SRCCON is unlike a lot of other conferences. It’s highly participatory, and is designed to help you share your skills and wisdom with a bunch of folks who are likely dealing with similar challenges and questions. We’ve built it around the “hallway conversations” that are often cut short at other conferences. We put together this guide to help newcomers and returning participants alike get the most out of SRCCON.
SRCCON is a hands-on conference, full of conversations and workshops focused on the practical challenges that news technology and data teams encounter every day. SRCCON is pronounced “Source-con,” and the “SRC” stands for “Source” as in “view source.”
It brings together nearly 300 designers, developers, data analysts, editors, and other journalists for two-days of collaborative sessions, group meals, and activities. SRCCON is produced by OpenNews, an organization built to connect a network of developers, designers, journalists and editors to collaborate on open technologies and processes within journalism.
This year we return to Minneapolis on August 3 and 4 at the McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota. We’re still finalizing the overall schedule, but the basic timing is:
Most people arrive Wednesday evening in order to get to SRCCON bright and early on Thursday morning. The venue is about 40 minutes from the airport on transit or by cab (depending on traffic).
When people leave varies depending on flight times to their home city and other responsibilities. Some folks leave Friday night after SRCCON closes, while others leave sometime on Saturday.
Your overall travel time will of course depend on how far you live from Minneapolis, but in general, plan for travel to take part of your day on Wednesday, and either Friday evening or Saturday.
That’s great! We offer free, licensed childcare throughout SRCCON so you can bring your family and know they’re having a good time too. KiddieCorp is back for the third year, providing childcare that has left both parents and children very happy each year. Please register as soon as you can so we can prepare to welcome your children.
We hope they have an awesome time exploring Minneapolis while you are at SRCCON. While we do not offer a partner ticket for the conference itself, we do offer an evening ticket if your partner would like to join for dinner and activities on Thursday evening.
In addition to your usual business trip preparation, there’s a few additional items you might want to bring with you to SRCCON. Each year we have a coffee station with tasty local coffee, but participants also often bring coffee and tea with them to share a taste of home. So feel free to pack some beans or tea leaves that you’d like to share with fellow attendees.
On Thursday evening, many folks also bring board games to play, and in fact there’s already a sign-up sheet where folks are sharing what games they plan to bring.
The way I’ve described it in the past is that at SRCCON, people might wear their favorite hoodie. Meaning, it’s pretty casual. OpenNews staff will literally all be in T-shirts (so you can find us for safety reasons!), but that gives you a sense of things. If you’re more comfortable in dressier clothes or just wanna show off some new item, totally go for it. You’ll see a wide range of dress styles at SRCCON. We know that clothing selection can be a really tricky thing to navigate though, so if there’s anything we can do to help you feel more comfortable, just let Erika know (who wrote this guide and is heading up planning participant experience this year).
It’s certainly possible, but not required by any means. You’re coming to SRCCON because you’ve been doing work in news organizations, or nearby, that makes you curious about how we can work together better. You already have the skills and experiences that will be valuable in your conversations at SRCCON.
Many folks stay at The Commons conference hotel, so a lot of attendees will likely congregate in the hotel lobby to find others for dinner or exploring Minneapolis. Several Minneapolis locals helped craft this locals guide with a bunch of tips to help guide those adventures! A lot of people also use Twitter to help coordinate outings, putting out a call for people to visit a particular type of restaurant or go for a hike or similar. Which brings us to…
Our conference Twitter account is SRCCON and most people just use the hash tag #SRCCON. If that gets overrun by spammers, @SRCCON will tweet a new one. Please feel free to use it to coordinate cab carpools from the airport, dinner plans, and the like. If you take pictures during SRCCON (following the guidelines below), feel free to tag them or email them to us. We love using pics in our materials!
Most everyone arrives on time for SRCCON for a tasty breakfast and quick introduction to the event and each other. We usually take a quick “turn to your neighbor and say hello” moment that is quite chaotic and loud, but a lot of fun. SRCCON is a great place to catch up with old friends, but we like to create little opportunities like the group welcome to meet a new person in a slightly structured, low-stakes way. (Some introvert-friendly structured socializing!)
