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Scott Spradlin Developer Community Enthusiast

The June 30th meeting of St. Louis .NET User Group tried something new -- a meeting following the Open Space Technology.  OST is a method of running meetings of groups of any size.  Essentially, it's a self-organizing process where the attendees construct the agenda and schedule DURING the meeting itself.  How can this be?  There's no way this would work.  Chaos I say!

Well, we did it and I think it worked out quite well.  For those new to the idea, here's a quick outline of what we did.

  1. Everyone showed up, expecting to enjoy an evening of food, learning, and networking.
  2. We ate food.  (We always have food at our user group meetings -- the one common denominator that ties all developers together.)
  3. Kevin GrossnicklausWe let our sponsor say a few words to the group.  Kevin Grossnicklaus from SSE spoke on their behalf.  Kevin was one of the original founders of our user group.  We're always excited to have him come back and speak to us.
  4. I introduced the concept of Open Spaces to a room of blank stares.  Either they were full of the aforementioned food and unable to respond or were stunned by an apparent lack of planning.  Meetings without PowerPoint?  Say it ain't so!
  5. Scott Spradlin We made a list of topics that people would like to discuss, talk about, or hear about.  We came up with about a dozen topics and wrote them on the white board at the front.  The ones that I can remember were:
    • MVC Framework
    • Vista vs. W2K8
    • Real-time BI
    • How to stay current
    • Software FAILURES
    • Infrastructure prep
    • Agile
    • SQL throttling and other tricks
  6. I told them we'd narrow it down to a couple of groups of four and do two sessions.
  7. We did a show of hands to see how many people would be interested in each of the topics.  A couple of the topics got a big vote.  A few topics received only a handful.  The bulk of them received the "average" vote.
  8. We decided to do two sessions, one in individual groups and a second one all together to cover the topic with the most votes.  One group went to talk about Agile methodology; one group to talk about Vista vs W2K8 and one group discussed software failures.
  9. Coming back together, our local Microsoft Architect Evangelist Clint Edmonson helped lead the discussion on ways to stay current in the industry.  He blogged about the topic and captured most of the content of that session plus photos!  I encourage you to read Clint's post.  We didn't get any photos of Clint because he was our photographer!  (Thanks Clint!)
  10. Eric Lynn We handed out attendance prizes.  Here's a photo of one of our members, local genius Eric Lynn, winning the coveted MSDN post-it cube.  Wow, was he excited or what?  We should give out more of those apparently.


So, that's essentially the way it happened.  The moral of the story is user groups are filled with smart people that have great ideas and love to share them.  I encourage you to try an Open Space night at your user group and see what happens.

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Posted on Sunday, July 6, 2008 10:29 PM Speaking , User Groups , INETA | Back to top

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