An unconference is a conference where the content of the sessions is driven and created by the participants, generally day-by-day during the course of the event, rather than by a single organizer, or small group of organizers, in advance. To date, the term is primarily in use in the geek community. Unconference processes like Open Space Technology, however, have been around for over 20 years in other contexts.
The term unconference first appeared amongst techies in an annoucement for the annual XML developers conference in 1998. More recently the term was used by Lenn Pryor when discussing BloggerCon and was popularized by Dave Winer, the organizer of BloggerCon, in an April 2004 writeup. Winer's unconference is a discussion leader with a topic moving a microphone amongst a large audience of 50 to 200 people.
Open Space Technology is an energizing and emergent way to organize an agenda for a conference. Those coming to the event can post on a wiki ahead of time topics they want to present about or hope others will present about. The wiki can also be used to share who is coming because it is the attendees who have a passion to share that contribute to the event and will make it great.
The event begins with face to face schedule making which allows for emerging developments in the rapidly moving technology field to be covered. The opening includes time for attendees to introduce themselves and orient to the whole group. Participants are invited to write their name and session topic on an 8.5×11 piece of paper. They announce the title of their session to the whole room and then post it on a schedule on the wall. Once all the sessions have been posted, the community can stand in front of the schedule wall and decide which sessions they would like to attend. Sessions are about an hour long with 15 min breaks. Lunch lasts for about an hour. The day closes with all the participants gathering in a circle in one room and sharing for 20–30 min the highlights of the day.
Penguin Day, started in 2004, is an unconference produced by Aspiration Tech to help non-profits connect to the Free and Open Source Software Community.
There are a range of potential unconference participant lead processes including World Cafe, Dynamic Facilitation, Appreciative Inquiry and Speed Geeking.
There are parallels with science-fiction fandom, in which a low-key convention with less structure, not focusing on professionals and guests of honor, is called a Relaxacon
• The Unconference Blog
• World Cafe,
• Dynamic Facilitation,
• Appreciative Inquiry,
• Speed Geeking,
• What is an unconference?, definition by Dave Winer
• lenn, the blog of Lenn Pryor
• Open Space, a framework for conducting small and large meetings in a way that enables participants to create and manage their own agenda of parallel working sessions around a central theme of strategic importance.
• Open Space Technology by Harrison Owen
• OpenSpace-Online® Method by Gabriela Ender
• Open-sourcing Conferences by Doc Searls
• Unconference -- The BloggerCon Format by Dave Winer
• Unconferences and Unconference tags on del.icio.us
• Conference vs. Unconference Comparison by David Gammel
• The Rise of Amateur Conferences by Chris Heuer
• Ruby on Rails Camp 2006
• Agile Open 2006
• O'Reilly FOO Camp 2003 wiki 2004 wiki 2005 wiki EuroFOO 2004 wiki
• Omidyar.net members conference 2005
• Giving Conference 2004
• BloggerCon 2004
• MindCamp (ongoing)
• PodcasterCon 2006
• MooseCamp 2006
• Internet Identity Workshop (ongoing)
• Mashup Camp (ongoing)
• BrainJams (ongoing)
• Bar Camp (ongoing)
• Metamedia Cooperation (ongoing)
• Recent Changes Camp (ongoing)
• Agile Open (ongoing)
• Disney Pooh Camp 2005
• WoolfCamp (ongoing)wiki blog
• PHP Vikinger
• Seattle Mind Camp (wiki)
• BlogCamp 2006
• Why "unconferences" are fun conferences, Business 2.0 Magazine, Kathleen Craig, June 6, 2006.
Conferences vs. unconferences: