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#BSidesAustin 2010 Recap

Last Saturday (3/13) was the first ever B-Sides Austin unconference event, and what a great event it was! We were able to successfully pull in excellent, engaging participants from across the state for a really fun and educational time.

The event was made a tremendous success thanks to the hard work of Jack Daniel, Todd Kimball, and unconference specialist Kaliya/Identity Woman, who joined us from Unconference.net and the Internet Identity Workshop (IIW).

We ran this event in a slightly different format from the prior 2-3 B-Sides events. Instead of relying largely on a traditional pre-approved lecture-only format, we instead leveraged a hybrid approach. The day started at 10am with an unconference-style schedule-setting meeting where all participants were free to volunteer talks or discussion group topics, and then got to put them into the schedule for the day (see the schedule grid). Using this approach we were able to accommodate 5 traditional hour-long talk slots during the day, with up to 4 discussion groups running in parallel, plus room for hallway conversations. We ended the day back in the round discussing the conference, lessons learned, discussing format and content, and gauging interest in having another. Participants were overwhelmingly positive on the experience and in favor of running another B-Sides Austin event next year! :)

For those not familiar with unconference and open space, I highly recommend looking at Unconference.net. One of the important attributes of using this approach was not only getting people to show up, but also to have them be engaged in the conversation.

There were a few lessons to learn from running things this way...
1) Improve pre-event communication. This was primarily my fault, sorting out the event format literally the week of the event. This timing occurred because of meeting Kaliya at the end of RSA, and because of the timing of RSA itself being the week+ before.

2) Allocate more space. We ended up ok for this event, but we're going to need room to grow next year. The Norris Center was a decent facility, though - much nicer than I'd feared.

3) It pays to use pros. Kaliya/Identity Woman is one of the innovators of unconference and open space. Here help, especially with schedule-setting, was invaluable. It's always worthwhile to have smart, experienced people helping host events!

4) EventBrite ftw. At the last minute we switched from the wiki-based sign-ups to an EventBrite event (free for free events). This was a much better approach. They even send a printable attendee list once registration is closed. w00t!

5) "Hackers on a Duck" evening event. What can go wrong with hackers riding a duck around town while listening to live music and consuming local beer, vodka, tequila, and foods?! :) Our goal next year is to get 45+ people signed up so that we can run 2 "dueling" ducks. :)

We had a wonderful and generous group of sponsors - please take a few minutes to thank them!
Panda Security
NSS Labs
Parsons Software Security Consulting
Rocky DeStefano


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