Thursday, May 08, 2008


MinneBar and the Organization of Conventions

I would love to attend MinneBar but sadly I've had a conflict both this year and last year. But one of the things that interests me is that at least for me, the nature of how we try to do programming at the science fiction convention CONvergence is not that far off of the BarCamp philosophy.

Obviously, unlike a BarCamp there is a membership fee for CONvergence -- and if you haven't registered, now is the time to do so -- but that's because we aren't sponsored by organizations and companies in the same way either. We're renting the space, buying the food, flying in and putting up the guests of honor. We're also fund-raising for our non profit -- sending authors and scientists to schools, supporting our community in both the narrow and larger sense.

An event like a BarCamp is mainly scheduled collaboratively online by the participants -- it's user-driven and built by the people attending it. That's different from some other conferences where the event may be packaged by some corporate sponsor and you have people in the audience and the people on stage.

And as I look at this, I see that we have a similar sort of programming philosophy at CONvergence in a lot of ways, and did before the BarCamp phenomena really started -- we certainly encourage our membership to present and participate in programming. It's not identical -- we have a little bit more centralization and formal scheduling -- but I certainly find this sort of method a good way to do it for the more informal type of events like this.

Even as we bring in outside professionals and expect our programming to be organized ahead of the event -- so we can make it accessible and organized -- we certainly try to have it so our program in proposed and filled out by people that volunteer for events.

This is certainly a bit different from how some other sf events might do it -- while we do dig up panelists, and invite people to sit particular events -- the expectation is that most of the event is participant-driven.

One of the complaints I hear from time to time is that "CONvergence doesn't have moderators" -- and certainly I don't think the programming department should always be dictating who the moderators actually are -- but I would certainly encourage any panel to have a moderator. But that's really something that can be decided on a panel-by-panel level, and shouldn't (and with several hundred panels, realistically can't) be addressed by a programming head in many cases. That's the sort of thing that can --and to some extent, really should -- really be driven by the participants.

I suppose there is always some degree of overlap between technology and SF Conventions -- but I think sometimes it's not even as overt as Penguincon does it...

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