Thoughts on hosting an IndieWebCamp Pop-up Session

A few weeks back, I hosted a stand alone IndieWebCamp pop-up session. I had promised to scribble down some thoughts about the process and how it might be improved based on my experience. If anyone else has thoughts on how it went or how future events like this could be improved, I’d love to read them.

With traditional in-person two day camps on hold for the foreseeable future as the result of the coronavirus, doing some smaller one day or even one session topics seemed like a good idea at the time. After having done it once, I now think they’re an even better idea. A variety of things came out of the experience that I wouldn’t have anticipated.

Process

I posted the notice for the event to my website and to events.indieweb.org about two weeks in advance. This helped give me enough time to invite about 15 people I expected to be interested in the particular topic. A few tweets as reminders helped in addition to the announcement being early enough to make it into two of the IndieWeb newsletters.

I held the session at 10am Pacific so that we might be able to draw people from the late evening time zones in Europe, mid-afternoon people on the East coast of the U.S. but still late enough in the morning so that people on the West coast of America wouldn’t have to be up too early. This seems to have worked out well though I feel bad that we did likely shortchange several people in India, Asia, and Australia who might have attended.

I expected that I would be starting out small and simple and honestly only expected about 3-6 people to show up. I was initially thinking a tiny, one-topic Homebrew Website Club, but on a weekend.

On the day of the event my guess was that we had about 25 attendees, but statistics after the fact showed that 35 people logged into the session. There were still people arriving into the room at the two hour mark! According to the numbers, there have already been 210+ views of the archived video since it was posted later on the day of the event.

I suppose that future sessions will give additional data to bear the hypothesis out, but one of the side-benefits of having a specific topic announced a few weeks in advance seemed to have brought in a large number of people interested in the particular topic and who were generally unaware of the IndieWeb as a group or a movement. I’ve seen several of these people at subsequent Homebrew Website Club meetups, so using these sessions to help spread the principles of IndieWeb does seem to have been generally useful. About half of the attendees hadn’t been to an IndieWeb event previously. I did try to start with a brief introduction to IndieWeb at the start of the session and offered some follow up at the end, but I probably could have planned for this better.

I wish I had collected people’s emails, but I’ll have to do this manually somehow if we do so now. The traditional signup and organization structure for full camps would have done this, but it would be nice to have a simple workflow for doing this on a lower key basis for pop-ups. Emails would also have helped to put together a post-event questionnaire to potentially create a follow up session.

Thanks certainly goes to all the people who have built pre-existing infrastructure and patterns for pulling off such an event so easily.

Wiki Infrastructure

Since the session, I’ve gone into the IndieWeb wiki and created a stub pseudo-IndieWebCamp listing to help make organizing future stand-alone pop-up sessions a bit easier (particularly for documenting the results after-the-fact.)

The key is to make doing these as easy as possible from an organization standpoint. Having pre-existing pages on the wiki seems to help a lot (or at least feels like it from a mental baggage perspective).

Here are the relevant pages:

Execution

One of the things that was generally missing from the program was some of the hallway chatter and getting-to-know-you preliminary conversation. I think if I were doing another session I’d schedule 15 minutes of preliminary chat and dedicate about 30 minutes of introduction time into the process and encourage people to have a cup of coffee or drink to help make the atmosphere a bit more casual and conversational.

On thing that surprised me was that despite scheduling about an hours’ worth of time to the session we still had a sizeable crowd talking about the topic nearly two hours later. I think having more than just the traditional hour of conversation at a camp was awesome. It helped us not only dig in a bit deeper into the topic, but also helped in managing things given the larger number of attendees over the usual camp setting where 5-15 session attendees has been the norm. Doing it again, I might outline a three hour mini-event to allow covering a bit more material but still keeping things small and relatively casual.

I certainly benefited by the presence of a few old hands in the IndieWeb community showing up and helping out on the day of, particularly in terms of helping to manage Zoom infrastructure and format. A single person could certainly plan and execute a pop-up session, but I would highly recommend that at least two people show up to co-host on the day of the event, especially if the attendance goes over 10 people. 

The IndieWeb Zoom set up prevents organizers from allowing users to share their screens during a session. (This issue has popped up in a few HWCs lately too.)  This was potentially helpful in the earlier days when it was easier for zoombombers to pop into rooms and disrupt a conversation. There have been enough changes to Zoom with precautions built in that this part of the lock down probably isn’t needed any longer, particularly given how useful screen sharing can be.

Despite having many places to indicate RSVP’s I had very little indication of how many would show up. Something to improve this would be nice in the future, though isn’t necessarily mission critical.

