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Sep 22

Creating an Independent Business Unconference

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There are no speakers. There are no attendees.

There are only participants. Participants teach, participants learn. 

As it turned out, I taught two different sessions at NewB Camp and became a huge fan of unconferences. I gave a great session at Enterprise 2.Open in Boston in June and, on the train home, vowed to create an unconference for my "tribe" in the Rhode Island economy.


What About Us?

The Creative Economy is a wonderful talking point, but it's very hard for the state to get a sense of how it is affecting the overall economy. The vast majority of this economic segment flies well below the radar of the state's economic development group. How can you count a company when the company is just a single person and it isn't even legally incorporated?

So the concept is to have a business conference for microbusinesses, freelancers, artists, independent workers - The Long Tail in the greater Providence area.When do we get to go to a conference that's designed around our needs?

If you're on your own or are thinking of striking out on your own, you probably have lots of questions. Sure, you've got great expertise in some areas, but no one person can know everything. That's the downside of being on your own. So this unconference could help you fill in the gaps in your knowledge:

  • Are you on top of your tax situation?
  • Do you know when to use a trademark, a servicemark or a registered copyright?
  • Are you growing? Do you need to grow? 
  • Are your prices too low? Too high?

But, more important, you can share those areas where you have expertise. Or at least experience.

Leave a comment if you're a solo worker, freelancer, artist, etc. You know who you are. What would you want to learn? What can you teach?

(Confession: my original attempt to build this as SISE Unconference "parallel" to BIF-4 did not gain traction. But the idea is a good one, so I'm going to "let it live." )

Sep 03

Providence College Self-Help Wiki

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That small wiki is rapidly becoming a big wiki. In fact, at the very first workshop in the project, the need for a self-help resource was immediately obvious, as was the fact that its scope would need to grow considerably. 

Help Desks in general have the unenviable responsibility to help users solve problems "on the spot." And little issues have a tendency to become big problems at times of stress - like at deadline. Like any user group, students, faculty and staff at PC don't really care about who is responsible for what. They just need their problem solved.

What does this mean at PC? It means that if students have trouble getting online when they're at the Library, they ask librarians for help. If a professor can't get the projector in a particular classroom to work properly, they call the Help Desk. 

Except the library isn't supposed to handle IT help, and the Help Desk isn't supposed to handle Media Services issues (what we used to call A/V). 

But that's just like a user - trying to get information wherever they can. 

What we decided at that first workshop was that the PC Self-Help Wiki would need to cover anything and everything except academics. So now it includes IT, Library Services, Media Services, Residential Life, Dining Services, Off Campus information, and Safety/Security.

What's really amazing is how fast it's grown. Yes, I know that wiki is Hawaiian for "quick." But this was REALLY quick. At our orientation session last week for the new crop of Help Desk techs, we spent 45 minutes working on the wiki. 45 minutes.

And it better than doubled in size. 

Plus, "the kids" so "get" this web 2 thing that they were creating content us old folks never considered. Bus schedules, on-campus events, even first-hand knowledge of where and when it's safe to go at night. 

Simply put, this is web 2.0 at it's very, very best - highly engaged users who care about the topic and want to share their knowledge.

The bonus: it will only grow and improve with time. 

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