Sunday, May 11, 2008

SocialDevCampEast - Report from the field

Or day after the field.

If you have ever been to an IEEE or such conference, you know that everything is planned ahead of time and there are committees for everything. It works well, but for a smaller situation like the Social Dev Camp East that happened yesterday, the power of Web2.0 technologies came together to promote a smooth flow throughout the day.

Take a look at the wiki link above. There is a proposed schedule. At a regular conference, that would BE the schedule. At the camp, there weren't even defined sessions before the campers voted on them in the morning. You can see the proposed time schedule got pushed back as people probably showed up a little later than expected. The actual schedule exists on the page along the proposed, showing the differences. Updated in almost real time, this is a huge break from the monolithic existence of regular conferences. It was encouraging and impressive that such an open source type of event flowed so smoothly.

The actual content of the day, and the overall purpose as I saw it was interesting. At a regular conference, the sessions might go for two hours each, starting at 8am and ending at 5pm. This camp has one hour sessions ending about 4pm. Each session was about an hour long on one topic. Since the topics were decided on in the morning, the presenters varied in their preparation. Some were ready to go with organized presentations, others were thrown together according to the requests of the campers.

Two sessions in the mornings with discussions during led to a discussion filled lunch followed by another two sessions in the afternoon. Each session had four different topics in individual rooms for a total of sixteen topics throughout the day. Following the sessions there was a camp sponsored open bar down the street at The Brewer's Art. After sixteen different topics were covered, people from D.C, Baltimore, Philly, NYC and other places with all kinds of technical backgrounds, made for plenty of conversation for hours after the official sessions were over.

In CMSC 491S/691S we had interesting lectures that led to discussions that had to be halted as the end of class came. Imagine sixteen lectures in one day and hours of discussions afterwards. Contacts, friends and business opportunities were made and the results of the camp will echo for quite some time.

Another camp will be held in Fall 2008. Baltimore, New York, or someplace else hasn't been announced but it will probably be bigger and better than this one.

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