes me do better
  • People post more pubicly when they can post privately as well