User-generated conferences–the next steps take root

It struck me this morning that the shift toward user-generated media and away from main stream media as the primary or only information/entertainment driver–the shift away from newspapers toward YouTube, for example–is now well-paralled in the conference world, where what I’d have to call user-generated conferences–and unconferences–are taking hold.
The two events on my brain right now are
–the upcoming BarCamp Block, which Tara Hunt, Chris Messina, Ross Mayfield and others are arranging for this week
She’s Geeky, an unconference with a demo/workshop half-day which Kaliya Hamlin, Mary Hodder, and about four other folks, including myself, are planning for October, and which is a conference for women who self-identify as geeks.
These are both conferences (like the ongoing Meshwalk series)that come very much out of both the passion of the organizers and the Open Space/unconference format.
But then there’s also the enthusiast conferences–conferences started by someone in a sector who’s embedded in the category– Blogher, YPulse Mashups and Gnomedex all come to mind–these are all quite different than the big, expensive conferences that have been such profitable moneymakers for their organizers (and so challenging to market).
The point here would be that conferences–just like media companies–are being nibbled at by the grassroots, the user base, the audience–and alot of what’s going on is much ore interesting that what the old school is doing.
Update: As I add the links for these conferences to this post, I am asking myself if these UGC conferences also have a higher percentage of female organizers–and speakers–and the answer is definitely yes. Interesting but not surprising, huh?

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  1. rcjordan says:

    We had something like this happen within the SEO/SEM online community back in 2001.
    http://www.pandia.com/sw-2001/42-pubconference.html
    But after evolving through a few formats we found that the majority of industry newbies seemed to feel more comfortable (and were willing to pay for) a “traditional” conference.
    However, what really impacted our user-generated conferences the most; the top people became more and more addicted to the free-form meetups and saw that smaller, more elitist meetings were of still higher quality when it came to networking.
    The end result was that the public conference was drawn to the money and went on to give the newbies what they wanted. At the other end, invitations to the non-conference became more and more restricted and eventually went underground.

  2. Tish Grier says:

    I don’t know…I think it’s kind of 50/50 and depends on what the organizers want. Josh Hallett’s been responsible for a number of unconference style marketing gatherings, and Chris Shipley’s been integral in the Guidewire Group’s high profile conferences. perhaps you’re seeing a trend predicated on women wanting to keep things more simple and community oriented–hard to do at really large conferences. Personally, I like smaller conferences, no matter how big-time they might be. I loved the first BlogHer because of the community (I’ve had seriously mixed feelings about the last one), and loved Supernova2007 because I got to meet so many seriously cool people (like Clay Shirky and Nick Carr) who I’d never be able to meet anywhere else.

  3. Viviane says:

    Speaking of user generated conferences, Amber Rhea is organizing Sex 2.0, which will focus on the intersection of social media, feminism, and sexuality:
    http://sex20con.com/

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