I'll probably be very tired at GA this year; I have been each year I've been. But I intend to attend it differently this year.
I have helped plan, worked and attended Sunlight Foundation's hybrid-unconference TransparencyCamp for several years, and have attended at least one other unconference, not to mention a bunch of meetings built off of an unconference ethic -- well let's just say that conventionally-managed conferences pale now. You know: big speakers, a presumption of one-way participation in workshops, and low energy. Occasionally, sometimes or often a desire to be elsewhere or do something else. Neat and orderly, but the mind wanders.
Often enough, the General Assembly of the Unitarian Universalist Association functions like this. I know others do very well by it, and others who are willing to treat the whole thing primarily as a networking experience. But GA is too important an opportunity for that. It can be a market, not a product.
Certain unconference habits can and should be introduced by attendees.
- Use Twitter to identify high points. Make a running commentary. Take and share pictures. Follow up with people commenting on what interests you. Use the hashtag #uuaga and any other the presenter appoints.
- Share notes. Blog your notes, or share them in a Google Doc. Ask people interested in the same topic to public Etherpad if you're feeling adventuresome.
- Vote with your feet. If the workshop or other gathering is not for you, leave quietly.
- "Go rogue." Is there a missing workshop? Organize one. That's hardly a new idea -- Twelve-step, reunion and social groups have done this for years. But it would be good to see them organize on the fly, and for a programmatic outcome, or to stage post-GA work.