On a Soapbox
Aside from a keynote and plenary
address, none of InfoCamp Seattle’s session content is set ahead
of time. Participants are encouraged to sign up for slots to discuss
whatever content is interesting
to them. “Maybe a quarter of the
people come in knowing that
they’re going to talk,” said InfoCamp 2013 organizer Cadi Russell-Sauve. “Some people might have
a vague idea, … [and] we do try
to put on some peer pressure
for people to discuss something
impromptu to fill the open slots.”
During breaks, participants gather
around session leaders, who
stand on a wooden box in front
of the day’s giant, paper schedule
and give more detail about their
topics to encourage attendance.
ON THE WEB
› For more information about
InfoCamp Seattle, visit seattle
› Read InfoCamp founder Aaron
Louie’s article about the conference’s beginnings at
Innovative Meetings is sponsored by the Irving
Convention & Visitors Bureau,
Back in 2007, a group of five current and former students of the University of Washington’s (UW) Information School were
having regular informal networking
meet-ups at a local Seattle bar. Four
of them were members of the Pacific
Northwest chapter of the American
Society for Information Science &
Technology (ASIS&T), and they found
they wanted to go beyond just hanging
out at a bar and attending ASIS&T’s
regional annual meeting, and to create a “highly collaborative, vibrant
atmosphere where practitioners
and students could share ideas and
strengthen the local community of
practice,” according to a 2008 article
in ASIS&T’s bulletin by member and
former UW student Aaron Louie.
That group of current students
decided to take on the challenge, and
launched InfoCamp Seattle that year.
A two-day annual event most recently
held at UW last Oct. 12–13, InfoCamp
Seattle is designed for professionals and
students in the information-science
and technology fields, including user-experience (UX) professionals, graphic
designers, librarians, and coders.
An unconference format is the cornerstone of InfoCamp. “The people that
started this wanted an alternate format
without having to submit proposals for
a session at a conference almost a year
in advance,” said Cadi Russell-Sauve,
a faculty librarian at Bellevue College
who served as a member of InfoCamp
Seattle’s all-volunteer planning
committee from 2009 through 2013.
Instead, InfoCamp Seattle is divided
into time slots — four blocks of six
45-minute sessions on the
first day, three blocks of six
45-minute sessions on the
second — but no content is
set by organizers in advance
aside from the keynote and
a plenary address. Participants then create the agenda
on site, signing up to lead
sessions on topics they are
interested in on a large paper
schedule in the common area of UW’s
Mary Gates Hall.
InfoCamp Seattle has been very
successful, now drawing nearly 300 participants from the local area and beyond.
But that’s just the beginning. Organizers
want people from other cities to start
their own InfoCamps, and encourage
out-of-town attendees to talk to them
on site. So members created the InfoCamp Starter Kit, a PDF that outlines
the planning process to help those who
want to host their own event. “It says,
this is what we’ve found works in the
seven years that we’ve done it,” Russell-Sauve said. “But this is not prescriptive.
It’s guidance should you need it.” So far,
InfoCamps have been established in
Portland, Ore., Berkeley, Calif., North
Carolina, and Berlin.
“We really wanted to have a local
event,” Russell-Sauve said, “because
our primary concern was building a
local community of information professionals. We want those who are searching for something similar to build that
in their own communities.” .
Katie Kervin is a former assistant editor
An Unconference of Their Own
A group of Seattle-area information professionals were looking
for a way to connect outside of their industry association.
So they started InfoCamp — and provided a blueprint for others
to do the same.
Topic Talks Session leaders tried
to persuade participants why
their session was worth attending.