Tuesday, June 22, 2010

CodeStock 2010: The Year We Connect

It’s that time again. The ever-awesome CodeStock is coming to Knoxville again this week. This is the third year for this technology community event and this is sure to be the best event yet!

CodeStock is at a new venue in the heart of Knoxville this year, with walking access to hotels, restaurants and downtown nightlife. The event will be held at the University of Tennessee Conference Center with the keynote held Friday evening at the historic Bijou Theater. This will be an excellent opportunity for people to experience authentic Knoxville culture. Can you tell I’m jazzed about the location change? :-)

Another change this year is an expansion of the CodeStock program. CodeStock has always offered content for software developers and Open Space for attendee directed content. Last year the program expanded to include entrepreneur content. This year will include all of the above and include content specific for IT professionals. If you are interested in technology or business, then CodeStock has something for you.

Because I live in Knoxville and I’m active in the technology community, people often assume that I am involved in organizing CodeStock. That assumption is false. Michael Neel works year round along with his wife Cicelie to make CodeStock happen. They deserve the credit for bringing this terrific event to Knoxville. If you haven’t registered, there’s still time.

My primary responsibility at CodeStock is to facilitate the Open Space. This role has proven personally fulfilling. Feedback from participants in the Open Space has been positive as well. If you have never experienced an Open Space, then this is a great opportunity to get involved.

My secondary, and totally unofficial, responsibility around CodeStock is community social organizer. In this capacity, I host a get together the night before the event for people to gather and meet when they arrive in town. CodeStock is all about community and we don’t discriminate between speakers and attendees. There is no exclusive speakers dinner.

This year we will be gathering at The Downtown Grill & Brewery on Gay Street. We’ll meet upstairs in the banquet room Thursday evening from 6:00 – 8:00 pm. Please note that you can check in for your CodeStock registration at the Hilton Thursday evening from 4:00-8:00 pm. Please check in first, then head over to the brewery. We’ll most likely migrate downstairs or to another downtown location after 8:00. You can join us even if you don’t get in until late. Just check Twitter to see where we are and what’s going on at the moment.

The other community social event that I organize around CodeStock is an “after-party.” It isn’t really an after party, since it isn’t part of the official event, but with so many friends and potential new friends in town, I can’t pass up the opportunity to extend our time together. PostStock is held at my home and is hosted by my lovely wife Michele and myself. It is not officially associated with CodeStock or East Tennessee .Net Users Group, Inc. Got it?

Anyone still in town on Saturday night is invited over to my house from 7:00 pm until ??? If you didn’t attend the conference, but you are interested in meeting some of these incredible people, then you are invited too. Michele and I will provide light finger food and a location. Please bring your own beverage of choice. We will have the ping pong table set up, the fire pit burning and the acoustic guitars tuned up. If you can’t figure out where I live, then feel free to contact me for details. We live on a narrow street so please park in the school parking lot behind our house and enter the yard from the rear.

This will, without a doubt, be the best CodeStock yet. I look forward to seeing everyone here in Knox Vegas later this week!


 Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Community Courtyard at Detroit MSDN Developer Conference

CommunityCourtyardBlackThis Thursday, I’ll be in Detroit at the MSDN Developers Conference (MDC) where I’ll be facilitating something called the Community Courtyard. The idea for Community Courtyard was spawned while Doc List and I were facilitating Open Spaces at PDC in Los Angeles last October.

I’ve facilitated Open Spaces in parallel with a traditional conference successfully in the past, but Open Spaces struggled at PDC. Doc and I examined what was working and what wasn’t and set about discarding what wasn’t working. When we were through with our examination, we were left with an approach that was inspired by Open Space Technology, but was not a full representation of that approach.

We were approached by Bob Familiar about putting together an Open Space track for the MDC events. We shared our thoughts with Bob and he was totally open to our suggestions. Doc and I tried to name it something trippy like “Parallel Process”, but Bob wisely suggested the more approachable, and descriptive, name of Community Courtyard.

So what is a Community Courtyard? It’s whatever you want it to be. Seriously, when you look at the conference agenda and notice a topic is missing that you are interested in, you can put it on the agenda for the courtyard. Whoever shows up is going to be interested in the topic, so even if you only talk to one other person, the conversation is almost guaranteed to be productive.

MSDN_DC_white_2 Personally, I think of the courtyard as a public speakers lounge. For years, I’ve had fantastic conversations with smart interesting people in the speakers lounge at events. Unfortunately, the attendees couldn’t participate in these great conversations. I want to change that.

I’ll be asking speakers to hang out in the courtyard when they are not presenting, or preparing their presentation. Also, instead of gathering at the front of the room after a session to talk to the speakers and ask questions, speakers can now invite attendees to join them in the courtyard to continue the discussion.

It is my hope that the Community Courtyard become a fixture at developer events big and small. I believe strongly that even the most tightly run event needs to make space for serendipity. We need a place at Code Camps and corporate conferences where attendees can seize the moment and talk with each other about what matters most to them at that moment.

I’ve already facilitated the Community Courtyard at the Atlanta MDC, and I had a blast. I know Doc is facilitating many of the other events. If you haven’t yet attended a MDC in your area, there are still a few remaining:

1/22/09 - Boston, MA

1/22/09 - Detroit, MI

1/26/09 - Dallas, TX

2/23/09 - San Francisco, CA

Come join me in Detroit. If you can’t make it to Detroit, then attend one of the other events. I recommend you do so. The content for these events is top notch, but the people you will meet are even better.

See ya’ in the Motor City,