I've also been following as many of the volunteer/tech/crisis efforts focused on Haiti as I can find. And, as most of you know, I'm a geek about data visualization and mapping.
So today...when I was looking for other patterns this one occurred to me. The future of conferences is self organizing.
TED took the "unconference" thing out of the tech world and launched it into mainstream thinking through its TED x programs. Then the Sunlight Foundation launched hack-a-thons into the mainstream. Then everyone wanted to know how to use data for good. And now we have a conference format that is essentially a hybrid of "conference + unconference + camp."
It seems to go like this: claim a theme. Get some early supporters. Maybe one or two recognizable names to speak or say they are coming. Organize through social networks. Give folks a common focus - maps, hacks for Haiti, government 2.0, cool things you should know about - organize, reach out, curate good ideas and activists and - you have the future of conferences.
Just like on the read/write web, these face-to-face meetings rely on everyone acting as producer and consumer. Everyone puts in. Everyone who is going tells everyone they know that they are going and that is how the conference gets enough people to come.
Here are some of these:
Gov 2.o Los Angeles
Scroll down for various locations
TEDx [name your location]
This is an example of how online behaviors have changed our offline behaviors. The tools for spreading the word, getting input, handling registrations make it technically eas(ier) to plan an event this way. More important, the expectations about participating, sharing ideas, and producing and consuming seem to have leapt off the screen and onto the stage. What do you think - is this a trend, a fad, the future, or a hallucination on my part? And do you see other ways that online behaviors and expectations are changing conferences and how we organize ourselves offline? Please let me know.