The Back Channel and the Rule of Threes

It’s a law of nature. There are always three things. Trust me on this.

Think of an event — a workshop, a class, a meeting, or a presentation. Something always comes before and there’s always an aftermath.

All too often, we neglect the Beginning and Next phases. This limits our thinking to the event and blinds us to the larger process.

Here are the three phases of the Up To All of Us workshop I attended in Sedona last week:

Before the event, we talked for months and got to know one another on a Google Group. Here’s the intro text:

As a collaborator at Up to All of Us, you rock. We have invited you here to do just that. Be yourself, get to know everyone, and let the conversation flow. We want all of you to be mid conversation when we hit the ground in Sedona and to run from there.
Please post anything that:
  • inspires you
  • you feel should be shared
  • needs to be talked about
  • shows what you’re passionate about
  • exists (literally, whatever is relevant to you)
Don’t forget to introduce yourself and tell your story.
We’re very excited that you’re here! Be good, have fun!
The Google Group conversations covered the waterfront from meal preferences and arrival times to what instruments to bring. Meanwhile, the website introduced participants to one another (take a look at some profiles). One participant recorded and shared interviews with many of us.
During the event we used the Tweetstream to coordinate what was going on. Some of us posted photos to Flickr. Others were capturing and uploading photos with the phones.

David Kelly was monitoring what was going on from afar. Says Dave…

I am a huge proponent of backchannel learning. There are many events I would love to be able to attend, but my budget can only accommodate one or two each year. The backchannel is an excellent resource for learning from a conference or event that you are unable to attend in-person.

I find collecting and reviewing backchannel resources to be a valuable learning experience for me, even when I am attending a conference in person. Sharing these collections on this blog has shown that others find value in the collections as well.

This post collects the resources shared via the backchannel of the Up To All Of Us event, held February 24-27 in Sedona, Arizona.

I’m a fan. This morning I riffed through the digital artifacts Dave has collected. The return visit rekindled my enthusiasm for what we’d learned and done in Sedona. I particularly enjoyed Lisa Chamberlin’s Storify recap. Clark Quinn’s mindmaps of the two days are awesome summaries of what was going on.

What’s more, Dave’s backchannel is my storehouse for knowledge I picked up at the event. Memory’s associative. I can imagine a year or two from now recalling what Felix or Liz said in a session by revisiting the backchannel.

Back in the old days


A dozen years ago, I documented conferences I attended on my blog. For example, here’s my take on TechLearn 2001. I thought of myself as a journalist but my reports were really written for me. They helped me stuff what was happening into my longterm memory.

Dave Kelly’s backchannel report is so much richer because it incorporates the voices of many participants. All of us see more than any of us.

Isn’t is amazing? To learn from an event, you no longer have to be there.