BookCampTO 2010: More Engagement, More Ideas

BookCampTO, my personal favourite (un)conference, rolled around again this past weekend. High fives to the organizing committee of Erin Balser, Mark Bertils, Alexa Clark, and Hugh McGuiregreat work all around!

So, why do I love BookCamp so much?

The short version: When you remove the barrier of formality from a conference, you get more out of it.

The longer version:

  • It’s about more than the session leader.
    Everyone in attendance carries equal weight and can freely share ideas and ask questions.  I can sit in John Maxwell’s session and field questions about the Book of MPub, and Nic Boshart can sit in mine and rant about ISTCsand we’re all happy about it. Everyone can participate and everyone can get something out of it.
  • I can let my inner 6-year-old with ADHD come out without anyone giving me dirty looks.
    Tweeting during a session? Leaving to go to a different room? Talking to someone in the hallway? It’s all cool at an unconference. That being said, I noticed this year that there seemed to be less of a under riding conversation than there was last year. I think it points to higher engagement rates within the sessions. Most of the laptops in the rooms were being used to skype people in from out of town, not tweet or check email out of boredom. Instead, people were talking and sharing ideascrazy.
  • I love scheming.
    It’s often the conversations that happen in hallways or over beers that lead to great ideas. I have a list of at least 10 people I’m supposed to be emailing over the next few days about some elaborate plan we came up with at BookCamp. That’s what I’m thinking about now more than anything I talked about during a session. Yes, that can happen anytime, but there’s something about BookCamp that brings it out in people.

I think that magic is the lack of formality. Sitting around a classroom in jeans and a t-shirt seems to put us all in a comfortable place where we can actually speak openly and honestly.

Favourite moments from 2010:

  • Alternating between wine and coffee at 11 am while Michael Tamblyn fielded questions about Kobo, and Noah and I tried to keep our jittery coffee hands from spilling wine everywhere. It wasn’t that he brought us wine, it was that the wine broke the ice and made everyone in the room comfortable enough to ask whatever was on their minds.
  • Getting all the data geeks together in one room to talk about ONIX. We’re totally nerdy and we’re ok with it.
  • Ranting about the disconnect between publishing and outside life (sports in my case) with Erin Balser (and anyone else who would listen).
  • Watching this year’s MPub cohort present alongside John Maxwell. A year has gone by really quickly.

I’m heading to Halifax for BookCamp Halifax on June 5, 2010. See you there?