OST becoming mainstream (was: Opening Space at Microsoft PDC)

Artur Silva arturfsilva at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 16 06:38:31 PDT 2008

Jack, Harrison and all: 
There is strong evidence that OST is becoming mainstream. I am not speaking only based on the Microsoft event but on some other international conferences that announced that they are going to use OST. 
But this is also a problem. In some cases, the expression Open Space (or even Open Space Technology) is used, but there are variants in its application that may subvert its flavour or event its essence. 
I am not speaking of heterodoxy - that always implies that the heterodox knows what the orthodoxy is - but about using the label with complete ignorance of the OST User's Guide.
Some 3 or 4 years ago a CPSquare event was announced as "OS" but the topics for break out sessions were selected in advance by the organizers.
In the Microsoft event, it happens that the person that apparently is opening the space for that "OST" is concerned about the fact that (fortunately) he will not be able to apply what he thinks are two rules of OST - but they are not. 
In a different event, where a fried of mine will have to assure the logistics part, a lot of strange material has been asked by the facilitator for the break out spaces of an "OST event".  
I know that a non proprietary methodology has no way to enforce its principles. But there are some corrections that can be done easily.
As you all know, more and more the Wikipedia is the standard for definitions and first information about almost everything. And if one googles "Open Space Technology" the first entry refers to the Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Space_Technology. 
But if one reads the content there are a lot of wrong or misleading information in it. This goes from small imperfections, like the wording of principles, to the fact that the Law is completely forgotten. 
The same is true in other languages. If I google "Metodologia de Espaço Aberto" the first enter refers to the Wikipedia in Portuguese http://pt.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espa%C3%A7o_aberto. Again the definition is very superficial.
But anyone can correct the wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wikipedia:Contributing_to_Wikipedia)
So, here go my suggestions:
1) Harrison and a small group of friends could correct the English entry of the Wikipedia.
2) Afterwards all of us could use that version as a guide and translate it in all of our different languages to include in the Wikipedia version in each language.
3) Anyhow the Wikipedia has a link to the OST site (http://www.openspaceworld.org/)  but this was initially thought, I think, as a resource for practitioners. Now it is used also by non OST practitioners, that can't find easily (in the main page of each language) a short, agreed upon, clarification of the principles and fundamentals of OST. This could complement the Wikipedia entries - or even simply repeat them. 
What do you think about my suggestions?
--- On Fri, 6/13/08, Jack Martin Leith <jack at jackmartinleith.com> wrote:

From: Jack Martin Leith <jack at jackmartinleith.com>
Subject: Re: [OSLIST] Opening Space at Microsoft PDC
Date: Friday, June 13, 2008, 11:24 AM

Hiya Jason.
Delighted to get your email and to see both blog comments.
Please have another look at www.jackmartinleith.com/?p=232 where you'll see my response to the two numbered points in our second comment (also pasted below for the benefit of OSListers).
And please accept my apologies for getting hold of the wrong end of the stick!
Jack Martin Leith
Creating the new. Enriching the world
Bristol, United Kingdom
Mobile: 07831 840541 (+44 7831 840541)
Skype: jackmartinleith
email: jack at jackmartinleith.com
>From www.jackmartinleith.com/?p=232:
Jason Olson writes further:
Also, as I mentioned in an email to you, there are two areas that concern me regarding Open Space as it currently exists for PDC:
1) Due to the size of the conference (and the fact that Open Space is just an un-conference within the larger conference), there isn't a current plan to have attendees vote and prioritize the sessions they want to see talked about (which, unfortunately, removes some of the agile nature of Open Space).
2) No current support for an attendees submitting a topic he's interested in but doesn't want to speak about or moderate himself.
As you can imagine, this has me concerned as both of them are departures from the Open Space model. I would love to have a chat here with you and your readers on ways that we can avoid this (or if we should even be worrying about it). The biggest key is that I don't want to take a great model like Open Space and butcher it because we didn't actually "grok" the true purposes behind Open Space.
My response to Jason's two posts:
Jason, thanks very much for clearing up my misunderstanding.
With regard to your two concerns, neither of the practices you describe forms part of the vanilla Open Space model as described by Harrison Owen in his book, Open Space Technology: A User's Guide.
In fact most Open Space facilitators don't even suggest that very similar sessions are merged – this is left to the session leaders (convenors, hosts, whatever you like to call them) to manage themselves.
Regarding your second point, Open Space is very much about people taking responsibility for hosting a session. Otherwise Open Space is little more than a brainstorming meeting: "I think this is an interesting idea, but I don't care enough to do something about it."
I'm sure other Open Space practitioners will have more to say about both of these points!

2008/6/13 Jason Olson (DPE) <Jason.Olson at microsoft.com>:

Thanks for the email Jack! I commented on your blog post directly to make the conversation more public. My wording may have been a bit unclear. There is no creating of the agenda ahead of the conference. This is something that is created onsite, at the conference, by the attendees and for the attendees. This also enables me to avoid having us (Microsoft) try to "dictate" what can or can't be discussed. This should be an agile process. 
The part that concerns me right now (and where we currently deviate from a typical Open Space), is that there is no "attendees vote for the sessions they would like to see and we use that to determine what is presented." Because of the potential number of people involved, combined with the fact that this is merely a smaller unconference within a larger conference, I'm not convinced that it would work. So, currently, it's largely "first come, first serve" when people sign up for an Open Space session. Also, there's really not a supported model for submitting a session you want to hear about, but have no clue who can moderate/or discuss the session in general.
As you can imagine, these two changes make me a bit uneasy considering the departure from what makes Open Space great. 
Of course, I would love to hear feedback from you and others if this is a big deal (and if we should even worry about it), or if we should avoid this and find a different way for the prioritization and participation to occur. 
Jason Olson
Technical Evangelist | Visual Studio & .NET Framework Evangelism | 

From: jackmartinleith at gmail.com [mailto:jackmartinleith at gmail.com] On Behalf Of Jack Martin Leith
Sent: Friday, June 13, 2008 9:11 AM
Cc: Jason Olson (DPE)
Subject: Re: Opening Space at Microsoft PDC




Big thanks for the heads up.


I've just blogged it here: http://www.jackmartinleith.com/?p=231


As you'll see, I'm questioning the decision to create the agenda ahead of the conference.


Best wishes,




Jack Martin Leith
Creating the new. Enriching the world
Bristol, United Kingdom
Mobile: 07831 840541 (+44 7831 840541)
Skype: jackmartinleith
email: jack at jackmartinleith.com

2008/6/13 Harrison Owen <hhowen at verizon.net>:

Seems like the folks at the annual Microsoft Professional Development Conference are intending to open a little space. Definitely cutting edge, innovative – Cheers for Microsoft. For the details go to:
http://microsoftpdc.com/View.aspx?post=91d46819-8472-40ad-a661-2c78acb4018c:8590057  Don't have any idea who is doing it, but I am sure they will have a grand time.
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