As I work on the Design Team for the upcoming Nexus for Change conference, I’m reminded of the “new” popularity of what are sometimes called “unconferences” in the world of technologists. An unconference is an event that is designed with minimal boundaries that maximize the potential for useful and interesting things to happen. They are gatherings designed to support emergence. Simply put, they maximize your ability to participate in the conversations you care most about. You get to create the agenda with other participants on the spot, ensuring there will be time and space for your issue or burning question.
While this manner of meeting is “new” to many people, it has been around for a few decades in the form of process methodologies like Open Space Technology (See the Change Handbook for additional methods that support creativity, break-through and emergence.) It’s also quite similar to the way human beings have come together to solve challenging (and everyday) issues for thousands of years. But I digress…
In preparing for Nexus for Change, Peggy Holman reminded me of a new social networking tool that is designed to help stimulate interest and connections among participants before, during and after an event. It’s called Attendr, and it’s currently available for free to anyone who wants to try it out.
It’s a kind of registration system where you fill out a profile, upload a picture, and add tags that represent your affiliations and areas of interest. Then you can identify other attendees you already know and read profiles of others to create a list of people you would like to meet. All of this plus a mashup that includes a GoogleMap of where attendees are from, flickr photos related to the event title, and recent blogs posts about your event. To see all of this in action, take a look at the Nexus for Change Attendr.
Overall, I think this is a great tool that provides a valuable service to those willing to take a few minutes to fill out a profile. I can identify not only who is coming to the event, but also whose interests overlap with mine so I have a sense of people I’d like to meet once the conference begins. And the map shows me if someone I already know is a friend of the people I’d like to meet.
Nexus for Change is not a population of techno-geeks, however, and it’s clear from feedback I’ve received that some of Attendr’s design is challenging for non-techies to understand on the first try. The biggest challenge for most people is figuring out how to identify people you know and those you want to meet. There are also some inconsistencies with site navigation that will hopefully be ironed out in a future release.
To improve the experience for Nexus users, I’ve created an Attendr instruction sheet that you are welcome to re-use for your own event. Contact me and I’ll send you a Word version for easy editing. Early results indicate that the instructions provide most users easy access to Attendr’s powerful and simple features.
Let me know what you think of Attendr!