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7/16/2008
06:43 PM
Paige Finkelman
Paige Finkelman
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UnConference Feels Unorganized

I attended the SocialMedia BarCamp yesterday at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco. Working in an organization that produces large events such as Enterprise 2.0, I was looking forward to being part of a grass roots, completely user-generated event. I wanted to experience an event on the other end of the organization spectrum.BarCamp came about through the efforts of the web community in response to Tim O'Reilly's invitation-only FooCamp. They are organized and marketed through web 2.0 tools, and users are encouraged to participate in the Open Grid Sessions. Anyone in the community can host a BarCamp, and utilize the wiki. We provide a similar UnConference opportunity for Enterprise 2.0 attendees with Enterprise2Open.Incorporating these types of programs into our events is crucial. Organizing a conference that explores social tools and bottom-up collaboration must embrace this open format which encourages attendees to create their own content.I received an email the day before SocialMedia Camp, alerting the registrants that the event was actually going to kick off at 10 AM, instead of 12 PM. I was surprised by the last minuteness of this update - given that the BarCamp was anticipating at least 250 attendees.Regardless, I was excited to experience this type of gathering. Upon arrival, I grabbed a name tag and walked upstairs to see groups of people aimlessly milling about. No one appeared to have any insight into the schedule. I explored the venue and saw no signage or direction. Things felt a bit confused.I chatted with a few of the attendees and inquired about what the schedule was. No one I spoke with knew what the structure or next steps were. I overheard a snippet of conversation about lunch. Frustrated by the lack of organization, several of my colleagues left. I decided to stick it out.After lunch, I checked the UnConference grid, which must have been posted some time after lunch. I decided which sessions I wanted to sit it on and posted up with my notebook. Sadly, the majority of the presentations and discussions I sat in on fell rather flat. Without gating the entry, most of the talks centered around a new start-up idea, and then made a hasty attempt to flip it back to the audience to discuss social media and get their input.Perhaps the most compelling talk was given by Spot.us, an experiment in community journalism. Still, the presentation's agenda was centered more around using the BarCamp as a platform to spread the word and recruit more beta participants than to create a more general discussion.Although SocialMedia Camp promised to harness the voices of the community, without anyone orchestrating the ideas and format, the event turned into more of a cacophony than a symphony. Good lessons to apply to the UnConference portion of the Enterprise 2.0 event.

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