Last Saturday I went to Productcamp Socal. A yearly event that brings together product managers, companies, consumers and marketing minds together to collaborate. Productcamp is what people call an "unconference." I'm pretty sick of the "un-anything" term, because it just sounds retarded. Naming conventions aside, the event was amazing!
I had heard about it from past years but never got a chance to go for one reason or another, mainly the reason was lack of planning. This time around, my friend Dennis was in charge of the social media aspect of it and he was good about keeping everyone involved for months prior to the event.
The event was well coordinated and of high quality. Starting at 7 am people were checking you in and your badge was ready up front. After a few minutes you could swing by to the refreshments and breakfast bar where you found bagels, muffins, juice, water, fruits and coffee. Not to shabby for a free event I'll tell you that much.
So what is an uncoference anyway? Anything you hear with "un" something is as you'd expect, the opposite. Generally a conference is completely planned days, weeks or even months in advance. You know exactly who will speak and what they will speak about. This is the part that is different for an uncoference. You see, speakers can apply for a period of time prior to the event and get on the list of potential presenters. However, it isn't until the day of the event, that morning that the speaker schedule is produced.
After you arrive to the event, you have to pick up your votes. In this case, your votes consisted of a sheet of stickers with smiley faces. You could then go down the hallway to see a wall full of sheets of paper with the name of a each speaker, a title for their presentation, and a summary of the talk. If you placed a sticker from your sticker-sheet onto a given presentation then you cast a vote to see that presentation. So the speakers with the most votes got to present their talks.
Two of my friends earned a spot in the presentation schedule; unfortunately due to conflicting schedules I could only attend one. Both Marieke Hensel & John Chow were some of the favorite presentations amongst the crowd; I went to John's. John was actually the only speaker that filled every available voting spot. Go figure. Oh and by the way, you can watch his entire presentation online now, he talked about how to make 200,000 with an information product.
Out of all the good stuff in Productcamp, I think they could use a bit of improvement in their scheduling. It seems that many talks were part of the same general topic, say "product development" or "blogging". All these talks with similar topics were scheduled at the same time so people looking to learn more about blogging an attended one blogging class might have missed 2 others going on at the same time. In my opinion, they should have been scattered throughout the day to let people make their own track.
Some people mentioned that the event lacked panel discussions, but I think that they were not necessary nor were they missing. After all this is an unconference (ugh) remember? So things are done differently. What I really think was great was the quality of all the talks I attended. It was really unparalleled. I've paid hundreds of dollars to attend other conferences and frankly few can even hold a candle to this one. I would go again on a heartbeat and I intend to go next year. Maybe I'll even present something myself.
Here are some other pictures from the event.