Community Courtyard at Detroit MSDN Developer Conference

CommunityCourtyardBlackThis Thursday, I’ll be in Detroit at the MSDN Developers Conference (MDC) where I’ll be facilitating something called the Community Courtyard. The idea for Community Courtyard was spawned while Doc List and I were facilitating Open Spaces at PDC in Los Angeles last October.

I’ve facilitated Open Spaces in parallel with a traditional conference successfully in the past, but Open Spaces struggled at PDC. Doc and I examined what was working and what wasn’t and set about discarding what wasn’t working. When we were through with our examination, we were left with an approach that was inspired by Open Space Technology, but was not a full representation of that approach.

We were approached by Bob Familiar about putting together an Open Space track for the MDC events. We shared our thoughts with Bob and he was totally open to our suggestions. Doc and I tried to name it something trippy like “Parallel Process”, but Bob wisely suggested the more approachable, and descriptive, name of Community Courtyard.

So what is a Community Courtyard? It’s whatever you want it to be. Seriously, when you look at the conference agenda and notice a topic is missing that you are interested in, you can put it on the agenda for the courtyard. Whoever shows up is going to be interested in the topic, so even if you only talk to one other person, the conversation is almost guaranteed to be productive.

MSDN_DC_white_2 Personally, I think of the courtyard as a public speakers lounge. For years, I’ve had fantastic conversations with smart interesting people in the speakers lounge at events. Unfortunately, the attendees couldn’t participate in these great conversations. I want to change that.

I’ll be asking speakers to hang out in the courtyard when they are not presenting, or preparing their presentation. Also, instead of gathering at the front of the room after a session to talk to the speakers and ask questions, speakers can now invite attendees to join them in the courtyard to continue the discussion.

It is my hope that the Community Courtyard become a fixture at developer events big and small. I believe strongly that even the most tightly run event needs to make space for serendipity. We need a place at Code Camps and corporate conferences where attendees can seize the moment and talk with each other about what matters most to them at that moment.

I’ve already facilitated the Community Courtyard at the Atlanta MDC, and I had a blast. I know Doc is facilitating many of the other events. If you haven’t yet attended a MDC in your area, there are still a few remaining:

1/22/09 – Boston, MA

1/22/09 – Detroit, MI

1/26/09 – Dallas, TX

2/23/09 – San Francisco, CA

Come join me in Detroit. If you can’t make it to Detroit, then attend one of the other events. I recommend you do so. The content for these events is top notch, but the people you will meet are even better.

See ya’ in the Motor City,