Well, the foreplay is over. Tonight at the ALT.NET conference, we had a social meet-and-greet before the concepts of Open Space were explained. In the introductions, I mingled with a lot of smart folks, many whose blogs I’ve seen, and many who just have a passionate interest in software development.


Once we were all seated, we did a quick 7-second introduction around the room. I was surprised (well, not really) to find several folks from Microsoft attending. A couple are here to talk about some of the new frameworks coming out of Microsoft (for the MVC pattern) and others are here to find out what they’re doing wrong and how they can improve themselves.

The event then kicked off with an introduction to Open Spaces, the format being open and defined by the people in the room. A demonstration was given of a Fish Bowl, a concept where the only people in the room talking are those seated in the center. As time goes on, people who want to speak come up and take the one empty chair. At that point, the longest standing person in the fish bowl must return to the audience until a later time. This musical chairs continues until the facilitator (?) starts removing the empty chair, at which point a seated speaker must return to the audience. It was very interesting from a dynamic perspective and stayed fairly well focused on the topic.

The next item involved people writing their ideas onto a post it and placing them on the time slots available. This went on for some time as each convener announced their topic to measure the interest. Once all the topics were announced, each of us selected which items we wanted to discuss. This established a level of interest and really served as a tool to arrange the sessions such that they were available to those that wanted to attend. The events with no interest were tossed aside and certain events were put into larger room where there was a stronger interest (Microsoft MVC demo for instance).

At that point, all the official opening night items were done. Everyone stayed and talked for an hour or more, at which point somebody said quite loudly “let’s go find something to eat!” So a number of us, M. Fowler, D Sellers, many many more, went to a place called Waterloo for burgers and beers. We closed the place down (well, they threw us out at 10:07 PM), after which we came back to the hotel bar for a nightcap. The conversations went on until the bar said they were closing and we had to get out. So the after-hours discussions were plentiful and interesting. I tried to surf around to catch as many things as I could, stopping when a familiar pain or pleasure was overheard.

Tomorrow is a full day and I’m really looking forward to it. A hearty breakfast will certainly help and the hotel has a pretty solid buffet that I’ll be attending for sure. I still need to find a place to get some Monster before the start, hopefully a c-store somewhere has Blue Monster to keep the eyes open.

NOTE: I’m going to avoid saying something like “Day 1 of 3” because I have no idea if there will be another post until I get back to Tulsa. I’m going to try – really, I am – but no guarantees.