This year, it was my turn to organize this remarkable little un-conference on behalf of the Oak Table Network, which is often described as a drinking society with an Oracle problem.
What is an “un-conference”? The dictionary definition is…
un·con·fer·ence /ˈənkänf(ə)rəns/ noun: unconference; plural noun: unconferences a loosely structured conference emphasizing the informal exchange of information and ideas between participants, rather than following a conventionally structured program of events. Generally this manifests as a "participant-driven" event.
OTW started out in 2010 with Mogens Norgaard holding a set of tables in the back room of the Chevy’s Tex-Mex Bar & Grill in San Francisco (since closed), just across 3rd St from the Moscone Center where Oracle OpenWorld was being held.
Rather than drinking from the flood pouring from the corporate marketing machines across the street, friends joined Mogens for beer and Tex-Mex to discuss and argue technical topics and drink beer.
Thus was born “Oracle ClosedWorld” as a true unconference. The following year in 2011, Oracle ClosedWorld was held in the upstairs room at The Thirsty Bear, a few doors down from Chevy’s on Howard St, this time with an agenda and a more structured format.
However, the ever-vigilant legal department at Oracle Corporation was not in the least amused by the gentle gibe of the name “Oracle ClosedWorld” from a bunch of drunk geeks, and so after the event they quickly regurgitated a letter offering detailed demands and dire consequences, and so of course we sweetly complied, and the unconference was renamed to “Oak Table World” (OTW). To date, Oracle’s legal team to not impose their will on our continued use of the word “World”, perhaps at least until Oracle achieves actual world domination. So we wait with bated breath for their next move.
The following year, in 2012, Oak Table World found a new home at the Children’s Creativity Museum, which is located at the corner of 4th Street and Howard Street, smack dab in the middle of the Moscone complex. The unconference was then organized by Kyle Hailey, who continued to do so in 2013, 2014, and 2015. In 2016, it was organized by Kellyn Pot’vin-Gorman, in 2017 by Jeremiah Wilton, and in 2018 by Tim Gorman.
The event seems to be slipping away from its original un-conference format, becoming more professionalized, becoming more of a conference-within-a-bigger-conference. I’m not sure if that is a good thing or a bad thing, but once you start laying out money for a venue and catering, things get more conventional pretty quickly.