BlawgThink in Open Space a Winner

Talked with organizer Matt Homann today, who tells me that he’s not heard a single negative comment about last weekend’s BlawgThink conference. Recall from previous postings here that we started with 2/3 of a day in traditional conference mode, then spent a full day in Open Space “unconference” mode. Here’s one of my favorite comments:

I just returned from the Blawgthink conference in Chicago. As the name suggests, this was a group interested in law blogging and law bloggers. You know, you’d think a room full of lawyers would be boring. You’d be wrong actually. This group was a blast.

Matt’s posted comments and more comments. Looking forward to more experimentation with the BlawgThink/LexThink gang.

Practicing Inside Out

Still here in the middle of BlawgThink2005, a blogging and tech conference with an Open Space unconference dropped into the middle of it.

The design we’re using here, 3/4 of a day in traditional “tracks” followed by a 4:15pm opening and a first breakout session from 5:30pm to 6:30pm, simply should not work. It should not be possible to have the energized conversations we did at 6:30pm last night. Nor should we have gotten away with a panel talk this morning, followed by three more sessions of Open Space.

There is something about blogging and technology that seems to have reshaped the minds of these folks, mine too. Might be changing what is possible in organization and community. When I look at blogging, wiki, Open Space, mapping and the like, I notice that they all have embedded in them some degree of watching and listening to what’s “outside” while simultaneously not “turning off” what is happening “inside” of me.

Embedded in all of these methods is an active practice and continual refinement of the pulsation between inside and outside, self and other, seeing and doing. I think this refinement of mind makes it easier to move between “traditional” hierarchy mode and the self-organizing Open Space mode. Then again, it might just be because we’re swimming in laptops here, with lots of pulsing between conference and other work.

Either way, I find the ease of meeting, facilitating, documenting and learning here encouraging. For the record, we’re 80-90 people here, posted 30 issues into 4 time slots, documenting everything in MindJet mapping software.

Mapping Open Space

Reporting in from BlawgThink2005 today, where I’ll open a space this afternoon that will stretch on into tomorrow, an Open Space unconference inside of a more traditional conference.

Had a great conversation with Olivia Woodard of MindJet, a very cool bit of mapping software. In the old days we captured proceedings from Open Space meetings in MS-Word. Lately we’ve been using weblogs more and more, for the linking and ongoing support that sort of platform offers. I think MindJet must be the future of this documenting.

Consider that a large-ish group gets together, posts 50-80 issues, discusses and documents all of them, and all the proceedings are then loaded into a MindJet-type map. Over the next weeks or months, they continue to develop and refine their map. Next time they meet, they don’t start with a blank wall, they start with their map. They post new nodes and assign meeting times and spaces to the nodes. They meet, keep refining and expanding.

And when they’re done, they turn some of those nodes in to action items that can be aggregated and tracked using Gyronix’ ResultsManager. Ongoing Opening. Ongoing Vision. Ongoing Learning and Support Space. Ongoing Management, Results and Documentation. Ongoing Practice.

Looking forward to working on an invitation and open space for MindJet and Gyronix users, and seeing what they can map and make together.

BlawgThink2005… Please join us!

Matt Homann and Dennis Kennedy have put together a great group of speakers AND had the — what should we call it, courage? vision? wisdom? — to let them say their piece and then sit down in self-organizing work groups, for some active conversation with conference attendees.

BlawgThink2005 is a two-day event offering three tracks of speakers and workshops for most of the first day, and then a wide-open second day in Open Space. The value of the first day is that we’ll cover a lot of core issues. The value of the second day is that we’ll get to do something with those issues.

In Open Space, we’ll name our own working sessions — repeats, sequels and spin-offs from the first day — and tap into the talent and experience of everyone, including the speakers, on the issues and opportunities that are most important to us. It’s not enough to just hear new stuff. We need some space and time to take it in, process, plan, and work together with others to apply it in our own situations.

The official focus is legal blogging, but anyone interested in more general business blogging will surely fit right in and find plenty of learning and application. I’m grateful to be along for the ride, as the facilitator of the Open Space portion of the program. There is much to be done — and gained — in connecting the practices of Open Space and Blogging!

Join us for BlawgThink on November 11th and 12th, at Catalyst Ranch in Chicago! to register.

State of Blogging

Quantity: Dave Sifry posts a semi-annual update on macro blogging economy as tracked by Technorati. One chart shows the number of blogs doubling every 5 months. This number includes a growing number of spam and fake blogs, but also likely misses many internal business blogs and blog-like publishing in places like Clearly, the conversation that is the blogosphere still growing fast. via Dave Pollard

Quality: Britt Blaser, via Euan, suggesting camp fire talk as an organizing aesthetic for corporate blogging:

Around the fire, after a day of grubbing for grubs or dancing between the legs of a woolly mammoth, our ancestors didn’t harangue cavemates about how their new improved spear thrower would jump-start their sex life. You can’t fool anyone around the fire, because you’ve all been doing the same thing all day, your frailties and strengths on display… During most of our history, there hasn’t been much conversation except camp fire talk… We all know what it is and, better, what it isn’t. Blogging is forcing us to remember how to do Camp Fire Talk.

The other guide that comes to mind is travel talk, the kind of information exchange that takes place on street corners, in train compartments, in hostels, at trailheads. Meeting places, chance encounters, open markets, recent past trading for possible futures. Members Conference: More and More (day three)

On the last morning, things started a bit slowly, owing to late nights and the cumulative effects of lots of working and learning, oh yes, and perhaps eating and drinking over these last few days.

Morning News conversation went quite long. Included inside of that, we “re-opened” the space for new “action” sorts of topics — things that needed to be started with some clear next steps, or conversations that wanted to be finished before we left. After that slow start, the room really buzzed with the action groups that I finally called back together a bit later than scheduled. The closing circle focused on “What did we love about this conference.” Those thoughts were blogged live, via wi-fi connection. The rest of the proceedings are getting filled out here. Already people are beginning to look at repeating in Chicago, and also in Rio, Uganda, and Los Angeles.

One of the most amazing dimensions of the three-day meeting is that with 40 people in the room, working all day in dozens of breakouts, we used only one flipchart pad. Most of that use was by me in setting up the room for the opening on day one. Because we have an active online workspace and lots of laptops with wi-fi capacity, almost all of the work was captured and will continue to be processed in the online space, much of it posted in places other than the main “proceedings” repository, as well. More than any other Open Space meeting I’ve ever facilitated, this meeting and this work really is not going to end.

More and more, this high level of performance is possible in almost any working community and organization!

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