Dave Winer Defines Unconference

Dave Winer has posted his current definition for unconference. I say current b/c I’m sure this will continue to evolve as more people experiment with it.

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.

Read the whole post.

Can you get a bad grade on a Wikipedia entry?

I believe that Dave Winer would give me a low one based on his reaction to my incorrect attribution of coining the term ‘unconference’ to him rather than Lenn Pryor in the unconference entry I started. Sorry about that Lenn!

John Robb points out that Dave could have easily made the edit in addition to just complaining about it. A few folks have jumped in to clean up the entry some more since Dave’s post.

I think the point here is not that I didn’t approach writing a wikipedia article like writing a research paper. The point is that I got the ball rolling in about 5 minutes for a topic that really deserved an entry. 20 other people can each spend five minutes improving it and eventually you’ll have a nice solid piece. Is this a bad thing?

Update: Dave responds in the comments to John’s post discussing his concerns with Wikipedia.

Conference vs. Unconference

I’ve been thinking lately about how an unconference style event for an association could work. I’ll be posting some ideas on that later on. I thought it would be good to start by comparing the characteristics of conferences and unconferences. So, in no particular or meaningful order, here is my initial list:

Conference Unconference
Attendees Participants
Exhibitors Participants
Recruiting speakers Recruiting participants
Content planning Content facilitation
Direct marketing Word of mouth marketing
Handouts Wikis
12 month planning cycle 12 week planning cycle
Sponsorships Donations
Once a year As often as needed and desired
Large budgets Shoe-string budgets
Maximize value for organizers Maximize value for participants
Best practices Innovation
Top down Bottom up
Wisdom of experts Wisdom of crowds
Magazine coverage 2 months later Live blogging/podcasting
Slides Stories
Panels Conversations
Best practices Practicing
Hierarchy Networks
Directive methods participatory methods
Participants Contributors/creators
Speakers Conversation starters
Sharing information Learning collaboratively
Instruction Discovery
Best learning in the hallway It’s all hallway!

I’m sure a lot more can be added to this but it’s a start.

I also just created a Wikipedia entry for unconference. I was surprised it didn’t exist yet.

Update: Added a couple more items suggested by Rich Westerfield. (I changed Powerpoint to Slides.)

Update 2: Added several more contributed in the comments by Nancy White and Jeff De Cagna. Thanks Nancy and Jeff!

On Marketing and New Conference Models

Rich Westerfield posted recently about how you might use a pay what you feel model for meetings. He raises this point:

But we’re forgetting something:  cash flow.  We often need that early registration cash flow to fund the final mailings and pay for some of the onsite work.  For many small and some mid-sized events, B/E doesn’t happen until the final couple of weeks when 50% or so of registrations are in. 

I think this misses a point about some new models for meetings that are currently evolving: they don’t use traditional marketing. They can’t afford it. These new meeting models focus on word of mouth, attracting opinion setters as early registrants and using lots of social tech (blogs, wikis, etc.). I doubt that the BlogHer conference has done or ever will use a mass paper mailing to attract participants.

You can’t just blow-up one aspect of a meeting and expect to have the rest of it be business as usual. The entire enterprise has to be re-concieved.

Doc Searls has a good article on unconferences, which is a new way of holding meetings and letting the participants drive the content of the event.

I just did a presentation for the KCSAE yesterday and unconferencing was one of the topics I covered. I think there is a lot of potential in this model for associations and I’ll be writing more about it in the near future.

I’m not trying to pick on Rich with this post, he is a constant source of new ideas for meeting marketing. His post just triggered something for me that I wanted to write about. Thanks, Rich!