Recharging my geobatteries at #wherecampeu – an unconference

Yesterday I was fortunate to have a ticket for wherecamp eu. I say fortunate because this was a free unconference and tickets, which were released in blocks over a few weeks, were sold out within a couple of hours of release. Hardly surprising really if you knew what to expect but I didn’t. This was my first unconference and I was a bit puzzled as to how this loosely structured event would work.

After 3 years of chairing GeoCommunity I thought I knew a bit about organising a geoconference – at an unconference there is no programme, you just turn up and stick your name and topic on the wall to show that you have something to say or to talk about and people turn up and join in. Some slides but way less than in the death by PowerPoint or drowning in Keynote days that we have all suffered silently. Spontaneity, improvisation and participation seemed to characterise the day.

There were about 180 people there from across Europe (although to be honest it was largely Brits) enjoying two days of geogoodness ranging from stuff about Open Street Map, location based games strategies, some pretty philosophical stuff about sense of place and capital, map visualisation as art to a heated discussion about the value in Making Public Data Public lead by Eddie Curtis of Snowflake titled “Walking with Dinosaurs” and a presentation called “why metadata is shit” from Charles Kennelly of ESRI. Oh yes and Gary Gale of Yahoo expounded on his “theory of stuff”.

I talked (no slides because screen wouldn’t connect to my mac) about business models “Without a business model we are all FCUK’d” The basic premise was that to turn your idea into a successful business you need to know who your customers are, what they are buying from you, how much they will pay (and how much it costs you) and why they will buy from you. It was a lively session with people standing up and giving elevator pitches with feedback from the audience. One guy from Google did not see the need for giving thought to a business model he said “Why do you need money?” – turned out that he had a successful bedroom business (a mobile browser for iPhones and Androids that didn’t store your history so your girl friend wouldn’t know you had been watching porn) that he was running outside of his day job so maybe I had it all wrong, to be honest I didn’t know there was that much demand for mobile porn.

These are the slides I would have used if the screen had worked for me

It was a great day and thanks and admiration go to Christopher Osborne, Gary Gale and a load of other people who got the event together. My geobatteries were recharged at the end of the day and it prompted several thoughts about the conventional approach to running a conference – GeoCommunity could borrow a bit from this unconference.