May 28, 2014 at 10:02 AM #5091
2014 will be THATCamp Philly’s 4th year. However, we have been having severe drop offs in attendance and pre-unconference participation the previous two years. We had our suspicions as to why, but surveyed organizers and participants to clarify why they were not coming and it was clear that many of the issues could be tied to fatigue with the unconference format. In order to try and answer these concerns and keep the event going we have decided to mix things up a bit, leaving/stripping unconference bits people liked/disliked while adding in traditional conference parts people appear to be missing.
We’re all fine with trying out this experiment this year, but it raised questions internally about whether or not it can still be branded as a THATCamp, so that is my question to the group. Below are how we are transforming things, so let us know what you think on the whole branding angle. The main concerns are with reduction (not elimination) of the self-organizing and spontaneous aspects. Not all of these changes are something outside of other THATCamps but I wanted to be complete:
-Moving from two day format (Fri/Sat) to one day format (Fri)
-Introducing a theme for the first time (TBD)
-Holding structured workshops in tracks throughout the day by pre-determined leaders
-Holding unconference sessions in simultaneous time slots with the workshops
-Adding additional networking opportunities during the day separate from sessions and workshops
There are other changes but are more on the detail side. I would like to add that the organizing group is not closed and we always encourage new people to join. With the workshops in particular, however, we have had to start planning months in advance and the vast majority of attendees show no interest in working on organizing until they arrive at the event and even then it is iffy. Last year we had a real struggle getting people to propose unconference sessions ahead of time through the THATCamp’s site or the day of.May 28, 2014 at 10:27 AM #5092
Those sound like characteristics of plenty of THATCamps that I’ve been too. Certainly there are themed THATCamps (e.g. THATCamp Digital Pedagogy) and often THATCamps attached to conferences have a de-facto theme (e.g., THATCamp Mediaeval Congress, I imagine, had a distinctly medieval bent to it!).
Workshops by people with expertise in an area have also become common, like these at THATCampNE. Different THATCamps have experimented with whether they are held on a single day, distinct from other sessions, or interspersed. Whatever works!
Speaking of single days, yep, there have been 1 day THATCamps, too!
Additional networking time sounds completely in the spirit of THATCamp to me. I’d love to hear back more of what you have in mind, and how it worked, to pass on to other THATCamp organizers.
That’s a fairly long way round to say that, to me, this sounds completely in line with what you agree to when you register a new THATCamp:
FREE or CHEAP to attend (registration fees of up to $30 USD are fine)
OPEN to anyone who wishes to apply or register (no restricting registration to members of a particular institution, association, organization, discipline, or rank)
PUBLIC on the open web (sessions can be blogged, twittered, photographed, recorded, and posted)
SELF-ORGANIZING (no program committee: all participants together will set the agenda, either before or during the unconference)
PARTICIPATORY and spontaneous (most sessions are group discussions, productive co-working sessions, or joyous collaborations of any kind; there should be few if any prepared, monologuing presentations, papers, or demonstrations with the exception of skills training workshops, and even workshops should generally allow for hands-on exercises by the group)May 28, 2014 at 1:06 PM #5093
I agree, it sounds like a THATCamp to me! As Patrick notes, the important things are that it is significantly hands-on, public and that the participants have a majority voice in making or altering the agenda.June 12, 2014 at 5:21 PM #5104
Belatedly, Matt, I’d also say that yes, indeed, it still sounds like a THATCamp to me, and as Patrick noted, as long as you meet the five requirements on the THATCamp Registry page, you can call it a THATCamp.
It might be a good idea to break those five rules out and put them somewhere a bit more prominent — some kind of “Requirements” or “Is it a THATCamp” page, maybe …June 13, 2014 at 9:24 AM #5108
Thanks all. We figured it was ok but wanted to check since we do think we are bending the 4th and 5th rules.
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