Carling don’t put on conferences…

interesting2007 001A fortnight now since Interesting2007 and blogging time & opportunities have been scarce (at least on my own behalf) as I’ve just started two big projects where I’m making social media for clients (which is nice). I can’t possibly link to all the lovely people I met but most of them have blogged or flickr’d already. Slide sets are starting to appear on slideshare

I did get the feeling that something shifted, nothing world-shattering, but there was a subtle changing, we’d done something differently and as a result it all, y’know, shifted.

Look it was a one-day “conference” but it wasn’t a conference like any I’ve been to and it wasn’t an un-conference in the Bloggercon or PolicyUnplugged mould and it wasn’t a seminar, workshop, showcase, gathering, conflab or conglomeration – it was definitely not a symposium or a trade-show. It was a bit of a happening, an exhibition, a show & tell, a festival of ideas. And it held my attention all through from 11am to 6pm (I did get a bit of a numb-bum towards the end, but that might have been because I was wearing too many pairs of pants.

But it was a group of (mostly) intelligent people in a hall, sitting on chairs in rows listening to other people speak, one at a time. So what made it stand out as something different?

Nothing was ever more than 20 minutes away – actually that was a lie, because my slot was more than 20 minutes away from Rhodri and his saw (thanks Roo), but I guess no-one got bored with having lunch.

No Q&As – people seemed to accept that the majority of people were not going to speak. I have never seen a good Q&A session except at political meetings. We’ve got blogs now to have our say, or not and none of the speakers were up their own arses about talking to people afterwards – that would have been absurd.

interesting2007 009Self-service – we all helped ourselves (as Russell said “we’re all grown-ups and you’ve only paid twenty quid”) but we all helped each other too. I arrived too late to help set up, but it was set up and nobody was crying or running around with scissors – and we cleared away quickly and fairly painlessly. There was no feeling (for me anyway) of separation between “organisers” and “punters” though these two did a splendid job of co-ordination. Also Russell was not “in charge” but he was definitely “in charge”.

It was on a Saturday and few people had a surname, let alone a job-title. The few collars I spotted were all open and any ties were undoubtedly ironic or accidental.

It was actually really good for me not to have wifi. I started off in recording mode as it was (I’m realising more and more that it’s one of my coping mechanisms for being thrust into large groups of people – I’ve been doing it with my camera since about 1979) but if I (and other similarly challenged folk) had the excuse to hide behind a laptop screen, we’d have had a much poorer experience.

It was village-hall-y and Festival of Britain-y and a bit arts-and-crafty and, well, just right for people who’s early life was a mix of oil-crises and moon-landings, dreaming about amazing cities in the sky with hovercrafts and no pollution and peace and smiling children and stuff.

It was hopeful.

As an experience, what was it like? Well, a bit like listening to Radio 4 all day, but with no long programmes, it was a bit like a random walk through the best bits of wikipedia, then again it was like live for people born in the ’60s & ’70s, or peeking at the RSS reader of someone really consistently smart. Does that help?

There were things I could have done with more of. More variety in presentation style, most people plumped for what we know, which is showing pictures or lists on a big screen. More music, preferably with acoustic instruments – the electroplankton quartet was a fun concept but I wish we’d made more of an effort with ukulele’s and kazoo’s. More analog, 3D art and time to really see the Folksy folk. More fun in the goody bag – I still haven’t used the shaving oil, but it was a point of “ooooh!”.

interesting2007 022So some quick ideas for “next time” – Multiple locations – eg InterestingLondon, InterestingEdinburgh, InterestingBucharest, InterestingAmsterdam with video-linkups at set-times throughout the day. Bingo (or some other communal game) perhaps also played internationally via the video-link. Some form of backchannel – the twitter feed worked nicely before and after the day – one computer with a net connection projecting the stream might be cool.

And yeah, you *did* have to be there, really.

4 thoughts on “Carling don’t put on conferences…”

  1. Interesting overview! Self service is always a good way to let “grown ups” get on with it. Sometimes I really wonder why they don’t do that more in events/conferences. Ah well.

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