Collaborative Consulting, MassTLC, UNCON2014, unConference

unCon 2014 Recap: Views from an UnConference Neophyte

Friday, I had the opportunity to attend the Mass Technology Leadership
Council’s Innovation 2014 UnConference in Boston. I will start by saying I am
an UnConference neophyte.  I fully admit
I had no idea what such a beast the event was prior to attending; I did not
even know what was involved. However, it turned out to be an amazing day of
sharing knowledge, thoughts, and ideas with other technologists from around the
area in a way that was engaging, interesting, and honestly more fun than any
other conference I have attended prior.

Credit: MassTLC
the logistics: how does one create an agenda for an UnConference?
first unique aspect of the event I noticed was the lack of an agenda prior to
arriving. All that was known were time frames for sessions and what rooms would
be used, but there was no content defined. The only session with a defined
agenda was the first one, aptly titled ‘Agenda Setting Session’. The room was
full of attendees’ grouped in a circle. In the middle of the room there were
two microphones and at the back, there were large poster boards with rooms and
timeslots. People lined up from two directions at the microphones, each with a
colored piece of paper in hand, and would propose a topic they would like to
see discussed. The moderator then asked probing questions gauging attendees’
reaction to determine if this would be a popular topic of discussion. The
person would then be sent to one of the coordinators to determine a time slot
and room for that discussion. The piece of paper with the topic would be pinned
to the appropriate location on the poster boards in the back. Multiple people
were sitting on the floor in front of the poster boards with laptops, furiously
entering the information as it was posted. Within moments, the agenda app on my
phone (provided by the event coordinators) was quickly filling up with content.
mind you, this was happening at breakneck speed. The moderator reminded me at
times of a barker at a carnival, talking quickly, getting consensus on a topic,
and immediately moving on to the next person in line, alternating between the
microphones. Within 45 minutes, my agenda app was full of topics for the days’
sessions with times and locations. I noticed in the next time slot that there
was a session on ‘The Internet of Things – old and new’, which sounded like it
might be interesting, so I headed to the room specified for the topic.
jump right in, feet first
arriving at the specified ‘IoT’ room, I was impressed to notice that outside
each meeting room was a small tablet device hanging on the wall proudly
announcing it was powered by Roomzilla and displaying both the time, room
number, and topic currently scheduled in that room – which I assume was
courtesy of those people sitting on the floor with their laptops previously
mentioned entering the data on the poster boards. In the room, there was the
individual who had proposed the topic, Dr. Sheldon Borkin from StrategicAngles. The room quickly filled up and we started to attempt to do introductions,
but the number of folks filing in made that problematic. Dr. Borkin explained
the process: he would moderate the discussion, but that this was our session to
talk openly on the topic; we, as a group, could drill down any additional areas
we wanted to discuss. Dr. Borkin asked me if I would take notes and email them
to the organizers-. I agreed as I planned on taking notes for myself anyway.
then started on a very interesting and spirited discussion on the Internet of
Things, covering a variety of topics, including such items as:
  • How
    do we setup the plumbing to facilitate all these devices?
  • How
    do we deal with security of the data?
  • Who
    owns the data? (very spirited discussion around this topic)
  • What
    do we do with the data? (analytics became a big discussion, which fed naturally
    into the next session scheduled for that room on data gathering and analytics)
  • How
    do we deal with product life cycle that might be measured in years?

discussion topics were thought provoking, especially with regard to the last
item. Bob Frankston raised the point in the context of medical devices,
specifically implanted devices. This topic was near and dear to my heart,
literally, as I had a pacemaker put in close to 10 years ago. In today’s fast
pace world of technological changes, we easily forget there are some
devices/technologies that must have a longer life span, a prime example being
implanted medical devices. The software and the equipment that communicates
with that device in my chest has to last more than a year or two, as constant
surgery to implant the latest and greatest device is not a viable option.
Planning for that and understanding the implications is critical in this
particular area of the Internet of Things.
crowd-sourcing ideas, and the feel of a tweetchat
remaining sessions I attended throughout the day were just as energetic and
enjoyable as the first. Being in a room and brainstorming with such amazing,
diverse, technologically savvy talent from across a wide spectrum set this ‘UnConference’
apart. As much as I hate using the latest buzzwords, this really was
‘crowd-sourcing’ ideas and felt like a face to face version of a tweetchat (I
have participated in many over the years). At the end of the day, all attendees
went back to the same room the sessions were defined in. The hosts/moderators
of the sessions reported back what the sessions were like and this recap was
great because there were many sessions I was interested in that I could not

upside to this ‘UnConference’ format was the large number of new people working
in the technology space that I was able to connect and share ideas with.
Overall, it was a great experience, great discussion and brainstorming of ideas
and developing new contacts in the technology landscape of Massachusetts was
invaluable. I look forward to next year, and will maybe even get up in line and
propose my own topics/sessions!

Upcoming Events


Related Articles