My First Unconference

I’m at BarCampMontreal3, it’s my first ever unconference. I’m gutted, they’re calling it an unconference but it’s not an unconference at all. Simon Law just introduced the event saying it’s an unconference, there are no organisers, then he proceeded to introduce the person controlling the schedule, the person responsible for timing, and so on.

The speakers were set in advance, the topics were set in advance, the timing was set in advance. Unconference my ass. It’s just a series of presentations organised by Wiki. Bah. I’m disappointed.

7 thoughts on “My First Unconference”

  1. Ah ah, I didn’t realize that you were the same Callum I’ve been seeing on wp-hackers. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m the guy who you asked for directions to when you left. If I had known, we could have chatted WP stuff. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Cheers, maybe next time.

  2. Hey, Callum. I’m one of the unorganizers of the BarCampMontreal3 unconference. I wanted to take a second to respond to your post.

    First, since this was your first-ever unconference, you might want to cut us some slack on the definition. B-) I realize that the event didn’t meet your expectations, but it’s important to note that there are a lot of different ways of structuring an unconference — there’s not just one method.

    Planning the speakers ahead of time is not uncommon. Some other types of conferences use other techniques, like Open Space Technology ( We’ve used the technique you saw at BCM3 for two previous BCMs and it’s worked well. RoCoCoCamp in May 2007 ran using Open Space.

    This time around we added a BOF track in the other half of the SAT for more casual peer-to-peer talks. That didn’t take off as much as we’d have liked, but I hope in the future that part of the conference grows. I think it’s unlikely that we’ll ever drop the slides-and-speaker part of the conference; many people really enjoy that.

    We’ll be having some organizational meetings for the upcoming BarCampCanada1 in May 2008, and I hope you can make it to them! I think you’ve got some good ideas about how we can make the event more fluid.

  3. @Evan Prodromou: Firstly, let me apologise for the tone of my post. I wrote it in the heat of my frustration, so it was overly negative.

    My understanding of the essence of an “unconference” is wiki-like, freestyle planning of the event on the day. People announce presentations or topics, other people register. Then anyone with scheduling conflicts tries to resolve them with people directly.

    I felt the schedule at BarCampMontreal3 was governed by a few “organisers” and everyone was “expected” to attend the same sessions. The BOF track was essentially empty until I stormed the stage and suggested we focus more on it. At one point I remember the announcer asking (or telling, depending on your perspective) everyone to return to the main hall for the next set of presentations.

    As you rightly said, I haven’t been to any other unconferences to compare.

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