When you hold a physical conference such as ICON UK or EntwicklerCamp or IBM Connectlotuspherekenexa, a key element is the community element. Parties, good beer, places to hang out and talk. But while I love those parts of a physical conference, I think it's a mistake to try to reproduce them in a virtual conference. Instead, a virtual conference needs to play off its strengths, not its weaknesses. A virtual conference has more time and scope, and will likely be attended by some live and by others later. So, how do you foster community in that arena?
I think a possible answer is to have people bring more than their conference selves. At a physical conference with limited time and focus, everybody tries to make the most out of it by focusing on the matter at hand. Why not do the opposite in a virtual conference? Why not invite people to share their other strengths?
I see that Andy Donaldson is making a go of a photography business. Why not have him talk about that, whether he shares his passion and reasons for doing photography or does a demo or tutorial on something photography-related?
Andrew Pollack is a whiz at security and admin presentations, and it would be great to have him do them, but why not have him talk a little about firefighting as well?
Bill Buchan could talk about scotch. He could drink scotch while talking about scotch. He could fall off his chair while drinking scotch and talking about drinking scotch. Okay, perhaps that is too close to Bill's usual sessions.
I'm not talking about doing this instead of regular sessions, but along with those sessions. It's a virtual conference with virtually unlimited space.
Tim Davis could talk about board games or comic books. For that matter, we could have a whole panel Hangout talking about comic books with the panel distributed throughout the world. Warren Elsmore could talk about Legos, or if he is bored with that, he could talk about something else. Devin Olson could kickbox, or something else entirely. (It is distressing to me that none of the many fine women I know in the community had an immediate hobby I could mention. I'm not sure how a bad travel karma session would go, even with the delightful Francie Tanner giving it.)
That's the thing. These are just a few of the other interests of a few of the people I know in this community. We are a community, the long lived and long suffering Notes community. Many of us are in our forties or fifties (Except John Head, who is perpetually 25 as far as I can tell). Surely we can share something aside from this godforsaken software that binds us together like some ancient dominatrix tying us to the bed and whipping us yet again with her corporate interests. Er, you know what I mean. Heck, I saw on Chris Blatnick's twitter profile that he is a "roller derby referee". How could I not know that? Why couldn't he share it with us? I'd like to get to know our community better before we all leave or die.
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Tags: Lotus Notes IBM