As the co-founder of PodCamp, it was interesting to participate at the most recent PodCamp Pittsburgh (this is their tenth running of the event). I was nearly surprised that nine years later, we’re still talking about which microphone to use and how to monetize a podcast. But that’s technically WHY we still run PodCamps. Because people still have that question. It made me think, though.
The Next Event I Might Run
I spoke with Carla Swank from Nashville a few times. She’s part of the team running Craft Content, which is their own project but that follows the BarCamp/PodCamp/other similar events legacy. It was exciting to see the new brand, the new ideas, the different spin on what is out there.
Related to that, I was thinking about how the MODEL of the event is worth copying, and that got me thinking that maybe an interesting event would be a clustering of events all using the same set of tools.
Unconference Events Need to Live On
Many of my friends run really good bigger-style events. Sponsors, speakers, set schedules, etc. I attend and speak at lots of those. They’re swell! Even better.
Rules of an Unconference
An unconference can be formed around a reasonably simple set of rules:
- Free or cheap to attend.
- No official keynotes. All participants are treated equally.
- Participants can submit speaking sessions.
- Free space is available to impromptu sessions.
- Financials are disclosed as it’s not for profit, not for loss.
- All content created at the event must be released under Creative Commons licensing for distribution purposes.
What Goes Into an Unconference
What goes into an event isn’t trivial, but it can be figured out.
- Venue with separate speaking rooms.
- Wifi and A/V (projectors, at least).
- Sponsors to cover the above two needs.
- Centralized (online) schedule.
- Volunteers at the event.
- Promotion and supervision before the event.
College campuses work well. Churches have worked okay. Tech companies often have great spaces (in Boston/Cambridge, we like the Microsoft NERD Center.)
But Could Multiple Related-but-not-the-Same Events Run Together?
Carla Swank pointed out that Nashville had a little bit of a splintering issue (lots of events that diffuse the attendance of any one event). PodCamp Pittsburgh wasn’t exactly bursting at the seams with attendees (though everyone there were the right people and I’m glad to have caught up with them all again!).
It seems to me that a “menu” of events might work. Justin Kownacki (co-founder of PodCamp Pittsburgh) mentioned that the SXSW folks are working from that theme. TED has done that a bit, especially with their TEDx project. And Jeff Pulver has run many various 140 conference events of different themes.
The Value of these Unconference-Level Events in the Event Ecosystem
In a world of thousand-plus people events that are great, full of amazing content, and are becoming destination experiences, why bother creating little 200-300 people events?
I think there’s something we gain from small, flexible, regionally-executed events. You get the public, the community outside of the “core” people, and a real seed bed for potential local area growth. I think that’s why, and I feel it’s worth it.
I just read somewhere that we do our best “open ended” thinking in groups and our best work in isolation. I think that sounds about right.
I might just do something to help contribute to some more open-ended events.
But will I run another PodCamp? Never say never.