General Assembly’s best, most hidden addition

I’ve read the program and I have a hard time getting excited about General Assembly. The programming looks eerily like what was offered at the last GA I attended (2003), except that, if anything it is theologically thinner. A result of limited independent affiliate slots, to be sure.

Well, Portland should be fun. I had some really tasty, cheap Russian food three days running when I was there for a Day Job conference; will have to see if the place — near one of the official downtown hotels — is still in business. (More about food later.)

But I do have hope. A huge part of schedule is dedicated to Open Space Technology, a rather grand way of describing a process for productive, crowd-directed and self-organizing meetings. Perhaps you’re familiar with the phrase “wisdom of the crowds” — this is what OST taps. The same impulse makes open source software work: people self-organize and create.

Open Space Technology is not a proprietary method, despite its branding and superlatives the UUA promotional materials use. Indeed, given the UUA’s history of the Next Big Thing (which either implodes or fizzles) I would advise playing it cool and talking it up in a way that models the process. (Why UUA leadership doesn’t reach out to bloggers is beyond me.) Think of it more as the “real work” we do at GA over meals and drinks opened up and made explicit.

But since I don’t see this kind of promotion coming, I’ll talk it up and point to resources that make sense of the process so you will be ready to act at General Assembly. I’ll also talk about Unconferences and the BarCamp phenomenon in tech circles. I think these also offer opportunities in regional meetings.

Later. Despite the name, Java Man — apart from having good coffee — has tasty Russian food. Very close to the downtown Hilton. (Review.)

About Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 44, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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