Coming August 11, 2009

Suggestions for regional THATCamps

THATCamp Austin was the first regional THATCamp, but at least two more are being planned before the end of the year.  We’re trying to put together an account of how we organized the Austin event to pass along to those organizers and we need your help.  If you participated in THATCamp Austin or followed it online, please leave a comment with ideas for improving it.

So far, participants have given me these suggestions:

  • Explain how sessions will be scheduled in advance. The unconference format is new to most people, and models for scheduling sessions vary from BarCamp to OpenSpace to THATCamp.  If we had explained the need to combine session ideas into presentations, or what DorkShorts was, participants could have spent more time making those combinations themselves, and we might have spent less time at the scheduling session.
  • Post answers to applicant questions on the blog. Some participants told me that my post about what to prepare was extremely helpful.  That post was a public reply to a question I’d gotten from a participant.  The only other similar question I got was about how the scheduling process worked.  If I’d posted that answer to the blog as well, it would have addressed the previous point.
  • Four hours is too short. We only had two slots for sessions, and because we started so late in the day, our hack-fest/bonus sessions ended up adjourning immediately to a bar.
  • Ten days to discuss session ideas is too short. New session ideas were being posted in the hour before THATCamp Austin began, and really didn’t get a hearing in the scheduling process.  Some participants suggested that with a longer lead time–perhaps involving a deadline for schedule ideas–the entire scheduling process could happen on-blog, and we could have skipped the half hour spent arranging a schedule at the conference.
  • Participants were insufficiently diverse. Because we scheduled THATCamp Austin for SAA, we had a large pool of digitally-minded archivists to draw from.  However, probably two-thirds of participants were archivists, and discussions tended to be archives-heavy.  I remember hearing inclusive “we” equated with university faculty a couple of times at THATCamp 2008 — I heard it equated with archivists a lot at THATCamp Austin.  If we’d had more than 20 days from announcement to event and if we’d publicized more aggressively among the Central Texas DH community, we might have achieved more balance.

What other advice we should pass along?

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