When a Camp is not a Camp: Gov2.0 LA

Since Gov2.0 Camp LA was announced people have been asking me if I will be attending because I attended Gov 2.0 Summit, Citizen-Centric Digital Identity using open standards is happening in Government, I am co-organizer the Open Government Directive Workshops in DC (for the development of an Open Government Playbook ) & I live on the west coast.

Here is the punch line …

I have news for everyone who thinks they are going to an unconference or camp by going to Gov 2.0 Camp LA. They are going to a REGULAR CONFERENCE that happens to be organized at the last minute.

I was looking for:

  • list of attendees who had signed up
  • a clear articulation of the method(s) that would be used
  • who would be facilitating
  • a list of potential topics that registrants to the event had put forward as they registered

These are the things that I use to decide whether or not to attend an unconference event – not finding any of this information I decided not to plan to attend.

I looked at the website early on and couldn’t figure out how they were actually organizing the event.

  • Would it be run as a Bar Camp where there isn’t a facilitator and people just sort of wander in and post sessions on a wall and there is no shared articulation of how people move through space. A weak closing with the energy just kinda fading off.
  • Would it use “Open Space Technology” with a facilitator that supports the agenda creation process with everyone announcing their sessions to the whole room in the morning and explaining the principles of open space and law of 2 feet, encourage a range of formats including discussions about topics, and asking questions along with the usual fair of presentations. Open Space Technology also includes a closing where everyone shares highlights from the day.
  • Would there be a documentation center to support intensive notes collection that is part of part of the Open Space Technology method or applied in a camp style format.
  • Would it be a “pseudo-camp” where the organizers say it is a camp but then there is a pre-selection process of what sessions will happen. This can happen innocently enough by just putting up a wiki and saying we are scheduling the event ahead of time here on this wiki OR with organizers asking for proposals to be submitted and having them voted on.

Returning to the site I found what I feared would be the case it was a pseudo-camp there was a list of “speakers” this statement of how the agenda would be created.

Gov 2.0 LA is a camp-style unconference. Participants will shape the agenda. Rather than spend Camp time creating the agenda, we’re going to create it here, on this site. Here’s how. The Planning Committee has come up with themes around which sessions will be organized. They are:

  • Language & Gov2.0
  • Women in Technology
  • Road Blocks & Barrier Breakers
  • State & Local
  • The Policy Pickle
  • Community Care
  • Gov2Gov
  • Happy Campers

For each theme there was a page that described it with several good questions their is this statement:

If you would like to submit a speaker/panel submission, please describe what you will talk about, what organization you are representing, the format you are proposing, and how your proposal maps to the Camp themes. Creativity is encouraged!

All submissions for speakers/panels must be uploaded here no later than midnight EST on January 23, 2010. Voting by the Community and space availability will determine if your session is accepted. Voting closes at midnight EST January 30, 2010. The final Camp schedule will be posted no later than February 1, 2010.

The “committee” will then be making the schedule and posting on the site here.

I have news for everyone who thinks they are going to an unconference or camp they aren’t it is A REGULAR CONFERENCE that happens to be organized at the last minute.

It will be interesting to see if they do mix “unconference formats” (that is participant driven sessions developed on site in real time) with the formal regular conference pre-planning they have done.

If they parallel track these two styles it will not be good. Pre-planned and live-real-time the day of planned sessions can be mixed in an event but only if they are serialized – that is having “all” the pre-planned sessions in the morning and “all” the live-real-time the day of sessions in the afternoon.

Update: It seems they are not having any times/spaces for sessions to be proposed the day of the event live by the attendees. It is definitely “just a conference”

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