Too many of us have had the conference experience of someone looking at our name tag and then looking right through us and walking away, simply because they didn’t deem talking to someone from that organization worth their time. (Or, the reverse, being swarmed with irrelevant questions simply by being associated with a “big name” organization.)
No organization name on name tag? Now you can just say hello! And, if you’re still that curious, look them up on Twitter and their org is probably in the bio anyway.
Inspired by AdaCamps, we adopted tri-color lanyards for photo privacy. Not everyone is comfortable having their picture taken, and lanyards make it super easy to give or not give consent for photos. Folks with green lanyards, you can take their picture. Folks with yellow lanyards, please ask before taking their picture. Folks with red lanyards, do not take their picture. It’s that simple!
SRCCON is different than many other conferences you may have attended. It’s a highly participatory event: no panels on a stage or speakers running through slides. You might notice that we always refer to facilitators or session leaders, never speakers or presenters, because when you run a session at SRCCON, you’re in a room with dozens of other smart people with an opportunity to compare notes, share skills, and help everyone learn from each other. We created SRCCON with a few principles in mind that lay the groundwork for our program as a whole:
Our sessions inhabit these values in different ways, through structured discussions and problem-solving groups; peer-to-peer workshops; even games, drawing, or field trips. We avoid traditional lectures and classroom-style trainings, but we welcome your creativity across a range of hands-on and collaborative session styles.
Participate! To be clear, participation can take many forms. Contrary to popular opinion, speaking is not the only, primary, or even best way to participate. Many sessions take the form of small-group breakouts where you’ll have a brief conversation with 5 or so other attendees. In that group, you could take notes, monitor the time, help facilitate the conversation—all participation roles in addition to any active listening or speaking you may do.
It’s possible some sessions might involve moving around the room (as you are able), taking part in a game, drawing, learning a skill, or collaborating on a draft of an idea or prototype.
Each session will be led by a facilitator or two or three who will guide participants through the session and let you know what to expect. If they describe a session that doesn’t work for you, no worries, you can totally leave and try out a different session. SRCCON doesn’t quite operate under the “rule of two feet” that some unconferences do, where people very frequently walk into and out of sessions, but facilitators do understand that people may leave or enter their sessions at any times and prepare for this.
The SRCCON schedule lives at schedule.srccon.org, so you’ll want to load that link on your phone. The schedule will be posted about a week before SRCCON. You can even mark sessions you want to attend and build your own custom schedule. We’ll also post session names outside each room during the conference.
Flip over your nametag, and you’ll see a map of the space. There will also be ample signage around the venue.
Those are the stenographers. Norma Miller and the White Coat Captioning crew will be live transcribing about half of the SRCCON sessions. You’ll see a note on the SRCCON schedule about which sessions will be transcribed. We offer transcription as an accessibility aid, plus it’s just really cool. Please speak up loudly in large group conversations so the stenographers can hear you. If you’d like a comment to be off the record, just say so and they will not record it.
At lunch during SRCCON, we’ll have an open sign up board for anyone who would like to host a conversation during lunch. On Thursday evening, we’ll also have space for a bunch of activities and informal discussions.
Some of the SRCCON organizers are super interested in coffee, so they thought it would be fun to have a spot where people could have actually good coffee (and tea!). The coffee station has a person on-hand to help you figure out how to use all the coffee gadgets, or you could ask the person next to you how to do it because everyone makes the coffee themselves. It’s become a nice communal spot, where attendees have a quick chat over the roar of a coffee grinder or while waiting for a tea to steep. In addition to all the coffee gadgetry, there is also hot water and associated devices to make all types of tea.
Meals are buffet style, with a variety of tasty options to meet all dietary needs (just be sure to let us know when you register or email us if anything changed). Meals are a communal experience at SRCCON. With folks gathering around tables to chat, sometimes to host entire sessions, and enjoy some camaraderie. Yes, sometimes folks catch up on work email as well, but there’s a lot of chatting happening too. We provide full breakfast and lunch both days of SRCCON as well as dinner on Thursday night. In addition, there’s ample snacks throughout so you never have to worry about finding sufficient energy to keep your brain moving.
