Coming August 11, 2009

Organizing THATCamp Austin

We’d like to share our experience organizing THATCamp Austin with people interested in putting on their own regional THATCamps.  I’m not sure we know enough to put together an authoritative how-to, but we can certainly explain what we did.

Organizers: We had four talented co-organizers who volunteered their time.  Ben and Peter live in Austin, while Lisa and Jeanne are in Maryland but were attending SAA.  As you see in the timeline, there was plenty of work for the off-site organizers to do.  Each of us have full-time jobs and children aged between 3 and 6, so most of the work was done late at night or early in the morning.

Budget: $845 (around $490 for shirts, ca. $300 for pizza, remainder spent on office supplies, web hosting, and postage).  Initially we planned to fund our costs by asking participants to contribute around $20, but we were able to get commitments for as much as $900 from our sponsors in the week before the event.

Participants: We counted about 50 participants at 7:00.  A majority of them were attending SAA, and only 20 hands went up when we asked how many would have attended THATCamp Austin if they weren’t attending SAA.

Tools: We used WordPress for the blog, Google Docs for the applicant spreadsheet, Doodle for the timing survey, Google Groups for both the planner mailing list and application tracking, and a GMail account for correspondence.


  • March 31: Jeanne Kramer-Smyth and Ben Brumfield make plans to meet to talk DH when she’s in Austin for SAA.
  • July 1: Twitter conversation about regional THATCamps occurs in the wake of THATCamp09.
  • Sterling Fluharty suggests regional THATCamps.
  • Ben suggests holding regional THATCamps in conjunction with a larger conference.
  • Lisa Grimm and Peter Keane join in for THATCamp Austin/SAA.
  • Jeanne posts timing survey on doodle.
  • July 2: Format discussion trends towards unconference.  (Originally we didn’t know whether to hold an unconference or just do a meet-up).
  • July 3: Peter explores classroom availability at UT-Austin.
  • July 4: Ben explores classroom availability at Convio, Inc.
  • July 6: Ben and Peter meet for the first time over lunch; agree on THATCamp location at UT-Austin due to walking/public transport options.
  • July 10: Jeanne drafts schedule for an unconference
  • July 14: Lisa starts a blog for THATCamp Austin
  • Ben discusses formats, branding, and organization tips with Dave Lester and Jeremy Boggs via IRC, settling name and format.  CHNM requests we use the phrase “regional THATCamp” and adopt the #THATCamp tag on twitter and the existing THATCamp wiki.
  • Ben researches BarCamps, reading “Ten Steps to Organizing a BarCamp“.
  • Ben introduces Peter, Lisa, and Jeanne via email; starts planning the next steps.
  • July 15: Peter figures out what UT will require for wireless access.
  • July 16: Ben sets up a Google group for the planners.
  • July 17: Jeanne finds a t-shirt maker to order from.
  • Organizers begin beating the bush for sponsorships.
  • July 18: Jeanne gets deadlines from t-shirt maker for a shipment on August 10.  These deadlines drive application deadlines.
  • Ben sets up a gmail account for applications — this address forwards to the Google group.
  • Jeremy Boggs sends the organizers graphics files from THATCamp 2009.
  • July 20: Lisa and Jeanne come up with a logo.
  • July 21-23: Lisa, Peter and Ben finish up the THATCamp blog.
  • July 23: Test-run of the application system by Sara Brumfield, verifying that our instructions are comprehensible and that applicants cannot see each other’s applications nor organizers’ comments on them.
  • THATCamp Austin goes public, with announcements on twitter, blogs, and mailing lists.
  • July 24: Ben and Jeanne set up a Google doc spreadsheet to track applications.
  • July 27: Organizers assure applicants not to fear the application, revise wording slightly.
  • Lisa gets sponsorship from Drexel University College of Medicine.
  • Lisa designs T-shirt.
  • July 28: Peter gets sponsorship from CWRL and LAITS.
  • July 29: Ben gets confirmation of sponsorship from Wild Basin Investments.
  • Ben sends application acknowledgment email.
  • July 30: Ben proposes dry-run of the facility to check location, projectors, and wireless access.
  • August 1: Lisa places T-shirt order (including women’s sizes).
  • Ben sends acceptance emails.
  • Organizers discover that some applications got lost in the shuffle: since Google Groups threads messages together, applications with the same subject line appear as one thread.
  • August 2: Ben and Sara test out both walking and bus directions from the SAA hotel to Mezes Hall.
  • August 4: Lisa creates campers page.
  • Ben consults with Dave Lester on what to expect for the day-of.
  • August 5: Ben and Peter perform facilities dry-run and come up with a schedule for day-of and a list of supplies needed.
  • August 8: Ben lines up volunteers (Sara Brumfield, Rosa McCormick) to man the registration desk and help out in other times.
  • August 10: Ben gets the wiki set up
  • Peter places pizza and water order.  (We chose package #5 at Austin’s Pizza, which was more than enough.)
  • Jeanne composes opening/closing remarks.
  • August 11: Jeanne starts consolidating session ideas.
  • Peter prints signs.
  • Lisa and Ben set up signs and the registration table.
  • Participants arrive (some between 1-2 hours early).