The event will be hosted on Hopin. We feel that it is built for exactly the kind of event we want to have. It allows participants to easily create session, attend session, and move from one session to another if they didn’t like the one they find themselves in. It also has support for virtual vendor booths and randomized one-on-one networking sessions. This is our first time running an event using Hopin, and we’re excited to see how it goes!
The term “mender” was coined by the founders of Corgibytes, M. Scott Ford and Andrea Goulet, after Scott saw an ad for a Maker Fest event and he thought, “Where’s the event for people who like to fix things?!” That’s exactly what MenderCon will ideally be - an event for people who are passionate about mending software systems.
Simply put, an unconference is a conference that does not have a predetermined set of speakers or talks. The people who show up to the event are the ones who decide what gets talked about. This approach eliminates a fair bit of overhead for organizing the event. We don’t need to put out a call for proposals. We don’t need to go through proposals and decide who gets to speak. We don’t have to verify that the people who submitted proposals are still available, and we don’t have to notify everyone who didn’t get selected.
The un-conference format also creates an opportunity to elevate voices who are not normally heard from. At a traditional conference, the list of speakers and topics is curated in some form by the organizers. This can often lead to the conference schedule being dominated by people who are well known or people who have gotten practice speaking in the past. While we welcome people with speaking experience and notoriety, it’s important to us that we create a space to where those who are not normally selected have a chance to speak. In an unconference format, anyone who wants to speak gets to speak.
By using the unconference format, there’s less work for those organizing the event, and there’s an opportunity for new people to be heard. We call that a win-win.
In addition to creating the opportunity to see some good talks, we wanted to create a space for other kinds of sessions, particularly ones that require some level of participation or discussion. With so many people working from home because of COVID-19, there are many who are craving more human interaction. We want to have MenderCon be a space for that. So don’t be surprised to see someone pitch a session that is simply titled something like, “Let’s chat about the unique challenges of refactoring PHP”, and when you get in the room there are no slides, just someone who wants to facilitate a conversation.
We didn’t call MenderCon an Open Space, because we’re not strictly following the rules for an event that bears that description. There is a vibrant community that’s really passionate about Open Space events, and the people in that community take pride in making sure that Open Space events are done right. During planning for MenderCon, we made a few decisions about the schedule that don’t fit the full spirit of an Open Space event, specifically, kicking the event off with a keynote and having dedicated networking time. If we were to follow the Open Space format strictly, then the keynote and networking time would be sessions like any others.
There is no CFP. If you want to speak, make sure you come to the “pitch session”. At the pitch session we’ll invite anyone who wants to organize a session up onto the virtual stage. There, they’ll briefly announce their session title along with a short description and the time that the session is scheduled to happen.
This depends on the kind of session that you want to run. On the simplest end, you can just prepare a topic or idea that you’d like to explore. That would be perfect for a purely discussion format. On the more complicated end, you can craft a slide deck and presentation or walk through a live coding demo. Those might work well if you plan on doing most or all of the talking during the session. We predict that many sessions are going to mix some elements of each of these approaches.
With the platform that we’re using, this is something that is decided when the session is created. If the session’s organizer would like it to be recorded, then we leave that decision up to them. We can imagine it may be useful to have conversations that are not being recorded. We do plan on recording and sharing the keynote and the pitch session.
During each of the session rounds, there are going to be several different sessions going on at once, and it may be difficult to decide which session is the best one for you. The Open Space community employs the “Rule of Two Feet” to specify that you can leave a session at any time and join a session at any time. If you feel you’re in the wrong session, then switch to a different one. Don’t feel obligated to stay in a session for the full time just because you were there when it started. And similarly, don’t be afraid to join a session after it’s started.
We’ve had a lot of people reach out and ask how they can help. Please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested in helping.