A skeptics perspective on the OpenSpace conference format

I attended the Continuous Integration and Testing Conference (CITCON) in Denver Colorado this past weekend and experienced first hand the OpenSpace conference format. I was skeptical about the concept of the OpenSpace conference format because it just did not seem structured enough. It turns out I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of real world practical knowledge I received at the conference. For those of you who are not familiar with the OpenSpace conference format I will provide a quick description.

The conference begins with introductions and an overview of the conference. Next all parties attending the conference are invited to propose a topic that they are interested in learning more about or information they would like to share. The attendees then vote on the proposed topics and the topics with the most votes are assigned to a session. Each session is a discussion by all members of the session participants of the topic at hand. The OpenSpace conference format abides by the “law of two feet”, meaning if you are not getting what you like out of the session you are obligated to use your two feet and move onto another session.

This format is different in that anyone can present, propose and discuss information at each session. The sessions become a discussion of the topic by peers rather than a power point presentation from an “expert”. You get a real world perspective on what is and is not working for your peers. Often the sessions turns into a debate on the benefits and drawbacks of a specific framework, technology or software package. I learned quite a bit at the CITCON conference and I feel it is largely due to the OpenSpace conference format.