BloggerCon Unconference Format
BloggerCon is an unusual conference. We don't have speakers, panels or an audience. We do have discussions and sessions, and each session has a discussion leader.
The discussion leader
Think of the discussion leader as a reporter who is creating a story with quotes from the people in the room. So, instead of having a panel with an audience we just have people. We feel this more accurately reflects what's going on. It's not uncommon for the audience at a conference to have more expertise than the people who are speaking.
The discussion leader is also the editor, so if he or she feels that a point has been made they must move on to the next point quickly. No droning, no filibusters, no repeating an idea over and over.
The discussion leader can also call on people, so stay awake, you might be the next person to speak!
Think of it as a weblog
Think of the conference as if it were a weblog. At the beginning of each session, the leader talks between five and fifteen minutes to introduce the idea and some of the people in the room. Then she'll point to someone else. She may ask a couple of questions to get them going, then she'll point to someone else, then someone else, then make a comment, ask a question, etc. Each person talks for two to three minutes. Long enough to make a point. About the time someone would take if they called into a radio talk show.
We have a limited amount of time, and a group of participants whose time is valuable. The leader's job is to make sure the show stays interesting, even captivating. If it gets boring people will go out in the hall and schmooze, or focus their attention on the IRC channel, or read their email, or whatever. So the leader's job is to keep it moving. Sometimes this means cutting people off.
How to prepare
Since every person in a session is considered an equal participant, everyone should prepare at least a little. Think about the subject, read the comments on the BloggerCon site. Follow weblogs from other people who are paticipating. Think about what you want to get out of the session, and what questions you wish to raise, and what information or points of view you'd like to get from the session.
Everyone is a journalist
BloggerCon is an unusual conference in that almost everyone participating writes publicly. So we assume that everyone present is a journalist. Every badge is a press badge.
On the record
All conversations, whether to the entire room or one-to-one, unless otherwise stated, clearly and up front, are on the record and for attribution. You do not need to ask permission to quote something you hear at BloggerCon. Of course you may ask for permission to quote, and you may choose not to quote things you hear.
It's a user's conference
Where I come from, the technology world, most conferences are centered around the vendors.
This is not like those conferences. Here, vendors are welcome, and we hope they will help by sponsoring a party, dinner or brunch, but they participate mainly by listening.
Most of the people who are talking are users. In my opinion, these are the revolutionaries. Vendors make a living by creating tools that these people use to change the world. So much attention is focused on technology, too much imho. At this conference we turn it around and focus on what people are doing with the technology.
So if you hear someone say it's about the technology, expect me to challenge if I'm present. If not, stand up and say "That's not correct."
Further, if they say the technology is too complicated for a user to understand, ask them why, and if they could simplify it so we can understand. And if not, why should we use it? Perhaps a new user-centered philosophy will emerge.
Things we assume
Sometimes conferences bog down in meta-discussions, discussions about what it's okay to discuss. I want to try to head some of that off in advance by stating some assumptions, and asking people who want to discuss these things to either discuss them here on the Web beforehand, or to find another venue to discuss them.
1. Weblogs are journalism. Not all weblogs, and not all the time. People have said weblogs aren't journalism, and that seems foolish, as strange as saying telephones aren't journalism. It's kind of a moot question. Weblogs can be used for journalism, or not. When people say they're not journalism, I think they haven't thought it through well enough.
2. What is a weblog is an interesting question. At the Jupiter conference when the question of what a weblog is came up some people would say it's not a good question. At BloggerCon if you have an idea that requires you to say or ask what a weblog is, please go ahead. It's totally on-topic. I would consider the conference a success if that's the only thing we figured out. (Chances are we won't, btw.)
Groundrule: No commercials
This is a user's conference, it's non-commercial, you may not promote products. If a discussion naturally turns to products, it's okay to talk about them, but it's probably not okay to talk about your product, unless the discussion leader asks you to. No matter what you must ask for permission, and don't be surprised if the answer is no.
There are good reasons for this, if one person talks about his or her product, then their competitors will feel they are entitled to, and pretty soon the user's needs are drowned out by the needs of the vendors. The point of this conference is to focus on users.
WiFi, webcast, IRC
Wireless Internet access will be available.
With luck, each session will be webast, audio only. You are welcome to bring your own recording equipment, cameras are allowed, basically the rules allow Grateful Dead/Phish style recording. Bring your microphone or camera and recording device, and record it and broadcast it any way you like. Be innovative. Have fun. Share. Be cool. Still diggin. Etc. (But please don't interfere with the sessions.)
There will be one IRC channel for the conference. Other people may start channels for topics. If so please send a pointer to a page describing how to get on.
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