Photo: Erik Westra

SRCCON 2018 • June 28 & 29 in MPLS Support OpenNews!

Not Just Attendees, But Participants

SRCCON is a hands-on conference that works best when it’s rather small. We’ll have about 300 attendees this year, and everyone at SRCCON actively participates, whether they’re facilitating a session, contributing to a conversation over lunch, or meeting new colleagues and supporting their work. This guide is here to help you figure out how you’d like to take part in the SRCCON program, to share some things we do to help people participate fully, and (we hope!) to answer any questions on your mind.

You can also check out our logistics page for details on hotel and transit to help you get to SRCCON.

How to Participate

We have a call for participation form open now to apply for an invitation to attend SRCCON. We were able to find more space in the SRCCON venue and open up a second batch of tickets, which we will allocate on a rolling basis. All applicants will receive an answer within a few days. If invited to attend, we’ll email a link to purchase a ticket for $225, plus fees.

We’ve experimented with different ways to allocate tickets over the last five years. This year, we used this call for participation form with one way to tell us everything about how you’d like to participate, from bringing your experiences and expertise to hands-on sessions to applying for a scholarship. In April, the session proposal and scholarship application sections of the form closed, but we’re re-opening the section for general participation. The small size of SRCCON means that we have to be intentional about equitably distributing tickets and ensuring that there are a mix of perspectives and skills at the event. Our call for participation form helps us understand who would like to take part in SRCCON and what you want to get out of it.

Things You Can Do At SRCCON

Things To Help Everyone Participate

Participation Guide

We’re regular conference attendees too, and we know there can be a TON to think about as you’re packing up for travel or taking part at an event for the first time. We hope this guide answers most of your questions, but if we’re missing one, let us know and we’ll add it here!

What’s the SRCCON story?

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 about 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.

When SRCCON began in 2014, we thought it would be almost entirely 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 also more and more sessions about workplace culture, management, diversity and inclusion, and the process of how technical work happens in newsrooms.

When and where is SRCCON?

This year we return to Minneapolis on June 28 & 29 at the McNamara Alumni Center at the University of Minnesota. Here’s the basic shape of our days:

How much time should I allow for traveling to SRCCON?

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 head home 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.

What if I want to bring my kid(s) to SRCCON or need childcare during the conference?

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. Parents and children have been very happy with our childcare partner, KiddieCorp, for several years now. Please register as soon as you can so we can prepare to welcome your children.

What if my partner is traveling with me to SRCCON?

We hope they have an awesome time exploring Minneapolis while you are at SRCCON. We don’t offer a partner ticket for the conference itself, but we will have evening tickets available if your partner would like to join us for dinner and activities on Thursday evening.

What do I need to pack?

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 a selection of local beans, but participants also often bring their favorite coffees and teas with them to share a taste of home with other attendees. So feel free to pack some beans or tea leaves that you’d like to share.

On Thursday evening, many folks also bring board games to play. We’ll post a signup sheet soon where people can talk about what they’re planning to bring.

What is the dress code?

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 we hope that gives you a sense of things. If you’re more comfortable in dressier clothes or just want to 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 heads up our plan for participant experience at SRCCON).

Do people do any homework before they arrive?

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 around journalism, and 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.

Some sessions might encourage people to do a bit of reading or install some software before taking part, and facilitators will note any thoughts like that when we post our final schedule in June.

What happens when people arrive at SRCCON?

Many folks stay at The Graduate conference hotel, so a lot of attendees will likely congregate in the hotel lobby to find others for dinner or exploring Minneapolis. Several locals helped craft this guide to the area with a bunch of tips to help with those adventures! A lot of people also use Twitter to help coordinate outings, putting out a call for people to visit a restaurant or go for a hike or similar. Which brings us to…

What’s the hashtag? Do you want my pictures?

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 carpools from the airport, dinner plans, and the like. If you take pictures during the conference (following the guidelines below), feel free to tag them or email them to us. We love sharing your photos when we talk about SRCCON!

What happens at the opening to SRCCON?

Most everyone arrives on time the first day of SRCCON for a tasty breakfast and a 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 this to meet a new person in a low-stakes way. (Some introvert-friendly structured socializing!)

Wait, why is my org not on my name tag?

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 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 curious, look them up on Twitter and their org is probably in the bio anyway.

What are these lanyard colors all about?

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!

What are the sessions like?

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.

What do people expect me to do in the sessions?

Participate! To be clear, that can take many forms, and speaking isn’t the only, primary, or even best way to participate. Many sessions include small-group breakouts where you’ll have a brief conversation with a handful of other attendees. So in that group you might take notes, monitor the time, help facilitate the conversation—all participation roles in addition to any active listening or speaking you may do. Other sessions can 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 an agenda 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.

Where is the conference schedule?

The SRCCON schedule lives at schedule.srccon.org, and will be updated for 2018 a couple weeks before SRCCON. If you load the schedule on your phone, 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.

How will I find the sessions?

Once you pick up your conference badge at SRCCON, flip it over and you’ll see a map of the space. There will also be ample signage around the venue.

Who are the people with the futuristic keyboards?

Those are the stenographers from White Coat Captioning, who provide live transcription for about half 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.

What if I have a great idea for a conversation at SRCCON that is not already on the schedule?

At lunch during SRCCON, we’ll have an open signup 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.

What is this coffee station all about?

Some of the SRCCON organizers are super interested in coffee, so they thought it would be fun to have a spot where people could gather and make actually good coffee (and tea!). The coffee station has a person on-hand to help with any coffee gadgets you haven’t used before—or you could ask the person next to you to share their favorite tips. In addition to all the coffee gadgetry, there’s also hot water and associated devices to make all types of tea. 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.

What are the meals like?

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 changes). 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.

What are the non-caffeinated, non-alcoholic drink options like?

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 meals throughout the day. In the evening, if we provide alcohol we also provide tasty sodas and non-alcoholic options.

What is this Thursday evening thing all about?

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.

What am I supposed to do for 30 minutes in between every session?

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.

What happens if I feel harassed or unsafe?

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.

What happens if I have a question or need a band-aid, pain reliever, or safety pin?

You can ask a volunteer or staff person who you see walking around in a color-coded shirt, and there will also always be someone back at the registration desk as well.

I have non-conference work to do! Help!

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—there’s a lobby area with a bunch of chairs by a fire, there’s an expansive park in front of the building, and if you’re staying at the conference hotel, it’s a super short walk back (there’s even a tunnel!). If you need to get a little more heads-down, we have two spaces set aside for work:

What happens in the closing to SRCCON?

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.

What happens once SRCCON is over?

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.

Who makes this whole SRCCON thing happen?

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 teach numerous workshops at NICAR, but don’t always get a chance to learn from their peers or compare notes about their work.

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 and for accessibility and inclusivity from AdaCamp. And in the great open-source spirit, we’ve 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.

I have another question, how can I find out more?

Feel free to email us, or you can even submit a pull request on this page with your question.