Zap Your PRAM Secrets: Part One

And now it can be told.

Uncharacteristically, being that I am naturally a shy person, I loved summer camp. And I have loved the summer camp-like events that I’ve participated in since. There’s something about taking a diverse melange of people who don’t know each other and throwing them in an isolated oasis for a time, doing stuff together: no matter who they are, and where they’re from, interesting stuff results. Soul-building stuff.

At Zap Your PRAM we had young techs and reborn veteran capitalists, radical librarians and radical academics, filmmakers and film enablers. And Buzz.

Many of these people never would have met without Zap as a forum. Some, like John Muir and Stephen Regoczei, have lived 4 blocks from each other for 10 years and worked for the same institution and didn’t meet until the conference brought them together.

Others, like Software User Robert and Software Developer Dave met in the real world for the first time after several years of sitting at opposite sides of a piece code.

So now John from Ontario is going to do radio with Dave from Harvard. And Ian and Tessa are turned on to PEI as film location. And Buzz and Stephen are going to work on ActiveWords together. And people from New York and Florida and Germany and Newfoundland and Windsor and Toronto. And Prince Edward Island. All know each other.

When I wrote the what is Zap your PRAM document back in August, I claimed that we didn’t really know what the conference was about. That was a lie. Zap Your PRAM wasn’t about blogs, or web browsers or provincial elections or image search solutions or death or libraries. It was a summer camp for people who, because of blogs and web browsers and provincial elections and image search solutions and death and libraries are part of what Stephen would call “the same tribe.”

When I wrote that we wanted Zap to be a conference for interesting, interested people, this is what I was really getting at. I didn’t mean “interesting” in any sort of universal way (although it appeared I did, for which I received from you’re-an-elitist flames); I meant interesting to each other.

I think it worked.


art's picture
art on October 28, 2003 - 16:39 Permalink

Zap worked so well that it makes you wonder if big conferences make sense at all. Access was probably the first single-stream conference I ever attended, but the notion of keeping one set of people together and then growing the conversation each day seems to always work well. With Zap, you added diversity and made sure the conference structure didn’t inhibit the conversation(s). There is something incredibly liberating about getting out from under your organization’s walls. I suspect your main challenge for a Zap II will be keeping the group small since so many people will want to go.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on October 28, 2003 - 16:43 Permalink

You’ve hit the nail on the head, Art: I don’t want Zap II to be a 200 person conference held in Charlottetown, but I think it would be great if, in addition to alumni, we could have some new voices.

Lisa Sloniowski's picture
Lisa Sloniowski on October 28, 2003 - 18:16 Permalink

Peter, thanks again for Zap, it was really an interesting experience. The collection of people, the surroundings, having to sing for my supper. I am now fascinated by the blogosphere. Dave Winer was talking about having salons at Harvard for bloggers and the people who love them, I certainly fall into the latter category and Zap may have provided impetus to move into the former.

In terms of the size — I think you should get some new voices, but do keep it small, it worked well. I also wondered if there were ways of generating the conversation without having speakers at all (which I know you were trying to figure out beforehand). Not that the speakers weren’t great, but people were so eager to engage in conversation that I started to wonder whether Mita and I (for instance) couldn’t have just wandered to the front of the room for our talk and read a list of 5 questions or quotations related to library activism, libraries and technology, the access (to) and archiving (of) info, librarians and bloggers, copyright/licensing and so on … and then just moderated the group discussion. Certainly much of what we wanted to discuss got picked up by the group without much prompting. They were a really engaged and active bunch of people, a nice change from the usual library classroom where we spend half the time trying to convince our students that they should care about what we’re doing.

Anyway, the suggestion wasn’t meant as criticism, just food for thought. Thanks again, and it was a pleasure getting to know you a little better!

Dave Hyndman's picture
Dave Hyndman on October 29, 2003 - 15:10 Permalink

Also thinking lots about Zap II. First order is for you and silverorange to maintain control. I don’t mean that as a negative thing, but this belongs to you. Probably the single key to the success of the event was the group of people you brought together; people from your spheres. An incredibly unique group with widely different backgrounds yet incredibly similar sensibilities, values and interests.

One suggestion that would result in an approximate doubling of size would be to give each attendee a reinvite along with one more “pass” for a friend. The original group know what the conference was like and what worked. I think we’d act as a good filter for an additional batch of people. And, obviously, leave yourselves the ability to invite some new faces that you know would add to the mix.

Hopefully I’ll see you soon. In the meantime, thanks again for the weekend. As Rob said, simply one of the best I’ve had. My head is still buzzing.

Chris Corrigan's picture
Chris Corrigan on October 30, 2003 - 01:50 Permalink

John Muir was there? Say his to him for me.

Peter, how about we organize a Zap-like conference for ex-Trent U/Trent Radio folks who all met pre-email. THAT would be cool.

Badhwar, Corrigan, Frost, Muir, Rukavina…Hmmm…