How do I propose a session?

Once you register for THATCamp Texas and are approved, we’ll make you a user account on this site. You should receive your login information by email. Before the THATCamp, you should log in to the site, click on Posts –> Add New, then write and publish your session proposal. Your session proposal will appear on the front page of this site, and we’ll all be able to read and comment on it beforehand. (If you haven’t worked with WordPress before, see for help.) The morning of the event, we’ll vote on those proposals (and probably come up with several new ones), and then all together we’ll work out how best to put those sessions into a schedule.

What do I propose?

Session genres

Here are the kinds of sessions people generally propose at THATCamp: general discussions, writing sessions, hacking sessions, working sessions, workshops, or “other.” See below for more details.

  1. General discussion— Sometimes people just want to get together and talk informally, with no agenda, about something they’re all interested in. Nothing wrong with that; it’s certainly a much better way of meeting people than addressing them from behind a podium. Propose a session on a topic that interests you, and if other people are interested, they’ll show up to talk about it with you.
  2. Hacking session— Several coders gather in a room to work on a particular project. These should usually take more than an hour or even two; if you propose such a session, you might want to ask that one room or swing space be dedicated to it for the entire day.
  3. Writing session — A group of people get together to start writing something. Writing can be collaborative or parallel: everyone can work together (probably in Google Docs) or by themselves (yet with a writing vibe filling the air) to write an article, a manifesto, a book, a blog post, a plan, or what you will.
  4. Working session — You’re working on something, and you suspect that some of the various people who come to THATCamp might be able to help you with it. You describe problems you want solved and questions you want answered, and strangers magically show up to hear about what you’re doing and to give you their perspective and advice. This is notan hour-long demo; you should come with specific questions or tasks you want to work on with others for most of the session.
  5. Workshop — A traditional workshop session with an instructor who leads students through a short introduction to and hands-on exercise in a particular skill. Any THATCamp with three or more workshops that fit our workshop curriculum curriculum is eligible for the fellowship program, which means that its attendees can apply for a fellowship. (Note: the workshop series was formerly called “BootCamp,” a term we have now deprecated.)
  6. Grab bag— Ah, miscellany. One of our favorite categories. Indefinable by definition. It’s astonishing how creative people can be when you give them permission; performances and games are welcome.
    • David Staley, An installation, THATCamp Prime 2009.
    • Mark Sample, Zen Scavenger Hunt, THATCamp Prime 2010 (N.B.: The Zen Scavenger Hunt didn’t actually happen, but it was still a great idea).

No papers, no presentations

An unconference, in Tom Scheinfeldt’s words, is fun, productive, and collegial, and at THATCamp, therefore, “[W]e’re not here to listen and be listened to. We’re here to work, to participate actively.[…] We’re here to get stuff done.” Listen further:

Everyone should feel equally free to participate and everyone should let everyone else feel equally free to participate. You are not students and professors, management and staff here at THATCamp. At most conferences, the game we play is one in which I, the speaker, try desperately to prove to you how smart I am, and you, the audience member, tries desperately in the question and answer period to show how stupid I am by comparison. Not here. At THATCamp we’re here to be supportive of one another as we all struggle with the challenges and opportunities of incorporating technology in our work, departments, disciplines, and humanist missions.

Session proposers are session facilitators

If you propose a session, you should be prepared to run it. If you propose a hacking session, you should have the germ of a project to work on; if you propose a workshop, you should be prepared to teach it; if you propose a discussion of the Digital Public Library of America, you should be prepared to summarize what that is, begin the discussion, keep it going, and end it. But don’t worry — with the possible exception of workshops you’ve offered to teach, THATCamp sessions don’t really need to be prepared for; in fact, we infinitely prefer that you don’t prepare.

At most, you should come with one or two questions, problems, or goals, and you should be prepared to spend the session working on and working out those one or two points informally with a group of people who (believe me) are not there to judge your performance. Even last-minute workshops can be terrifically useful for others if you know the tool or skill you’re teaching inside and out. As long as you take responsibility for running the session, that’s usually all that’s needed. See the book Open Space Technology for a longer discussion of why we don’t adopt or encourage more structured forms of facilitation.

Empty sessions

We also encourage organizers to leave a few empty time slots during the THATCamp so that attendees can propose new sessions during the THATCamp itself; if the organizers of your THATCamp have done this, they’ll tell you how to propose a session while your THATCamp is taking place. Sometimes, for instance, your discussion was going so well at the one hour fifteen minute mark that you hated to end it; if there’s a slot available, you should be able to propose “Training Robotic Ferrets: Part Two” as a session as soon as “Training Robotic Ferrets” ends.