Wednesday, June 07, 2006


Shaking up the industry

Welcome to the weird world of unconferences, a trend that is shaking up the $122 billion conference industry. These inexpensive, informal gatherings - like BarCamp, BrainJams, and Foo Camp – are conceived as little as weeks in advance. All were started in the past few years by Valley types bored with the usual calendar of confabs.

"We figured there was much more expertise in the audience than there possibly could be onstage," says BarCamp co-founder Ryan King.

Unconferences break the barrier between the two. Attendees write topics they're interested in on boards, consolidate the topics, and then break into discussion groups.

At traditional conferences, the most productive moments often occur in the corridor between meetings; at unconferences, attendees like to say, it's all corridor.

The result attracts engineers and executives from Adobe, eBay (Research), Google (Research), Microsoft (Research), and Yahoo (Research). Some companies are even comfortable enough to show upcoming products. Redwood City-based Riya, whose photo-recognition software won best of show this year at the prestigious Demo conference, actually unveiled it four months earlier at an unconference, TechCrunch Party 4.


1) Create a wiki - a Web-based tool for knowledge sharing - so attendees can sign up and discuss proposed topics. See and for help with wiki setup.

2) Find sponsors that are willing to assist without interfering. Unconference sponsors have donated everything from lunch to the venue itself.

3) Post author Harrison Owen's Law of Two Feet: Any person neither learning from nor contributing to a group discussion must walk to another one.


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