I attended the Web2.0 and Communities distributed conference from CPSquare during the past four weeks. I attended on the recommendation on a number of people, and the $50 price was certainly worthwhile. CPSquare is a "community of practice on communities of practice," so the focus of the conference was primarily on how to use the latest set of tools to support communities.
The primary interaction modes were via a threaded forum plus a teleconference (with chat) focused on a specific topic. The conference agenda touched hit these topics:
- Blogging and RSS
- SNA, FOAF & networking
- Architectures of Participation
- Action Research
- Interoperability and Use
In addition to the initial topics, there were more discussions created, based on what things people found interesting (". The timing of the agenda was such that the topics of greatest interest to me were in the early chunk of the conference, so I participated more fully in those discussions.
The participants ranged all over from people very familiar with web2.0 to those heavily invested in building communities and place in between. Being well-immersed in the technology end of the spectrum of participants, I learned a lot in listening to people who weren't nearly as familiar with it. Sure, I shared my perspective, but they gave me some interesting things to consider as well.
The tagging exercise was a rather effective demonstration of the principles we had been discussing. The convener suggested people use del.icio.us to tag a handful of web pages with the COP+Maven tag and then come back to discuss their experience. This forced people who were unfamiliar with tagging to give it a whirl and begin to see the value of this kind of service. The questions and "ah-hah's" that came through the discussion were great. Even though I've been using del.icio.us for a while, I got a number of insights into thinking about it differently. The other reason the exercise was so effective is that it's easy to get started, whereas some of the other tools take longer to gain traction or learn.
Meta-observations: Obviously online and f2f conferences differ, and there are advantages to both. In some cases, I would have loved a salon around which we could sit and hash out particularly interesting ideas that were developed in the asynchronous discussions. It is clear that the ideas developed asynchronously helped the teleconferences, but I often have difficulty getting into the flow of teleconferences.
A very useful aspect of being virtual was that there was time for people to post reflections and summaries of the teleconferences or of the exercises. In a number of cases, these summaries by conference participants brought out additional discussion that would not have otherwise happened. In f2f conferences, this kind of thing might happen in the hallways or over dinner, but are limited to those directly participating.
For a conference that focuses on Web2.0, I would have liked a more friendly set of tools. However, as I look back, the toolset did have some sophistication: threaded discussions; discussion folders added quickly as needed; integrated wiki; signals about recent changes; chat to capture "live" conversations; email updates (if desired). The discussion threads were clearly marked with indentation and icons, though navigating through them felt rather clumsy. This may have been due to the amazing threads of conversations the conference engendered. I had problems with the chat room software, so I had to use the low-res version that required me to refresh my browser every few minutes to see the chat discussion.
And as is current fashion, the organizers suggested the tag CP2Web2 or CoP2.0 for blog posts (here is the combined search at Technorati). Another option for finding related articles (besides searching for "CPSquare" or "Web 2.0 and Communities of Practice") would be to look for references to the CPSquare announcement of the event, for those who can't tag.