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What makes SSWC so special?

Yet another Sweden Social Web Camp has come to its end.

And it was as beautiful as ever.

This was my third year on the Tjärö island in the Blekinge archipelago (I had to miss one year due to the birth of my daughter – a very good excuse if you ask me) and as I read through all the love coming from the participants and my old summaries and thoughts about the unconference (This is the Internet and What your company can learn from Sweden Social Web Camp) I am left to ponder: what exactly is it that makes this happening so special?

What’s the secret SSWC-sauce?

Burning sheep
Burning of the what!?

Because special it is. It’s almost a religious experience being there, including group singing, praising the almighty (web) and the burning of a wooden sheep(!). But, it’s all done tongue-in-cheek and the only reason to burn a wooden sheep in front of 440 people is of course so that you can tweet about it and share the experience.

But, it’s not just fun and games. As I wrote in What your company can learn from Sweden Social Web Camp I really do think there are important lessons for every business to understand what makes #SSWC tick. SSWC is a conference, but it provides more value at less cost than a traditional conference. More value and less cost is a sign of disruptive innovation, so let’s dig deeper into what makes SSWC so special.

  • Tomas Wennström & Kristin Heinonen. We start off with the two persons at the center of the whole thing. Look up “nice couple” in the dictionary and there’s a good chance there’s a photo of these two there. Tomas & Kristin are the founders of the conference and form the very important function of community leaders for the whole thing. Their friendliness, common sense problem solving and warm humor sets the tone for the rest of us to follow.
    Lesson learned: Set a culture and lead by example.

  • Not a product. A platform for sharing. This is the core of what sets SSWC (or any unconference) apart from a traditional conference. It’s not a prepackaged product with predefined speakers and topics. No, it’s a platform for the audience to become contributors and create the experience themselves. That’s why Joakim Green brings the SSWC flag each year. That’s why there’s an SSWC movie produced each year and even a book.
    Lesson learned: Go from product to platform.

  • It’s on an island. The fact that the conference is mostly outside and on a small island leads to some interesting consequences. Everyone you meet on the island is part of the same experience. People also live in tents which forces everyone to be more down to earth (literally). There’s more sheep than suits and ties on the island. The island, the tents and the sheep make us all equal. The island is the big equalizer. (Note that this also repels certain type of people.)
    Session
    No suits.

    Lesson learned: context and environment is important and you can use it to design how certain behavior is rewarded.

  • Swedish summer. August is the best time of the year in Sweden. Nuff said. Even when it rains it’s OK. We Swedes love this time of the year and being outside in nature to enjoy it. It’s part of our culture.
    Lesson learned: Swedish summer rocks.

  • Tjärö. The crew. The food. The setup. Everyone working on Tjärö help out making the experience for every participant as great as possible. They thus become the extended arms of Tomas and Kristin.
    Lesson learned: Hire people that share your values.

  • The long tail on the web. Of course an internet conference wouldn’t be an internet conference without blogging, tweeting, bambusing or facebooking. The internet enables us to transcend place and time and connect over physical boundaries. We can share stories – blog posts such as this. We can relive the moment, long after it’s over – and prelive it before it happens.
    Lesson learned: Share everything. Be open. Create social objects that people can discuss. Use the web. .

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Pinteresting stuff?

That’s a few lessons from Sweden Social Web Camp. It may look like a weird camp for nerds but look deeper. There’s an important business lesson for any company looking to upgrade their business model to the 21st century hidden among the rocks, sheep and beautiful ocean water at Tjärö. The lessons learned above are lessons in modern marketing and business development. I highly recommend a visit next year.

The best way to understand what makes SSWC so special is after all to be there.

/Me on Twitter. Me on LinkedIn.

Photos from SSWC 2011

Sweden Social Web Camp is an unconference held on an island in the Blekinge archipelago in souther Sweden. I’ve written about it before so this time I will just post a few photos I took. Perhaps I will get back with a longer post for this years edition, there was a lot to digest.

You can find my Flickr-set here and the group with photos from everyone here. There are currently 1346 photos in the group…

These are the ones I took and that I’m pleased with.

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Anna on the rocks.

Jocke i trädet
Jocke in the tree.

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Jumping from a cliff.

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Winning.

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Flying.

The Brit
The Brit (there can be only one).

Ström!!!
I’ve got the power!

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Tents and geeks.

Magic evening
We’ve got a jumper!

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Good times.

All the photos (except two that didn’t upload for some reason) are also on Google+.

