Yesterday brought the fifth-annual Unconferenz, held at Kapiolani Community College. The event is a great grass-roots geek gathering, and one that has developed a reputation over the years of fostering connections and sparking ideas that have gone on to create real change in the local tech community.
This year’s Unconferenz was also an official stop on the nationwide “Code Across America” calendar, and it was also the host of Ignite Honolulu 3, a fun, fast-paced presentation format that pushes people to share their passions in a creative way.
Nearly 100 local designers, developers, activists, educators, thinkers, and simply curious people came together to spend a Saturday exploring current, relevant, and interesting topics ranging from mobile app development to 3-D printing to design thinking.
At last year’s Unconferenz, the seeds were planted to bring the “coworking” movement to Honolulu. Since then, three creative spaces have popped up, prompting a “Coworking Summit” at this year’s event to share how things are going, and what’s coming next.
There was also an e-democracy track of sorts, including an organizational meeting for the Hawaii Innovation Alliance. With so much policy talk on the agenda, we were glad to see local government representatives turn up, including Rep. Gene Ward, Rep. Kymberly Pine, and Rep. Heather Giuni.
We were also fortunate to have the participation of the three Code for America Fellows assigned to Honolulu: Sheba Najmi, Diana Tran, and Mick Thompson.
Perhaps most notably, though, the Unconferenz drew Code For America founder and executive director Jennifer Pahlka, who spoke first-hand about the mission and work of her organization, and Tim O’Reilly, founder and CEO of O’Reilly Media, the world’s biggest publisher of computer books.
O’Reilly is credited with popularizing the term “Web 2.0.” People at O’Reilly’s company are credited with creating the Ignite format. In fact, the Unconferenz was inspired by Foo Camp and BarCamps, which also have roots in O’Reilly’s empire.
Obviously, it was especially meaningful and inspiring to have Tim O’Reilly there, and even participate in Ignite Honolulu.
The Unconferenz is the brainchild of Burt Lum, my friend and frequent partner in geeky shenanigans. But each year I’ve pitched in to help organize the event. This year I helped put together the Ignite session (with the help of Ignite Honolulu’s Christine Koroki and Chris Ota), and even designed the T-shirt.
But one of the best parts of Unconferenz is how all of the participants play an active part in running it, from choosing the day’s topic mere moments before the first session to cooperatively guiding each discussion (eschewing keynotes, panels, and other talking heads). And at the end of each Unconferenz, I can’t help but wonder which new ideas we discussed will also have grown and evolved into something real… and that we’ll get an update on at Unconferenz 2013.