I’ve definitely experienced the organizer decompression time required after putting together something big. I feel like there was less of the traditional post-event stress for this one session which allowed me to focus more of my time and attention after-the-fact on the content of the session and getting some work relating to it done. For me at least, I consider this a big personal win.

Create day/time

Traditional camps set aside day two for people to create something related to the session(s) they attended on day one. We didn’t do that for this session ahead of time, but I desperately wish we had created a better space for doing that somehow. Later on the afternoon of the session, I posted a note encouraging people to write, create, or do something tangible. I wish I had created a specific time for either the following day (or even a week later) for everyone to reconvene and do a short demo session as a follow up.

Simply having a blog section and demo page on the wiki did help encourage people to write, blog, and continue thinking and working on the session topic afterwards.

Concentration

One of the things I’ve appreciated since the session is the level of conversation in the general IndieWeb chat rooms, on people’s blogs, and peppered around Twitter and Mastodon. Often when couched into a larger IndieWebCamp there are so many sessions and conversations, the individual topics can seem to be lost in all the hubbub. Fifteen sessions concentrated on one weekend is incredibly invigorating, but because all of the concentration was on just a single topic, there was a lot more focus and energy spent on just that one thing. I sort of feel like this concentration has helped to carry over in the intervening time because I haven’t been as distracted by the thirty other competing things I’d like to work on with respect to my website since.

There has been a lot of specific article writing about this one session as some camps get in entirety.

Perhaps pop-up sessions on broader topics and problems that haven’t had as much work or which have only one or two small examples may benefit from this sort of concentrated work by several people.

I do wonder what may have happened if we had had a broad conversation about the top level topic for an hour and a half and then broken into smaller groups for 45 minutes to talk about sub-topics?

Conclusions

In the end, the session went far better than I ever expected for the amount of time I invested into it. I definitely encourage others to try to put together similar sessions. They’re simple and easy enough to be organized by one person and they can be carried out by one person, though I’d recommend two.

I encourage others to suggest topics and set up other sessions.

Even if you’re not interested in the organization portion, why not propose a topic? Perhaps someone else with a more organizational bent will come along and help you make it happen?

I’m happy, as always, to help people plan them out and deal with some of the logistics (Zoom, Etherpad, wiki, etc.) should anyone need it.

What session topic(s) will you propose for the next one?

Replied to Sharing brief @IndieWebSummit notes as they come to mind. by Tantek ÇelikTantek Çelik (tantek.com)
Sharing brief @IndieWebSummit notes as they come to mind.

This was the first year people pre-wrote proposals before the #BarCamp organizing session. As facilitator I decided to have people who never proposed before go first.
 
Coincidentally, @Christi3k just announced the same thing @OSBridge unconference organizing session.

This may be worth codifing as a normal practice. Let first-timers propose sessions first before anyone who has done this before, especially at an @IndieWebCamp before.

The other thing I did was, after the the first-timers finished explaining and scheduling their BarCamp session proposals, I had people *other than* the remaining session proposers choose from the remaining session proposals posted on the side of the grid, and advocate for them. I think that worked quite well for selecting for the sessions that were more compelling for more people.
I was just thinking about how this might be codified a bit better as well, particularly for folks who are attending their first BarCamp-style event.

While there is some implication in the event pages, I don’t know if some people were expecting the sessions and planning to play out the way they did (or if they knew what to expect on that front at all, particularly in chatting with people in the early morning registration/breakfast part of the day).

It was certainly more productive for me to think about and post some of the things I wanted to accomplish pre-camp. (It also helped to have your reminder a month or more ago about what I might build before even going to the summit.)

Having additional time to know what the scheduling process looks like, if nothing else, gives people a bit more time to think about what they want to get out of the conference and propose some additional ideas without being under the short time crunch. This is particularly apropos when the morning presentations may have run long and the conference is already a few minutes off track and we’re eating into valuable session time otherwise. I would suspect that helping to get the session ideas flowing sooner than later may also help the idea and creative processes, and even more so for participants who may need a bit more time to organize their thoughts and communicate them as they’d like.

I definitely liked the process of having beginners go first and then letting people advocate for particular ideas thereafter. This worked particularly well for an established event and one with so many people. It might be helpful to pre-select one potentially popular proposal from an older hand to go first though, to provide an example of the process for those who are new to it, and in particular those who might be quiet, shy, or not be the type to raise their hands and advocate in front of such a large group. In fact, given this, another option is to allow people to propose sessions and then allow advocation across the board, but for beginners first followed by everyone thereafter. This may also encourage better thought out initial proposals as well.

