BookCamp Toronto: Where Do We Go From Here, My Friends?

I'm ambivalent about unconferences as I feel like too little structure guarantees a quality fail. I also don't love regular conferences as I find them overly structured. Their cut-rate pastries, ridiculous games and puffed up PowerPoints are the result of corporatism and lack of imagination.
So, what's it going to be, B? I lean more towards the unconference because I like the idea that learning can be organic, participatory, unregulated and open to all but I think all this loosey-gooseyness can stand a bit of help. Think maybe an unconference where the un was 12 point font and the conference was 16.

I've come up with a list of ideas for BookCamp 2011 and yes, I am willing to help make them reality! This is just a start, let's get a conversation rolling.
  • Curate the programming: Approach prospective session leaders and approach them early. Require that the session hinges on innovative thinking or new data (some of the session leaders seemed unprepared to *ahem* lead the sessions). One slot per hour could be put on an open call.
  • Increase socializing: People love to mingle at these things and much thinking is spread and crystallized that way. Start off the day with a breakfast mixer. Invite people to bring an example of innovative publishing - a well-designed e-book, a creative cover, your favorite e-reader, a self-published masterpiece - and break people into small groups to share them. This will get the juices flowing fast and early. Lunch could be 15 mins to grab food and then 45 minutes of structured open discussion of the day so far.
  • Decrease the programming: Cut the day down to two sessions before and after lunch. Four hours of sitting on a Saturday is plenty. Instead, treat breakfast, lunch and post-drinks as sessions too (though obviously post-drinks would be off-site and completely unstructured).
  • Encourage active sessions: I saw evidence in the Flikr group of sessions where ideas were laid out (literally) on the floor, mapped on the chalkboard etc. Let's get physical! Sessions can fall into a rut if discussion is the only means of problem solving. Shake up the structure to turn the issue on its head.
  • Celebrate innovation: Allow for online ranking of sessions after the day so that participants can let the organizers know what sessions (and leaders) worked and what didn't. I'd also like to see awards given out to celebrate key thinkers. Sample categories: best use of new media by a publisher, best literary journalism, best new innovator.. These could be voted upon before BookCamp (online) and dolled out during.
  • Get a keynote: A rousing speech to kick off the day or even to jump start thinking after lunch would be sweet. A Michael Tamblyn would work well here, or we could go bigger with an author such as Amber Mac (author of Power Friending on social media) is another example. Pull strings, cash in favors, bring in a star.
What do you think? Does BookCamp need to change? Was it better than last year? What did you like/dislike?

[Edit: This is in no way an effort to snub the fantastic and hard-working organizers of BookCamp. Cheers to them for putting together this much needed meeting of the minds.]


Ashleigh said...

Ooh! I like the idea of awards (mainly because I want one!).

Another suggestion:

Please let us sleep in, it's Saturday. Please.

10:30 start. Please.

charlotteashley said...


I kid... actually, those are all amazing ideas. I like the idea of a more curated program with more (possibly slightly structured?) social time. I'd have liked more time to talk with other people, and to have had the time I did spend in sessions be a little less "well, who knows? Maybe this will be okay..." More, smaller sessions in fewer time slots might work really well...

B.Kienapple said...

I want the "Annoying Keener Blogger" badge.

Also, 10am start at least. For reals.


Related Posts for A Certain Bent Appeal Travel Blog