So we're been in Oakland CA since last tuesday, barely had time to read our catastrophic emails, nevermind writing this blog... Two days in the summit, I feel I must bring some feedback home for our folks who are manning the post, back in Montreal.
We arrived in Oakland around noon on tuesday, in fair weather. I was expecting colder temperatures, but my sweater was enough to keep me covered, heck, I even ditched the sweater for my t-shirt, a completely impossible thing to do in Montreal right now. So the weather is generally very nice.
The summit started monday morning, which is usually way to early for me, but because of the 3-hour time zone difference, things weren't that bad. The first day started with an opening circle where everybody presented themselves shortly. Most people are from the US: Oakland, Seattle, Boston, Chicago, Portland (OR/MA), Berkeley, San Francisco, Florida, Washington DC, Newyork, Vermont... but also a few folks from outside: Toronto, Montreal (that's us), Sao Paulo, Malawi, Poland, makes this is an event that is not completely US-centric, which is not. The person leading the event, Gunner, is just great and brings a lot of energy to the event, in fact, I hardly know how this could be possible without him.
A few little activities took place before the actual sessions started. The "cluster" exercice was particularly interesting: Gunner would call for a given preference (e.g. email client of choice, operating system, favorite programming language, etc) and people would cluster together following their preferences. The results were quite interesting and would warrant a video documentary all by themselves. The next exercice was to draw a line on the ground and have people position themselves along the line depending on how strongly they agreed or disagreed with a controvorsial statement and then discuss amongst the group. "Non profits should prioritize FOSS", for example, was quite a discussion.
Then, in a manner that reminded me of Open Space, people split up in groups to work on the agend. By the afternoon, people that wanted to put sessions up did so and the schedule is pretty much setup now. Each time a session starts, the session facilitators stand up and people congregate around them so that a proper room size can be assigned to them, which general takes just a minute or two, making the whole thing very participatory and dynamic.
The two first sessions I attended were "Managing and driving opensource projects" (my reinterpretation of the session) and "NPO Sysadmin Sewing Circle", both quite interesting and which allowed me to meet and discuss with other people doing similar work. I'm not sure wether I'm teaching more than I'm learning and this is just the greatest things with your events: no spectators, just participants.