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An OpenSpace Conference
Hosted by Bruce Eckel

March 21-24, 2006
Crested Butte, Colorado

Attendance limited to 60
Price 400$ (Skiing not included)

An OpenSpace Conference

What's the best thing that happened at the last conference you attended? It's very likely that you'll remember one or more "hallway conversations," or perhaps a "Birds-Of-A-Feather" session. An OpenSpace conference creates that experience for the entire conference, by ensuring that you are always having the most interesting conversation possible. The emphasis is on discussion, instead of listening to eyes-forward presentations.

OpenSpace is a simple methodology for self-organizing conference tracks. It relies on participation by people who have a passion for the topics to be discussed. There is no preplanned list of topics, only time slots and a space in the main meeting room where interested participants propose topics and pick time slots.

OpenSpace has been used for conferences and as a facilitation technique for company meetings, community organizations, and other groups that wish to explore the emergent ideas and agendas of their members. I have organized a number of OpenSpace events which have been far and away the best meeting experiences I've ever had (I think I'd put on OpenSpaces all the time if I could).

Prepare to be surprised by the depth and breadth of topics that are discussed in OpenSpace. Each OpenSpace experience is unique in some way. Quite often topics are raised in OpenSpace that are off the radar of the original meeting — this spontaneity is part of the benefit.

Some people have found this concept to be intimidating. In particular, questions like the following may arise:

  • Can I contribute anything of value?
  • Do I need to come with some kind of prepared presentation?
It doesn't matter if you contribute a little or a lot. And you'll probably be surprised that you may know something that others may not. Everyone has something to give, whether they know it or not -- even if it's the "beginner's mind" that asks the right questions.

One of the greatest things about an OpenSpace is that it's spontaneous. It's not about traditional "eyes-forward" presentations, so if you go to the trouble of creating such a thing, it's likely it won't get used. On the other hand, if you are familiar with some technology that others might like to learn about, we might end up asking you to show us. But not in a formal way. So all you really need to bring is your brain.

A sampling of possible topics for conference sessions:

(The actual topics will be decided by you, during the conference)


  • Back to client-server: Ajax vs. Flash
  • Rails and Rails-like frameworks: what problem are we really solving?
  • EJB3: are EJBs viable at last or is it too late?
  • PHP5 and IBM's endorsement — what does it mean?
  • The new Python — how motivated by Ruby?
  • The future of Java
  • Programming language directions: where might C# take us?


  • Shifting trends in design
  • The effectiveness of Agile Methods for web applications
  • How does software team management differ for web development?
  • New approaches to software architecture for web applications
  • Design Patterns for new web development
  • What development techniques have been working best?


  • The future of workflow management
  • Redefining the "killer app"
  • The future of content-management frameworks
  • Folksonomies and user-contributed systems
  • What will be free and what will people pay for?


  • The effect of weblogs and podcasting
  • The impact of voice over IP
  • Offshoring: when it works, when it doesn't

How OpenSpace Works

OpenSpace is a small set of rules that allow groups of people to interact in a simple, productive, organized way to create valuable dialogs that address the participants' most important issues.

The Fundamental "Rules" of the sessions that happen during OpenSpace conferences are:

  • Whoever shows up is the right group
  • Whatever happens is the only thing that could have
  • Whenever it starts is the right time
  • When it's over, it's over.

To lead an OpenSpace Talk:

  • Come up with an interesting topic and title for your discussion.
    • You don't need to develop these before the conference; most of the ideas will come to you during the event.
  • Fill out a schedule Post-It for your topic.
  • Place the topic on the schedule.
  • If you see topics that have something in common, consider combining them into a single time slot.
  • If a significant number of people want to attend your discussion and another discussion in the same time slot, try to trade into another time slot to ensure maximum dialog and participation.

To attend an OpenSpace Talk:

  • Check the schedule and sign up for a talk or just drop in if you wish
  • Use the 'Law of two feet.' If you feel that you are not contributing or benefiting from a presentation, please feel free to move on to something else.
  • Allow the discussion convener to steer his or her topic. If you have an opposing opinion that needs a full time slot you should feel free to add your own OpenSpace slot to discuss the topic.


  • Tuesday 8:30 am:
         Conference Overview
         Introduction to OpenSpaces
         Initial talk topics and organization
         Session 1
    10:30am-2:30pm: Skiing/free time/lunch
    2:30-3:30 pm: Session 2
    3:30-4:00 pm: Break
    4:00-5:00 pm: Session 3
    5:00-5:30 pm: Break
    5:30-6:30 pm: Session 4
    6:30 pm: Groups to dinner/evening activities

  • Wednesday 8:30 am:
         Tool Survey*
         Session 5
    10:30am-2:30pm: Skiing/free time/lunch
    2:30-3:30 pm: Session 6
    3:30-4:00 pm: Break
    4:00-5:00 pm: Session 7
    5:00-5:30 pm: Break
    5:30-6:30 pm: Session 8
    6:30 pm: Groups to dinner/evening activities

  • Thursday 8:30 am:
         Under-10-minute presentations†
         Session 9
    10:30am-2:30pm: Skiing/free time/lunch
    2:30-3:30 pm: Session 10
    3:30-4:00 pm: Break
    4:00-5:00 pm: Session 11
    5:00-5:30 pm: Break
    5:30-6:30 pm: Session 12
    6:30 pm: Groups to dinner/evening activities

  • Friday 8:30 am:
         Under-10-minute presentations†
         Session 13
    10:30am-2:30pm: Skiing/free time/lunch
    2:30-3:30 pm: Session 14
    3:30-4:00 pm: Break
    4:00-5:00 pm: Closing session
    6:00 pm: Party

*"Tool Survey" generates a list of the tools that people are using or have experimented with, along with a survey to see which ones are valuable. The survey generates useful data by itself, and may also generate OpenSpace sessions.

†The "Under-10-minute presentations" are short talks by conference attendees about a project or endeavor that the speaker is currently pursuing and feels might be of interest to the listeners. If it isn't, then it's short.

The time slots allotted for skiing are generally considered to have the ideal skiing conditions. You may also organize alternative activities during the mid-day break. Skiing is completely optional, and is your responsibility, although groups are likely to form. See for more information.

High-speed internet is available at several locations within easy walking distance of the conference location.

Often people stay the day after the conference or for the weekend; informal gatherings have been known to happen.

Buy a black T-shirt with the conference logo here

Location and Lodging

Crested Butte is a small resort town located at about 9000 feet, near the continental divide. It is known for its skiing in the winter and hiking and mountain biking in the summer.

We will be holding the conference in town, and free buses run up to the ski mountain every 15 minutes.

Here are details about lodging and how to get to Crested Butte (note that this was written for summer seminars, so come prepared for snow!).

I recommend that you look at the URL above before making a reservation, but if you're in a hurry you can just call the Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce at (800) 545-4505 and they can help you make a reservation. Remember to ask for a reservation in the town of Crested Butte, and not on the mountain, in order to be close to the conference location. However, there are always more rooms available on the mountain than in town, and the bus is very convenient to get from the mountain to town.


Your payment is your registration.
Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Discover accepted.
You do not need a PayPal account to pay by credit card.
Just click the button labeled "If you do not currently have a PayPal account, click here,"
Then select "Shipping is not required" and continue.

Please include the email address where we can send conference information.

You may also pay by check to:

MindView, Inc.
5343 Valle Vista
La Mesa, CA 91941
Please include the email address where we can send conference information.

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