Some time ago the OKFestival asked for session proposals for this years conference in Berlin. I was at the conference last year in Geneva and enjoyed very much. It's just a nice atmosphere to talk to people from divers backgrounds (I'll get back to that in a minute).

Me and my colleagues from Liip thought about sessions for this years topic "Open Minds to Open Action". The Programme FAQs gave us some hints, what it takes for a session to be selected:

  • Does the proposal advance the overall mission of the event
  • Does the proposal offer participants a concrete, valuable outcome?
  • Does the proposal advance the conversation around its area of open?
  • Is the proposal interactive? – hint: slides and lectures strongly discouraged
  • Does the proposal value or build on OKFestival’s principles of inclusivity and diversity?

Help newbies at the conference

We asked ourselves, how we can help people to connect to each other? We pictured a person that is interesting in the "Open Knowledge" topic but doesn't know any people at the conference. The first step is always the hardest. How do you find people that are interested in the same topics? Of course, one can attend sessions and try to talk to the people there.

But sometimes a little extra help is required. Some conference solve this problem by providing some kind of buddy system (e.g. the Chaos Mentors at the 30C3). The buddies are volunteers that show newbies around, and show them the venue, introduce them to people and so on. This is great for large conferences but might be an overkill for smaller ones.

As we were brainstorming about this we came up with the concept of a place, where everybody is encourages to write down his/her questions, so that others can pick that up and answer them right away or provide guidance. We first thought about doing this online using something like a twitter hashtag. But in the end, this is now why you went to a conference. You want to meet real people to talk face-to-face.

Q&A Wall to the rescue

So the challange is just, to find these people. To help making this asychronous, we developed the idea of a physical Q&A wall. This wall will be at the venue and provides space to write down questions (think of sticky notes or whiteboards to directly write on). Like that, this wall provides a meeting point or to simply read and write questions.

I'm very interested in how this wall is being used. Maybe Q&A is not the only thing that could be done with it. Everybody is invited to use that space. There are similar approaches to use such walls or boards to share news in local communities ("Community Chalkboards").

Btw: the Q&A Wall is also listed as a session at the OKFestival!

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