The Uncompany

By: Ryk Neethling

All the posts about the unconference Social Sweden Web Camp (SSWC) got me thinking. If there are lessons to be learned for every business from SSWC, then what do you call a company that already knows these lessons and lives by their rules?

An uncompany, of course.

An uncompany has a community of ambassadeurs, fans and followers, not customers.

An uncompany sees itself as a platform for others to create on.

An uncompany lives by an ethos and values that its community shares.

What else does an uncompany do? Any thoughts?

What your company can learn from Sweden Social Web Camp

OK, this will be a long post so bare with me. The topic for today is marketing.

And customer service.

And R&D.

Oh, and also some words about recruiting.

What the heck, it’s actually about the future of business. Period.

I told you it will be a long post…

But let’s start at the beginning. First let me explain what Sweden Social Web Camp (SSWC) is.

SSWC is an “unconference” taking place in August on an island in the Blekinge archipelago in Sweden. Blekinge is sometimes called the appendix of Sweden – as in a small place no one really knows what it’s good for – but if there’s one thing that’s great about Blekinge it’s the archipelago. It’s beautiful, especially in the summer time.

The theme of the conference is (unsurprisingly) the social web in different flavours and contexts.

This year, the second year of SSWC, roughly 400 people participated in the unconference on the tiny island of Tjärö. Most of them were camping – as in tents – while sheep and other creatures roamed the island. (Hey, it’s a camp, isn’t it?)


Camping. No sheep. Photo by Gitta Wilén.

There are no big names on the speaker list (in fact, there’s no speaker list at all – there’s not even a schedule!) and it all takes place during a weekend. So, what brings 400 entrepreneurs, journalists, PR-people, bloggers and hackers to a small island somewhere between Nowhere and Faraway to spend a weekend sleeping in a tent?

The answer to this question holds the key to what business will be like in the 21st century.

Exciting, huh? Before we go on please take a moment to read my blog post from last years SSWC. That will explain a little more details on how an unconference actually works.

No, seriously, read it.

OK, so now you understand that an unconference is all about participation. The organizers of the unconference only set the stage, it’s the participants that creates the play as they are there. They become both the speakers and the audience and in many cases the line is blurred as a speech turns in to a conversation.

The interesting consequence of this is that the value for the participants is higher than it would be if they only came to listen to a Big Name Speaker sharing her knowledge while at the same time the monetary cost is lower since Big Name Speakers are expensive.

How can the value be higher? At a traditional knowledge conference with Big Speakers there can be hundreds or thousands of people with overlapping interests, skill sets, insights, experiences. They all share a common interest, otherwise they wouldn’t be there – and yet there is no way for them to pool each others knowledge base. They all come to passively listen to one or a few heavy weighters in knowledge – but the sum total of untapped knowledge in the room far surpasses the knowledge of even the best speaker.

An unconference acknowledges this fact and builds the entire meeting around it with the goal to maximise interconnections between participants.

So now you have two different models.

1. A (traditional) knowledge conference that tries to maximize value through the knowledge radiated from the stages. Keywords are: broadcast, authoritative, passive, expensive (the best speakers are the most expensive),

2. A participatory (un)conference that tries to maximize value by leveraging interconnections in the crowd. Keywords are: conversation, open, active and low cost (blocking people out with a high price can even lower the value for the participants).

When something can create higher value at a lower price compared to what came before that’s a sure sign of disruption happening.

And that is why you need to learn from SSWC.

Because you can do participatory marketing. It’s called social media.

Because you can do participatory R&D. It’s called open source. And open innovation.

Because you can do participatory customer service. It’s called a community.

This all means higher value, lower price – if done right. Disruption, remember? And if you can do all that, so can your competitors.

Now you must ask yourself one question. A very important question. Namely this one:

Do you want to be the only one in your business executing your strategy with something that provides lower value at a higher price?

Do you think you will survive if you do that? Seriously?

Now, you may argue that in some markets broadcast, authoritative, passive and expensive actually works – and yes, you may be right. Some parts of your business may not be affected by competitors that are open, participatory, agile and costs less. But some parts of your business will be affected. And, here’s the catch: you don’t know which parts!


Kristin Heinonen and the remains of Mr Krax (long story…).

You should also know that going this route is not easy. What Tomas & Kristin have done with SSWC may look easy, but it’s the result of years of active participation and community building. Also, neither of them planned to start the best social media conference in Sweden, it just happened that way.


Tomas Wennström, Campfixer.

