About posting your session

NOTE: the following is a re-post of an email sent to attendees. It is posted here for quick reference by late registrants, organizers, etc…

I hope you are all looking forward to THATCamp Oral History, which is coming up soon!

Unlike most events you’ll attend at the Oral History Association Annual Meeting, THATCamp requires you to not only participate in each session, but to plan ahead and begin sharing and collaborating before we even meet.

One of the essential parts of a successful THATCamp is the event blog. Ours is at oha2012.thatcamp.org. Each of you have an account here and are expected to create a blog post describing what you would like to discuss when we meet on Saturday. Before or after you make your own post, you should also read others’, leave comments, introduce yourself, and begin thinking about which proposals sound the most interesting to you.

Not only will this allow us to begin our conversations early, and help us get to know one another, it is also the only method we have for creating a schedule on the day of the event. I repeat, without your blog post, the entire plan will break down. But no pressure or anything. 🙂

So here’s what each of you should do in the days leading up to THATCamp.

  1. Log-in to the site at: oha2012.thatcamp.org/wp-admin/
  2. Edit your profile at: oha2012.thatcamp.org/wp-admin/profile.php
  3. Read posts and leave comments at: oha2012.thatcamp.org/session-posts/
  4. Write a post describing your own session, discussion, or panel.

The first 2 are pretty easy, so don’t wait to get in there and edit your profile. You can probably check this off in under 5 minutes. Simply add your full name, a short bio, a link to your stuff (a website and/or twitter account), and a profile image. You can view your fellow campers’ profiles at: oha2012.thatcamp.org/campers/

Many people have a harder time writing their session proposal/post on the blog. The best advice I can give is to not worry too much about the details. THATCamp is a very informal event. Just use your post to present an idea, or even a nugget of an idea, that you would like to pursue at THATCamp. Jim Calder wrote a nice post on the blog, “Getting the most out of an unconference,” that may help guide your thinking on the event and your session proposal.

You can view current session proposals at oha2012.thatcamp.org/session-posts/

When we meet on Saturday morning, we will scribble session titles into a grid on a giant sheet of paper. You will sign your name next to sessions that interest you and we will use this to create the day’s schedule. It will look something like this: www.flickr.com… It will all be very analog and very hectic and maybe even a little bit exciting.

Similar proposals may be grouped together to create joint sessions. So if you are hesitant to present on your own, you can even note potential points of collaboration in your proposal. (As in, “my topic fits nicely with what Jane Doe has already proposed, so here is how I’d like to join in and add to that dialogue…”).

Again, don’t overthink it. This is a fun event, meant to spark conversations and connections. We might solve a few problems along the way, but don’t feel you need to arrive with all the answers. All that’s required is a positive attitude and active participation. That participation should begin today with your blog post, your feedback in the form of comments, and maybe even with making some new friends on Twitter and tweeting with the #THATCamp hashtag (if you’re into that sort of thing).

Please get in touch if you need a hand using the website or have any other questions. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to reading your posts and meeting you all at the event!

Help with Unconferences

Hi everyone, I wrote this awhile ago and thought I’d share.  Hopefully this will be helpful for anyone new to the unconference format.  More information is available here: www.digitalculture.org/hacking-the-academy/hacking-institutions/

Getting the most out of an unconference | James Calder

Over the past couple of years, I have been fortunate enough to be able to attend several “unconferences”, both locally and nationally. I say fortunate because these experiences have opened my eyes to how amazing the unconference format can be. I cannot think of a better way to share ideas, make personal and professional connections and generally have an extremely productive yet enjoyable time. That being said, the unconference format can be challenging and confusing, especially for those used to a more traditional conference model. Sharing some of my unconference experiences might make things a little easier.


Participation is by far the most important factor in determining whether or not an unconference will be successful. For the organizer, it is essential to get people together that truly want to be involved. For the attendee, an unconference is one of those situations where you really get back what you put in. The best sessions by far had the feel of an engaging graduate seminar class, with contributions coming from everyone and where there was freedom for even the topic to evolve with the discussion. In other words, everyone came to participate.

I will also point out that while its completely natural to spend the majority of your preparation time on your own presentation, my experience suggests that bringing thoughtful questions to other presentations is equally important. The the best thing about an unconference is that professionals are able to come together and discuss real issues face to face. So don’t loose sight of the fact that your input could be the difference between moving someone else’s project forward, perhaps in ways they never expected. Related to this, make sure to pay attention to the other participants’ blog/website postings and comments leading up to the conference (this, of course, being dependent on the unconference having a blog or website). Knowing what other people are thinking about before the event can jump start discussion in a powerful way.

What to propose?

Another common question for prospective unconference participants is what to propose.

The most important thing I learned about unconference proposals, as both a presenter and an audience member, is that interactivity is essential. No one wants to sit around and be read to, especially when its possible to give them a chance to react and share their own ideas.

Along with this, it cannot be stressed enough that big ideas should be welcome. Even if these ideas, as is often the case, are challenging to define, explain or put into practical terms. Remember that because these discussions can be free flowing, there is no need to arrive at the unconference with predetermined conclusions. Simply asking the interesting question is all that is required.

On the other hand, some great sessions were remarkably down to earth and practical. This was especially true when talking about technology, coding, implementation of new tools, etc. The point is, while “big ideas” are encouraged, practicality and pragmatism are also important components to many excellent proposals.

Enjoy yourself

The unconference model allows for relatively informal discussions to take place. Also, because everyone is technically a presenter, many of the hierarchies found in some more traditional conferences are eased. I would advise everyone attending an unconference to take advantage of this. Make connections with people from different levels of seniority or experience. I’ve found that the more people enjoy themselves, the better the conversations flow which, in turn, leads to better discussion and a more successful event. So have fun.

Announcing THATCamp Oral History

THATCamp Oral History will be held on October 13th 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio in conjunction with the 2012 Annual Meeting of the Oral History Association. THATCamp Oral History is a collaborative effort of the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities at Cleveland State University and the Ohio Humanities Council. To learn more, visit oha2012.thatcamp.org/about and/or follow us on Twitter: @thatcampoha.