It sounds like a good and easy enough experiment, getting your own simple e-book out in the market. My eye fell first on Reinier Ladan’s Dutch language video on making zines (everything old is new again), via Frank’s newsletter. Today Robin Rendle’s post Volume A popped up in my feeds as an experiment to learn how to publish an e-book in a way that just gets something out there. Those two small nudges coalesce into the idea that it should be very doable to collect a few connected blogposts and turn them into a slightly more coherent whole, for publication as a separate artefact. A decade ago I already reworked my closing SHiFT keynote Maker Households into something of an e-book draft at the suggestion and with advice of Henriette, and my Networked Agency or information strategies material would lend itself to it as well. The second nudge was the realisation that the e-book Elmine and I created in 2011(!) on How To Unconference Your Birthday (get the PDF in the sidebar on the right) is already zine like, and has both digital and physical form. An update after a decade makes sense as we already concluded after visiting Peter’s unconference and doing a short video session at Lane’s, and could be part of such an experiment in publishing e-books.

Everything old is new again. I think I should pick up some of the things where I left off decade ago. But this time not as some big scheme, my grand theory of everything all at once, but just as a small thing. As then it might actually happen.

Ik volg met interesse het blog van Elja Daae, die in 3 weken tijd een concept voor haar boek af wil schrijven. Omdat de uitgever het dan verwacht. Elke dag schrijft ze over haar voortgang en afwegingen. Inmiddels zijn we een week onderweg, met een eerste posting over het niet bestaan van Writers block, en de laatste over schrijven is schrappen in Refocus.

Mijn interesse zit hem vooral in hoe je dat nou aanpakt, tot een boek concept komen. En eigenlijk ben ik ook wel nieuwsgierig naar hoe ze dan straks van een concept naar een boek komt. Is dan niet immers alles al gezegd? Waarom meer woorden er tegenaan gooien als je de boodschap al op papier hebt? Dat is ook meteen waarom ik haar proces volg. Het verschil tussen schrijvers en lezers lijkt vooral te zijn dat iedereen stiekem wel een boek wil schrijven, maar dat schrijvers het uiteindelijk ook doen. Mij wordt ook wel regelmatig de suggestie aan de hand gedaan, “schrijf daar nou eens een boek over!“. En ik heb bij vlagen ook wel die wensgedachte. Maar doen is iets anders. Veel van de boeken die me als voorbeeld worden voorgehouden komen op me over als veel wol om de ruimte tussen de kaften te vullen. Nog maar weer vijf anecdotes en voorbeelden om het punt nogmaals te maken. Waar een handjevol blogposts, of zelfs een rijtje bullet points, waarschijnlijk ook had volstaan.

Elja komt in ieder geval tot actie, en ze laat iedereen meekijken. Frank Meeuwsen schreef ooit ook een boek, Bloghelden, over de vroege Nederlandstalige blog-wereld. Zou hij het proces van Elja herkennen? Frank en ik hadden het laatst over een boek over het IndieWeb, om het vrije en open web uit te leggen aan nieuw publiek. Materiaal genoeg op zich. Maar ook nog veel te onderzoeken. Schrijft Elja alleen uit ervaring, of doet ze ook extra onderzoek tijdens het maken van haar boek?

(Ik ontmoette Elja aan de keukentafel van Ewout, voor een goed gesprek over de toekomst van het internet. Frank was daar ook bij. Hij en ik kennen elkaar uit de Nederlandse blog-oertijd. Zowel Elja (blogpost) als Frank (blogpost) waren aanwezig op onze STM18 unconference op Elmine’s verjaardag.)

Peter Bihr and Max Krüger have written a 43 page handbook on how to organize your own independent conference: The Indie Conference Organizer Handbook.

You can download it for free as PDF, or an e-reader friendly version for a small fee.

It’s great Peter and Max wrote down their experiences. This May when I visited their ThingsCon conference, and later that week Re:Publica, both in Berlin, I realised how long it had been that I went to a conference where I was a mere participant (which I was at these 2 events), and not somehow involved in organizing it or speaking at it. I also realized how long it has been since I visited a ‘proper’ conference.

Independent events have been the mainstay of my curriculum of professional learning. Visiting Reboot conferences in Copenhagen, SHiFT in Lisbon, the BlogTalk conferences in Vienna, a range of community initiated open data conferences across Europe (over 50 in 2011 and 2012 alone), more BarCamps than I can list, Cognitive Cities and ThingsCon by a.o. the aforementioned Peter Bihr, State of the Net in Trieste, all had one thing in common: there was no real difference between my speaking and my participating and there was no difference between the organizers and the community present.

Usually this happens,in Peter’s words, “for a simple reason: each time we were looking for an event — a focal point where we could meet like-minded people or those with shared interests — we could not find one“. Because quite often the right setting simply isn’t there, or the organizers actually don’t have your learning or interaction as a goal. Because you’re interested in emergent themes around which there isn’t enough going on yet for established conference organizers to see an opportunity. The last ‘proper’ conferences I went to on my own accord were in 2004 and 2005, when I and others proferred it is “cheaper to host your own event than visit one“. Conference and event organizing turned into just one of those things you do in your community, and for me now really requires of the organizers to have a role and be part of that community. I haven’t looked back, and all the events I visit voluntarily are indie events.

During my opening remarks at Make Stuff That Matters, birthday unconference 2014 in our home, by Paolo Valdemarin

Over the years, with others I have organized a lot of indie events as well. Examples are many workshops, the first open data barcamps in the Netherlands (which over time became the Open State Foundation), Data Drinks (now bringing together some 250 people in Copenhagen), international conferences for some 350 people in Rotterdam and Warsaw (because doing it in a city or country where you don’t reside and have no contacts gives it that little extra edge 😉 ), the global FabLab Conference in 2009 (where as additional obstacle course we opted to spread the event over 4 Dutch cities with buses transporting participants and on-board workshops), the BlogWalk series of 2004-2008 in 11 cities on 3 continents, and of course the three Birthday Unconferences Elmine and I organized right in our own home (2008, 2010, 2014).

Elmine and I were so energized from doing those birthday unconferences we created an e-book (download PDF) on how to do it. Mostly to find an outlet for that energy we felt, and as a gift to all who had been there. Even then we saw it was a welcome document although focussing on a very specific type of indie event.

How to Unconference Your Birthday e-book, properly printed and bound

And now Peter and Max have written down their experiences in the Indie Conference Organizer Handbook. This is a great gift to all of us out there visiting, participating and trying our hand at our own events. Let’s make good use of it!

Last year, when I turned 40, Elmine and I organized an unconference to celebrate (of course we also had a bbq party!), and we invited people from our various circles. The topic was ‘Working on Stuff that Matters‘, ‘WSTM’. Some 40 people participated in the unconference, some 20 workshops were held, and it was an event that is still giving us energy almost 18 months later.

We always wanted to create something tangible as an outcome of the event, to create an ‘Epic Sh*t Multiplier’ as we called it on the day. We created an e-book, explaining ‘how to unconference your birthday’. The text was written during the summer of 2010. A professional designer (BUROPONY in Rotterdam, hire them, they’re great!) created the book itself in May/June this year. In the past days we sent out cards to all participants of the unconference to allow them to download the book. We’ll publish the e-book itself on-line later. Right now it’s a gift for those who attended [UPDATE Pdf available for download]. A small token of our appreciation for the big gift they gave us by attending the unconference, and the energy and inspiration that is still generating for us. Thank you.

Below are some pictures giving you a sneak preview.

During the design process

First edition

Sending out cards to participants