Several members of the Code Partners team were at the Sydney DevOpsDays last week.
If you’ve never been, DevOpsDays events are volunteer organised conferences where there are scheduled speakers in the morning, but the afternoon is broken up into what they refer to as Open Spaces. In Sydney there were 3 or 4 Open Space rooms, and each day people would stand up and propose topics. Proposing a topic doesn’t mean necessarily you have to present it, it may be more that you hope other people will also want to have a general discussion on the same topic. Then the attendees get to vote, and the most popular sessions get allocated to rooms.
This reminded me of the Birds Of a Feather sessions that used to happen in the evenings back at the Borland Conferences in the 90’s, but taken to extremes. I also remember going to a few BarCamps in the early 2000’s, but I haven’t seen one of those in awhile.
It sounds like it has a high-chance for disaster: a conference that people are paying to attend where the sessions are worked out just-in-time. What if nobody proposes any sessions? What if nobody is interested in the sessions that are proposed?
This could have all gone horribly wrong, but I have to say, it worked fantastically. On both days I came away thinking the Open Space sessions were the best sessions of the day. No criticism of the scheduled sessions, but I would have happily reduced the number of them and increased the number of Open Space.
Not sure if there are many conferences that follow this format outside of DevOpsDays, but if you come across one I’d recommend trying them out. It’ll feel uncomfortable at first, but they are typically low cost and, like DevOpsDays, you might just find you have an awesome day.