Many SRCCON participants are not into the coffee and beer culture, so we make sure there’s plenty of tea and uncaffeinated drinks at the coffee station and at the meals throughout the day. In the evening, when we do provide alcohol, we also provide tasty sodas and non-alcoholic beer.
We also want to make sure you get a chance to connect with everyone at SRCCON about the things you love to do in your free time, not just what you work on during the day. Our Thursday night program is all about the “life” side of the work-life balance, and we’ll spread throughout the conference venue for board games and lightning talks, get outside for field trips, and pull together hobby workshops and interesting conversations. You can find more details on the logistics page.
You have a bunch of options. You could certainly chat with a stranger who may be thinking exactly the same thing. You could make a(nother) cup of coffee or tea. You could check out the lobby area. You could go for a walk outside in the park in front of the building. You should use that time–as all other time at SRCCON–in the way that best meets your needs. We do our best to provide numerous options so that one of them will be what you need at the time. Extra-long breaks mean you don’t have to choose between taking care of your needs or finishing up an interesting conversation with someone else—you have plenty of time for both before you head off to your next session.
You are supported by the SRCCON code of conduct, which is backed by a detailed action plan. If you feel harassed, unsafe, or concerned about something happening to you or that you see happening to someone else, you can call us or flag down a staff person or volunteer in a color-coded SRCCON shirt.
You can ask a volunteer or staff person who you see in a color-coded shirt, or there will also always be someone back at the registration desk as well.
We understand. Given the participatory nature of SRCCON sessions, it’s not a good idea to try to multi-task in the session itself. But you can find space throughout the venue for quiet work–there is a lobby area with a bunch of chairs by a fire, there is a wide expansive park in front of the buildings, there’s ample hallway space for huddling, and if you’re staying at the conference hotel, it’s a super short walk (there’s even a tunnel!) to head back to the hotel.
We all gather as a group once last time for a brief reflection and closing chat. After we officially close out the conference, it’s a great chance to have that last conversation with someone you’ve been trying to connect with over the prior two days or find buddies for dinner that evening.
After catching our breath, we’ll send out a survey to learn more about your experience and any adjustments it’d be helpful for us to make in the future. We’d also love to hear about anything that comes out of your experience at SRCCON, whether that be from sessions, conversations, ideas that SRCCON sparks. You’ll see a bunch of coverage on Source from sessions and themes that arose in discussions. In addition, we love it when SRCCON lives on after the event–some facilitators have brought their sessions forward to ONA, Mozilla Festival, NICAR, and other events. Some folks who met at SRCCON one year, pitch a session together the next year, or build from their experience with NICAR Conversations or personal blog posts.
SRCCON is organized by the OpenNews team with event management provided by Erik Westra of WestraCo. We started SRCCON in 2014 because we saw that the existing slate of (so many) journalism conferences wasn’t well serving the most tech oriented folks in the journalism community. Many news nerds give numerous workshops at NICAR, but have fewer chances to learn from their peers or compare notes about their work. When we first created SRCCON, we thought it would be almost entirely very technical sessions, but it turned out that what this community really needed space to talk about is how we work. Each year, we’ve built a SRCCON schedule that reflects the range of interests of this community, which include, yes, technical sessions and workshops, but increasingly, also sessions about workplace culture, management, diversity and inclusion, and the process of how technical work happens in newsrooms.
The structure and feel of SRCCON were inspired by the organizing team’s experience as speakers, volunteers, organizers, and attendees of many, many tech and journalism conferences. We tried to create the type of event we’d like to attend. We borrowed ideas for session structure from the Mozilla Festival an for accessibility and inclusivity from AdaCamp. And in the great open source spirit, we documented our efforts, including our work creating a Code of Conduct, which has gone on to inspire several other journalism conferences.
SRCCON embodies the values of OpenNews: we believe a diverse community of peers working, learning, and solving problems together can create the stronger, more representative ecosystem that journalism needs to thrive. At SRCCON, we get to spend two days together in person with that community.