At NewBCamp I gave a presentation called Speed Mentoring. This was a 45 minute session divided up into smaller 6 minute segments during which geeks answered the specific questions of newbies on a one-on-one or a one-on-three basis. Basically your robust version of the high school “study hall” but without the bespectacled school marm telling you to tone it down.
My expectation was that all the newbies would float from geek to geek learning a little here and a little there, having a few questions about this and that, moving when the gong was sounded. Far from it. The newbies had questions about particular processes on the internet – how do I upload photos, how do I create a blog, how do I install a Paypal button. Yet more surprising, it was the intermediate users who were most in demand. I had asked that several ‘super-geeks’ – really advanced users – be available for questions. I sat around with them trading NewBCamp observations while the rest of the newbies and intermediate users went at it. The gong was hardly heard as the people who had partnered up stuck together as they exchanged information and at the end, contact e-mails.
Based on my observations, I would say that this session is conceptually analogous to the unconference packed into a single zip file: spontaneous self-organization, collaborative conversational model, participant driven. One word of caution – I organized this session with 20-30 people in mind. More than that and one might have to have an honorary bespectacled school marm to ensure that all the newbies can find those geeks best equipped to help answer their questions. Some form of personal tagging might be appropriate (a sticky label that says, “Ask me about social media!”).