'Unconferences' are the way to go...
Fresh from our trip to Washington D.C. in which Chris worked, I played, and another successful BrainJams event managed to take place - I open my browser to find a large community chomping on the topic of overly priced conferences and asking the hard questions of what we can do to squash them or at least make them more reasonable so those that should or need to attend...can.
I loved Jeff Jarvis’ post from Sunday titled Exploding the conference business in which he states 'Too many conferences suck. They’re too expensive. They are filled with boring panels. They are all about speeches and not about conversation and argument and learning and meeting.' Of course, it was also interesting to read Robert Scoble’s response in which he suggests simply placing a cap of 400 attendees on several conferences to ensure they can be run at minimal expense most anywhere in the world. Of course it helps if you know what you are doing and, I will also add the requirement of ‘you should have good contacts’.
This topic hits home as our vision for BrainJams the 'unconference' is to help provide a space in which a diverse group of attendees can come together to share, collaborate, learn and make new friends – all for free. Do we wish to own BrainJams and all that goes with it? Nope. We are merely here to assist in facilitating these events until others can pick them up and run with them on their own - if they wish to do so. Chris and I are always happy to provide advice as to things you should think of when hosting your own event (i.e. bottled water = happy attendees; WiFi is great, but not a necessity; power bars and apples can be your friends), and are working on templates to make these run ‘out of the box’ which will be posted to the wiki for everyone to use shortly. That is what Brainjams is about. It is about building a community. It is about sharing knowledge. It is about connecting on a personal – then technological level.
Am I saying BrainJams and/or the camps gathering these days are the end all of ‘unconferences’? Absolutely not. Whether we all stay in our current format, or under the existing names is not important. Getting people together in a regular, stable environment so they can collaborate is the driving factor behind why most of us are doing what we are doing today.
As for sustainability, BrainJams events will continue to take hold as long as people have the inner desire to connect and create. Of course, donations are welcomed (and encouraged) and we have thankfully been blessed with some really amazing attendees and patrons to ensure we can cover the costs of snacks, lunch, drinks, venues, after parties and so much more. Thank you - thank you - thank you. Your support means so much and I will continue to give you link love as long as my fingers are able to type.
I think Todd Tweedy sums it up nicely when he says 'Here’s what made BrainJams so compelling: everyone got involved and shared knowledge.’
Yep. Simple statement. Powerful message.
Well, that’s it in a 8 million word blog. Go out and share. See – your mom really did know best.
P.S. I am ecstatic to hear Messina and friends are working on event software to help folks like you and me manage our little gatherings. I just love when bright people get together to do what needs to be done to effect positive change. Making me wish I knew how to code too…