I Went to a Hybrid Open-Source Conference!

I love jazz. No, not because it doesn’t resolve (Blue Like Jazz fans know what I’m talking about) but because, to me, it’s the quintessential iconic example of how the church is supposed to function.

The next time you go to a Jazz concert, pay close attention to the way the musicians interact with each other. It is usually clear who the leader is, but he/she doesn’t hog the show. A tune is played and repeated over and over, so that each musician has a chance to present his or her interpretation of melody. The result is many different angles on the same basic idea, because that basic idea means very different things to each musician. The end result is a combination of the experience and personalities of each artist, and the communication between them. For me, this is what Paul’s talking about when he says:

“He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe. It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up.” Ephesians 4:10-12

To be a follower of Christ is like being in a jazz band. We all have a part—an instrument, if you will—to play and we should all be allowed to participate by playing our solo parts. It should not be only by “the few, the proud: the pastors” who play every instrument from the pulpit on Sundays.

But what does jazz have to do with a hybrid open-source conference? Well, let me start from the beginning. A dear friend, Charles Lee, was the brain behind this combination of a conference/unconference gathering called the Idea Camp, which from the start had taken a different approach to doing a conference. Charles used every paperless means of communication from word of mouth and conventional landlines to cell phones, email, texting, blogging, Facebook and Twitter (I’m sure I’m missing a few more means) to promote the conference, and boy, was he successful. If I remember correctly, about 500 people attended this two-day conference and over 1200 watched it on their computers via live streaming and it was all for free.

The goal of each workshop in this gathering was to allow for more conversation rather than another classroom approach to a conference. All the speakers like myself acted as facilitators and not talking-heads. We all had 10 minutes to talk about who we were, introduce the class to some challenges facing the church today, and then let the class respond to those challenges for about 45 minutes. If you’ve ever heard me teach, you know this is my style and my cup of tea when it comes to challenging a room full of young and old believers—asking questions and letting everyone play his/her instrument.

With this being my first time involved in such a gathering, I came away with mixed feelings. As I said, I loved the way every modern means of communication was used to promote the conference. It was truly a “green” conference. Even the conference schedule was emailed to everyone’s cell phones and laptops so it didn’t have to be printed on paper, of course, except for the very few that were posted on bulletin boards. But after experiencing this magnificent way of communication, I came away wondering if, with all our latest tools in communication, we’re developing better relationships?

I noticed throughout the various “question and answer” sessions that many people were busy reading and answering email off their laptops, web-surfing, text messaging or twittering—something that I had to learn before attending the conference. I even saw one guy watching the event that was taking place right in front of him on his laptop. Even worse, there were people who would do that as they were trying to have a face-to-face conversation with one another. By the way, no one did that to me—I guess they knew better— but I heard several of my friends complain about it.

I find this type of behavior to be quite dishonoring and self-absorbed. If it is more important to answer an email that can wait till you are out of the conference or retweet a #tweet to another friend who is sitting only a chair away from you because it’s so cool that it can’t wait till the meeting is over, then maybe you should step outside to do your emailing, surfing and retweeting instead of so blatantly ignoring and disrespecting those around you who are trying to tackle the challenges facing them. And please know that I’m not questioning anyone’s ability to multitask.

Today, many of you have several hundred friends on your Facebook and just as many followers on Twitter. I wonder how many of these friends will show up to help you when your car breaks down on the 405 freeway in the middle of rush-hour traffic. Just like our theology, have our relationships become millions of miles wide and a tenth of an inch deep? You know…Shallow? You tell me.


12 thoughts on “I Went to a Hybrid Open-Source Conference!

  1. Interesting conference??!!.  I liked the Jazz picture best and the verse – Amen…  The 405 right now is an easy one for me (I hope all your friends are familiar with the LA freeway system).  My wonderful step-mother, Doris, and my little sister, Lissa, and her husband live right off the 405, so I would and could call them to help me out.  but if they gave me some sort of excuse – then I would call you!


  2. Lisa, I think time will show if technology is making our relationships even more shallow. In any case, I’m glad young people such as yourself are wondering about the same thing.


  3. The high cost of labor intensive or skilled labor goods is an indicator of just how self centered we have become. Look at how popular blogging is, which is just us letting off our opinions. Wouldn’t an entire generation 40 years ago find this useless? I know my grandfather didn’t think much of opinions, but yet I love telling you how I think and why I think. Which is why I’m here. 🙂 But I think that the worst outcome of all these advancements is that with so many forms of meeting others, we have no need to put down roots and get to know just one group. Which causes friction, and growth, and eventually character.


  4. James, I couldn’t agree with you more. I Just finished reading an article on Imprimis called, “How Detroit’s Automakers Went from Kings of the Road to Roadkills”. and the the author says a part of GM’s demise was, as you put it,”The high cost of labor intensive or skilled labor good” If you noticed, I gave a high praise to the way technology was used to put the Idea Camp together. And again, as you said, my problem is with those who squander these God-given means of communication for some self-centered causes.


  5. I suppose the internet makes all sorts of relationships easier – shallow and otherwise. For example, I've never met you in person, Shah, and may never do so. Our relationship is entirely web based, but I don't regard it as superficial because we have opened up to each other on some pretty personal things. However, I don't think that would be possible/attainable with more than just a few people at a time.It seems to me that you have to be selective. I don't facebook but I've always thought if I did I would limit the number of 'friends' at any one time to, say, 6. For many people that might defeat the object & the fact that I don't do it at all may support that conclusion.It's hard to imagine Jesus using Twitter & Facebook, or possibly even blogging. He wasn't into numbers, after all.Ian


  6. Well, Shah, I am pretty thankful for all this technology because it allows me to stay in contact with you! I do agree though that technology can get in the way of relationships. What will all this mean in the future? I’m not sure, but I think we just need to be more intentional about the relationships we do have, and the time we actually get to spend with people. If I drive out to CA and my car breaks down on the 405 in rush hour, I would call you for sure. However, if my car breaks down on highway 10 in MN, I don’t think I will call you.


  7. Ian, I agree! we’ve never met face to face, but our relationship is not shallow either. However, to me that’s not a relationship. I’m sure if my car breaks down in LA, your not the 1st person I’ll email. I wonder who the 6 people on your facebook might be? someone you occasionally email or 6 people you have met face to face.


  8. Dan, if your car breaks down in MN, I’ll appreciate it if you do NOT call me 😉 I’m grateful we can keep our relationship going through technology, however, as you said, we got to know each other face to face first.


  9. dang this was…o wait i jus got a text hold on…..k ya so like i was saying this was good, i hope Christians see…oh wait another text…….ya so i hope Christians see that relationship is…u know what let me get back to u this text is really important…


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