This weekend I attended CLS West, a regional event following on last summer’s very intense Community Leadership Summit. This one was held just south of San Francisco, and continued on into the evening at Google headquarters south of Market in SF. I feel privileged to have been a small part of the planning committee. (Ok, an extremely small part—all I did was pick up the beer!)

CLS West, like CLS, was an unconference (more on which in a future post). This means the sessions and the time and order in which they are presented are not predetermined, but rather announced on the spot and then tacked to a chart on the wall, and participants simply go to whichever session sounds most interesting. This informal approach also greatly lends itself to group participation. There were a few folks who actually did prepare, but a large number of sessions simply asked questions in the hope of generating discussion to discover answers. I find these sorts of sessions far more interesting than the type in which a speaker stands up in front with a professional slide deck, speaking ex cathedra from the podium. In fact, the difference reminds me of Eric Raymond’s Cathedral and Bazaar, only with ideas instead.

All that said, the subject of the day was community leadership, and there were leaders present from a huge variety of online communities. High-tech was certainly present, but I also spoke with bloggers, marketing folks, a psychoanalyst, and several other non-geeks who I think brought a very needed dimension to the table. Very often, conferences end up being all about the nuts and bolts of a given system, and the ones which go into more detail about reasons and motivations are still only attended by experts in that given field. By focusing this conference on community itself rather than a specific type of community, the field opened up to all communities, which means all people. Nothing pokes my imagination more than being exposed to ideas that are completely orthogonal to my own narrow focus. Now my head is packed as if it had just come from Thanksgiving dinner.

More soon, but in closing I want to say HI to everyone I met this weekend, and THANKS to the team who put the conference together.