“Draw the art you want to see, start the business you want to run, play the music you want to hear, write the books you want to read, build the products you want to use, do the work you want to see done.” Austin Kleon

So what exactly is an unconference?

The wiki defines it as : An unconference is a conference where the content of the sessions is created and managed by the participants (generally day-by-day during the course of the event) rather than by one or more organizers in advance of the event. The term is primarily used in the geek community.

So where did it come from?

It all began one rainy day in the USA around 1984 with the first unofficial Hackers conference. In techland they have a regular conference called “Foo camps” where geeks get together & geek out over whatever they’re into at that moment. The problem is, Foo camps were always invitational which meant that there was an element of exclusivity around who was able to attend & who wasn’t. Thus, the idea of Barcamps was born. Barcamps began as a reaction to the exclusive elitest Foo camps. The idea was basically that people with a strong interest would publicly post their passion in meeting other like-minded folks and then the interested parties would self-organize a gathering. where everyone was welcome. Unlike the Foo, Barcamps were open to anyone & everyone & represented one of the very first unconferences.

Basically an “unconference” is everything a normal stuffy suity type conference is not – it’s open to anyone, anyone can come & anyone can speak. It disposes of the podiums, the rigid structure, the exclusive & polished speakers and the formalities in favour of a more democratised process where even the great unwashed may share their passions with the rest of us.

You may know that Barcamps are being held all over the world & even right here in Sydney. Check it out BarCamp Sydney.

The BarCamp event is positioned as an unconference and those who help out at it are called ‘unorganisers’. Likewise, those of you who went to the Interesting South Event have also attended an unconference, Interesting South plays off the idea of the unconference – a whole bunch of random people sharing their passions, whatever they’re geeking out on. The organisers describe the experience as being akin to ‘flicking from one interesting blog to another’.

The principles of an unconference (as articulated by Open Space) are:

Whoever comes are the right people.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have.
Whenever it starts is the right time.
Whenever it is over it is over.


For those of you like me, who regularly enjoy a touch of procrastination on Ted.com, you’ll be interested to know that in response to the highly edited and out-of-reach price of the annual TED conference, an unconference has emerged. The unconference is called BIL (as in BIL and TEDs), that takes place in the same area where TED operates.

Like most unconferences, BIL is a user-generated meeting. It’s free. Anyone can come. Anyone can present. The agenda and schedule are self-organized starting with a wiki, and a white board at the event.

Crayon – The un-agency

Touting itself as the new marketing agency of the future, Crayon has defined itself as an ‘un-agency’, they’re not like every other agency, they’re a new breed. They were one of the first agencies or companies to have a real presence in Second Life, & unlike every other Tom, Dick & Barry they attempted to use SL to further their work rather than just bang on about the fact that they had recreated their RL into a Second dimension. If you go in-world you’ll see that they hold regular coffee meetings on a Wednesday where they network & collaborate with others in virtual being spaces. We start to see that this trend of “un-doing” is making its way outside geekville.

Samsung opens an “Un-store” in NYC

Next up we have Samsung who recently opened an un-store in NYC. The 10,000-sq.-ft. space, which opened last September, invites visitors into a multi-sensory odyssey of sight, sound, and most importantly, touch. Described as an “interactive emporium of virtual reality experiences and technology,” the Experience showcases hundreds of Samsung products, but it doesn’t sell any of them. Which is presumably why it’s called an “un-store”.

. . . Idea trend anyone?


Another add on from Graeme Wood [thanks Graeme!] regarding unconventions – Wiki tells us there has also been UnConventions (or UnCon for short) held at various venues in London since 1994. These unconventions are devoted to strange phenomena & organised by Fortean Times magazine. Check it out here

Here are a few more useful links to check out ::

By miles, these kinds of unconferences have yielded more for me than any other type of meeting. An unconference give the highest ratio of new, unexpected, never-thought-of-that ideas than any other venue I am aware of. http://www.kk.org/ct2/

An unconference is a facilitated participant-driven face-to-face conference around a theme or purpose. http://www.unconference.net/

People are so creative that I was surprised to hear some of the ideas being discussed in some sessions, and ironically their creativity was completely off-the-stage in their work. I think we should bring the UNCONFERENCING in programming, testing and whatever they do back in their cubicle..!! http://trizit.blogspot.com/2007/12/evolution-of-unconferencing.html

http://www.unfiction.com/ (unfiction)

http://forums.unfiction.com/forums/ (an unforum)

An article on Samsung’s NYC unstore

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