Hawaii will host its first “unconference” tomorrow at JAIMS in Hawaii Kai. Dubbed “Unconferenz,” it’s the brainchild of digital wonderer Burt Lum, no stranger to bringing people together under the Bytemarks banner. An “unconference” is a conference where the content of the sessions is created and managed by the participants. No keynotes, no product pitches, just peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, spontaneous collaboration and honest-to-goodness networking.
The agenda, an editable-by-all wiki, has been evolving for weeks, with topics ranging from podcasting to open source software to entrepreneurship to gadgets. Ultimately, we won’t know what we’ll actually talk about until we’ve all come together and started putting together the day’s open grid. There are some things I’m hoping to talk about, and some things I’m hoping to learn more about. But I’m especially looking forward to just jumping into something, anything, that simply looks interesting. The best parts of any conventional gathering, after all, are the things not on the official program.
But as I mentioned in Erika Engle’s great Star-Bulletin story on the Unconferenz, what appeals to me most of all is the wide open scope, the fact that geeks, nerds, techies, and thinkers of all stripes can come together. Everyone is a geek about something, be it photography or programming or government policy. Everyone has a personal passion that drives innovation and curiosity. Even if I might have no knowledge of or interest in a specific topic, being around and talking to people who do can only broaden my horizons. More importantly, it could create opportunities or spark ideas I never would have had on my own.
I attend several geek mixers. And they all have two things in common. They’re all great, energetic, positive vortexes of like-minded people with something to share. And they’re all convinced they’re the only geeks in town. I’m not saying the local Linux gang would have any reason to rub shoulders with podcasters, or that Ruby on Rails programmers would want to hang out with academics obsessed with oral histories… but imagine what wonderful things could happen if they did?
That’s what I’m hoping to see tomorrow. Not everything, but something. A start. A spark that will hopefully ignite more border crossings, more cross pollination, more cooperation and creativity. More unconferences like Unconferenz.
It’s not too late to join us! Registration will be $25 at the door. The fun starts at 8 a.m.