Thanks again for all your hard work and preparation Tantek!

The registration page for the upcoming IndieWebSummit from June 26-27, 2018 in Portland is now up. Whether you’re just starting your first website or building bleeding edge web applications, this is the place to be. RSVP now! #Indieweb #BarCamp

If you’re game for an extended trip, I’ll note that it’s right after Open Source Bridge (Twitter icon with link to twitter account@OSBridge) June 20–23, 2017.

Oops, I’ve just noticed that OSBridge hadn’t updated their site from last year. This year’s conference is on June 29th, right after IWS!

🎧 Episode 79: IndieWebCamp venue | Timetable

Listened to Episode 79: IndieWebCamp venue | Timetable by Manton Reese from Timetable
Manton discusses hosting (and attending) his first ever IndieWebCamp.

I’m excited to hear there will be at least one more IndieWebCamp before the end of the year.

Manton, I too once hosted an IndieWebCamp without ever having attended one myself. My advice is don’t sweat it too much. If you’ve got a location, some reasonable wifi, and even a bit of food, you’ll be okay. The interesting people/community that gather around it and their enthusiasm will be what really make it an unforgettable experience.

Incidentally it was also simultaneously the first ever Bar Camp I had attended and one of the originators of the concept attended! I remember thinking “No pressure here.” It was a blast for me, and I’m sure will be great for you as well.

IndieWebCamp Los Angeles 2016 Announced for November 4-6

For the first time since 2013, when it appeared in Hollywood, IndieWebCamp is coming to Los Angeles! I’m definitely going, and I invite you to join us. For the past two years or so, I’ve been delving into the wealth of tools and resources the community has been developing. I’m excited to attend a local camp, help out in any way I can, and will help anyone who’s interested in learning more.

Join us in LA (Santa Monica) for two days of a BarCamp-style gathering of web creators building and sharing open web technologies to empower users to own their own identities & content, and advance the state of the !

The IndieWeb movement is a global community that is building an open set of principles and methods that empower people to take back ownership of their identity and data instead of relying on 3rd party websites.

At IndieWebCamp you’ll learn about ways to empower yourself to own your data, create & publish content on your own site, and only optionally syndicate to third-party silos. Along the way you’ll get a solid grounding in the history and future of Microformats, domain ownership, IndieAuth, WebMention and more!

For remote participants, tune into the live chat (tons of realtime notes!) and the video livestream (URL TBD).

General IndieWeb Principles

icon 4611.png Your content is yours
When you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation. Too many companies have gone out of business and lost all of their users’ data. By joining the IndieWeb, your content stays yours and in your control.
icon 31635.png You are better connected
Your articles and status messages can go to all services, not just one, allowing you to engage with everyone. Even replies and likes on other services can come back to your site so they’re all in one place.
icon 2003.png You are in control
You can post anything you want, in any format you want, with no one monitoring you. In addition, you share simple readable links such as example.com/ideas. These links are permanent and will always work.

 Where

Pivotal
1333 2nd Street, Suite 200
Santa Monica, CA, 90401
United States
Map

When

Friday (optional): 2016-11-04
Saturday: 2016-11-05
Sunday: 2016-11-06

RSVP

Indie Event
Eventbrite
Lanyrd
Facebook

Guest List
For more details see: IndieWebCamp LA 2016

Tentative Schedule

Day 0 Prep Night

Day 0 is an optional prep night for people that want to button up their website a little bit to get ready for the IndieWebCamp proper.
18:30 Organizer setup
19:00 Doors open
19:15 Introductions
19:30 Build session
22:00 Day 0 closed

Day 1 Discussion

Day 1 is about discussing in a BarCamp-like environment. Bring a topic you’d like to discuss or join in on topics as they are added to the board. We make the schedule together!
08:00 Organizer setup
08:30 Doors open – badges
09:15 Introductions and demos
10:00 Session scheduling
10:30 Sessions
12:00 Group photo & Lunch
13:00 Sessions on the hour
16:00 Last session
17:00 Day 1 closing session, break, meetup later for dinner

Day 2 Building

Day 2 is about making things on and for your personal site! Work with others or on your own.
09:30 Doors open – badges
10:10 Day 2 kick-off, session scheduling
10:30 Build sessions
12:00 Catered lunch
14:30 Build sessions continue
15:00 Demos
16:30 Community clean-up
17:00 Camp closed!

Sponsorship opportunities are available for those interested.

im-attending-indiewebcamp