#SATechCali2013 – or “How to Set Up an Unconference” – Part 1

I love keeping up with the latest trends in Internet technology.

One event I used to attend was the O’Reilly Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco. The breadth of this now “on hiatus” conference was huge and unmatched by any higher ed conference I’ve seen thus far. Where else could you see the biggest names in Internet technology lay out some of the coolest ideas and world-changing work they do? The scrappy startups – some of which made their homes just blocks from Moscone Center – were always there too. Whether it was Werner Vogels from Amazon talking about what it really means to make a data center have “six nines uptime,” or Amy Jo Kim and Buster Benson talking about creating better user experiences through the ethical use of gamification techniques, or talks about “big data” and data visualization, it was a fantastically valuable experience. It gave me all kinds of ideas about things I could do “back home.” What I actually brought back from those conferences and implemented is a topic for another post 😉

The excitement of conference ideas was difficult to convey to my colleagues, much less implement…many ideas were simply years ahead of what most folks were ready to think about. To be fair, some people in higher ed actually do think and write about some of these ideas. The difference is that the people at Web 2.0 were actually DOING them at “web scale.” I began thinking about how I could convert some of these big ideas into something practical and useful for my colleagues who are lifelong Student Affairs professionals.

That’s when I hooked up with Ed Cabellon from Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts (http://edcabellon.com/) and Joe Sabado from UC Santa Barbara (http://joesabado.com/). Ed successfully put on a couple of “unconferences” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unconference and http://satechbos.com/ for more info), and Joe was interested in setting up such an event on the West Coast. An unconference is in many ways like a meetup; I’d been to a few of those before, and they were all great. After a few emails back and forth about the kinds of things Joe and I would need to do to put on a successful unconference, I did a Google+ Hangout “call” with Ed. It was immediately obvious that this was exactly the kind of thing I needed to do.

As you can imagine, there are a ton of details to attend to, but I think Joe and I are up for it! What I can say for certain is that it will be held at CSUN in early June 2013, and it will have a lot of great, practical ideas about technology that you can take back to your campus and use right away. More to come!