Boarding the cluetrain is one thing. Getting your clients to board another. And then there is the whole matter of staying on. A couple clicks from now you may find yourself behind it, watching its taillights fade. Then you turn around and there it is again, about to run you over (“We are watching. But we are not waiting”). This whole 24/7-participatory-attention-intention-economy-slash-Me2-revolution can be scary. But it doesn’t have to be.
That’s why it is always good to talk to people who’ve been riding the cluetrain for a while. Last week David Crow (bio) came to High Road for a lunch discussion. We had a great discussion about blogging, Web 2.0 and his adventures in unconferencing. Thanks again, David!
Since David started TorCamp/BarCamp/DemoCamp in Toronto, the number of DemoCamp participants, for example, have increased from 26 in December 2005 to 151 in March 2006. Clearly, David and his fellow organizers are on to something.
Based on all the grassroots enthusiasm out there, the mesh conference in Toronto seems to become another success story; one blogger suggests that it may have even helped push the professional event management firm for Syndicate Canada to cancel their conference.
The same principle that has made blogging popular and forced traditional media to incorporate new online features into their offering, also seems to change event management: the participatory model has become a hit. While I doubt that the old top-down organization of conferences will die out any time soon, it will make other tech conferences continue to re-think their approach.
Many bloggers, including David, have debated what makes a good conference and what makes un-conferences different or better, so I won’t repeat it all here.
But during our discussion David mentioned the rise of sponsorship and support enquiries for BarCamp/DemoCamp [Disclaimer: High Road offered to host one of the Barcamp/DemoCamp events]. It will be interesting to watch how much – if any – ‘commercialization’ they will agree on and what kind of changes Barcamp/DemoCamp will undergo when continued growth turns this startup idea into a mature event series.
‘Commercial grassroots’ events are not necessarily a bad idea. The key is the participatory element where people can help decide what they will see and how they get the most out of a conference. The mesh conference, for example, has a blog and – thanks to David – a wiki where people can provide their input and exchange ideas and information before the conference.
The new model is all about participation and engaging in conversations, and that includes new approaches to conferences. As long as long as particpation means more than banter between soap boxes, and those conversations actually contribute to better outcomes, I’m all for it.