As a big company you carry a heavy burden: your history. Your customers are most likely not your friends or fans. You don’t have an active community. You don’t have a voice on the web. Probably, you’ve treated your customers as an expense (once they’ve made the first purchase) instead of an asset. You’ve been doing the broadcast, authoritative, passive and expensive way for so long that it’s part of your DNA and your culture.

This must change.

This has to change.

Or you will perish.

How’s that for a lesson from Tjärö?

(I couldn’t attend this year because of the birth of my daughter. To her, all this talk about participating and opening up will be the most natural thing in the world. She will require it. She will expect it. Your company can still change. Do it. Now.)

Follow me on Twitter.

Money is failure

It used to be so simple.

You paid someone to build your product. Then you bought broadcasted advertising to market it. Finally, your product was sold in a store.

No matter what you sold, cars or toothbrushes, this worked and money made it happen.

Then came the internet.

The internet has this magic ability to pull people together across geographical distances (note how I even have to use the word “geographical” to highlight the type of distance I’m talking about – you didn’t have to do that before the web). When people can communicate with each other they start doing things. They talk about things. They explore and share ideas. They build things.

And they do it out of love. Out of passion.

This changes a lot of things, including advertising and how products are created.

People talk about things they like. People build on stuff they like, they add value to products they like.

This means that if your competitor has a product that ignites passion and love in their users, they will get a lot of marketing and product development done for free.

If you are stuck in the traditional way of thinking (pay for product development, pay for advertising) you will end up with a more expensive product that is evolving and innovating slower than your competitors.

Needless to say, you will fail.

Yepp, that’s right, money will make you fail.

I told you things had changed!

Now, I’m not saying you should leave all your product development and all your marketing to your users. Every product and every market has its’ own optimal balance of love and money and you have to find that yourself (in tight competition – or cooperation – with your competitors, of course).


How much love is there in your product?

What I am saying, though, is that you should start looking at your product development and advertising costs as failures.

Paid advertising is failure to ignite the love in your users that make them talk about your product.

Paid development is failure to ignite the love in your users that make them build on and innovate on your product.

Money is failure. Go for love instead.

This is the Internet: Sweden Social Web Camp

Erik, my friend. Can you explain what the Internet is?

– The Internet?

– Yes, the Internet. You see, I read about in the newspaper and watch people talk about it on TV but I just don’t get it. How does it work?

– Well, OK. The Internet is sort of like a big, big island where anyone can make their voice heard simply by gathering people around them and start talking. People tend to trust people who don’t just talk but also listens more so if you want many people to listen to you, you can’t just talk but start a conversation.

– But won’t you run out of places where people can gather to converse?

– No, it’s a very big island.

– But how do people find where the interesting conversations are.

– Ah, that’s the beauty of it: there’s a big index table keeping track of all the places. Anyone can add to this index simply by creating a new post. Then there are numerous recommendation engines you can use to find the best conversations. These recommendation engines are also built on trust.

– Wow, that’s really cool! But does it scale?

– So far it seems to have scaled pretty well.

– Hm, OK, so there’s an index keeping track of the places where the conversations are. Anyone can start a conversation and the good conversations are found using a recommendation engine. You know, I read about something like that in the paper. A bunch of nerds met on this island in Blekinge and did exactly that. It was called the Sweden Social Web Camp.

– Yeah, I know. I was there! I took some photos:


(Flickr.) This was the first evening, the guy on the stage is Tomas Wennström. He was sort of the coordinator of the whole thing. That means he posted a blog post and then everything happened by itself. No, not really, but almost. 🙂


(Flickr.) This is my friend Björn Falkevik. He was one of the people who started a conversation. This one took place under an oak.


(Flickr). Here’s the index table. On the “real” Internet this is called DNS and Google (sort of). Anyone could create a new session and if you ran out of places to be (the top column), you simply added a new column with a new place. The island was so big.

– Like the Internet!

– Well, not that big. But big enough.


(Flickr). Even as it got dark people kept on talking to each other, but it was less formalized.

– Yeah, I read about that. That’s the darknet, right?

– Haha, not really. The darknet is… something else.
There was also some dancing:

(Flickr).

– Seems like you had a great time!

– It was super!

– Imagine that… someone building a conference about the net using the same basic architecture as the net itself. That’s really cool.

– Yeah, I know, but I think this is what most events will be like in the future. Not just events but also prouct development, companies, brands, maybe even countries! Everything will be driven by engines of trust.

– Sounds like this Sweden Social Web Camp should not be missed next year.

– That’s very, very true. Trust me on that!