MacCamp Boston – a valiant showing for a first-time event

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by Jeff Cutler

MacCamp Boston took place Saturday, May 10 at the YMCA theater in Cambridge, MA, bringing together a couple dozen Mac addicts and experts to discuss all things Apple Macintosh. While there was a MacCamp event in California last year, this Boston gathering was the first MacCamp to take place on this coast.

Organizer Jack Hodgson tried to spread the credit during his casual welcoming comments on Saturday, but attendees agree that the event wouldn’t have even gotten rolling without his efforts.

With Hodgson’s direction and contributions from multiple sponsors and volunteers (see http://www.maccampbos.pbwiki.com for more details), the event was pulled together efficiently and in a matter of only about six months.

Also part of the MacCamp committee were: Steve Garfield, BCS*Mac Charter Member; Raines Cohen, MacCamp SanFrancisco founder, MCB advisor; Jeff Berg, volunteer, session giver; Maggie McFee, volunteer, possible session giver; Sarah Redman, networking helper.

Along with their sweat equity and contribution of knowledge, a number of participants and sponsors contributed to the raffle. Items as small as iPod cases and as large as full-featured software packages were provided in the free raffle. Everyone entering the event got a ticket and there were so many prizes that everyone walked away happy.

From the donuts in the morning and the sessions throughout the day, everything went without a hitch. But, despite the organized appearance of MacCamp, it was truly created as an unconference.

An unconference – simply – is a conference that is so flexibly structured that attendees can decide at the last moment whether a session is going to happen. Topics are suggested and a show of initials or hands or shouts dictate what participants will learn or discuss next.

In fact, session topics were being taped to the wall and shuffled around all day long. In that same spirit, there was a spot on the wall for requested topics call the Wish List. If an attendee wanted to hear about something that hadn’t shown up on the schedule, they could wish for it by posting a note on the wall.

Then, if someone qualified to present a session on that topic was present, he or she could create a topic sheet and paste it over in the session schedule and just go to work.

The underlying theory of an unconference – and one that MacCamp took advantage of and capitalized on – is the rule of two feet. That is, if you are unhappy with a session or want to find something new to learn about, just get on your feet and walk to the session or speaker that interests you.

Another MacCamp is being discussed for this coming fall. Hodgson and others expect to attract a larger crowd and possibly even more sponsors.

Judging by the smiling faces at the inaugural MacCamp Boston, unconferences in Apple technology can bring both education and enjoyment to attendees.

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Jeff Cutler writes materials that appeal to people other than the Mac-focused. Find more of his words at www.jeffcutler.com, www.bowlofcheese.com and www.thingstoworryabout.com.

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