Harvard Business just posted a piece bemoaning the state of the modern conferences and suggesting some ways to improve them.
We couldn’t agree more. And it’s nice to see the article reflecting some of the selfsame concepts Selena and Audrey have baked into Open Source Bridge, from the beginning.
1. Conferences and meetings should tell unique stories…. A conference should tell a story, one that unfolds and builds from the initial moments to the close. Like any good story, there should be moments of high excitement, followed by moments of relative calm. That’s different from panic and boredom in ceaseless alternation. A good meeting should make linear sense from start to finish, in a way that allows attendees to retain what they see and hear rather than just feeling overwhelmed by the information.
At Open Source Bridge, we started with a very specific story: trying to share the culture of being an open source citizen. And the conference tries to provide ways of experiencing that culture beyond sitting in sessions—from mellow to engaged.
A good example of that? Our hacker lounge will give you the opportunity to meet with open source citizens for hacking, chatting, or just hanging out, 24-hours a day—and it’s only a short train ride from the convention center.
2. Conferences should be for, by, and about the attendees. A meeting or conference should feel participative, and you, the meeting attendee, should have some significant part in it beyond being a warm body. Attendees should react, critique, judge, schedule, and vote for what they like and don’t like. And that’s just for starters. There are many ways to give attendees a larger role in meetings and conferences, from making them part of panel discussions to creating discussion groups to having them manage Q and A.
We tried to choose the best sessions that we could—but we also knew that getting a group of intelligent and passionate people would result in new ideas and discussions that needed a venue.
That’s part of the reason for the hacker lounge. It’s also why all day Friday will be in an unconference format.
See a session that you’d like to explore more? Set up a session on Friday. Is this conference missing a session you need to see? Plan it for the unconference. That’s why we’re giving you a whole day.
3. Conferences should be about more than just eating and sitting…. We live more and more of our lives in the splendid isolation of the Internet, with all the faux connectors like Facebook, Twitter, email, and the rest. Getting together is an increasingly rare and important privilege. Meetings and conferences should be constructed to take advantage of the gathered group. Every meeting or conference should use the power of the group to give something back to the community in which the meeting is held. Help a local charity, fix a local problem, champion a local hero, start a new movement. There are many ways one could imagine making use of the combined energies of the people assembled. It’s a crime to waste that gathered power.
You know as well as we do that this kind of activity is going to happen. It would happen in hallways, in sessions, and at coffee shops. That’s just how the open source community works. We get things done.
But we’ve tried to facilitate these interactions. We’re planning some activities to help stimulate discussions and solve some problems. But we’re also looking forward to seeing what happens when all of you get together.
(Image courtesy Mr. Littlehand. Used under Creative Commons.)