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The November 2013 Speaking in Code summit was held over two days. The first day kicked off the discussion with a welcome and a more formal set of talks (brief provocations, not lengthy lectures!). We also got to know each other better over dinner, which included a limerick contest. (Your mileage may vary; karaoke would work, too.) The second day was comprised of a number of un-conference-style break-out sessions.

Day One


At the beginning of the first day, a welcome by organizers sets the tone and lays the ground rules. If done well, it establishes an atmosphere of openness, candor, and respect.

One primary ground rule for the Scholars' Lab version of Speaking in Code was that all discussions would take place under a modified version of the Chatham House Rule: information emerging from the summit would be open to sharing, but individual participants should not be identified as making particular statements, unless they had specifically authorized the use of their names. This applied to all media, new media, social media, as well as traditional media.

That decision was the outcome of discussion. A number of options were brought up, but the November 2013 group reached consensus on using the Chatham House Rule.

Being able to discuss this topic and reach a consensus helped to create an open arena for the discussion. Participants could speak freely without fearing repercussions from colleagues, employers, or others who may be unaware of the context and full meaning of their remarks.

Presentation and discussion on a variety of topics

Most of the time on the first day was spent in a series of informal talks, which are outlined on the Scholars' Lab Speaking in Code website. Some of these talks involved group activities and brainstorming. All of them included time for questions and discussion.


A working dinner in a local pub closed out the first day. After a goofy bonding experience (see above re: limericks), each table carried on brainstorming and discussed the activities and topics participants wanted to explore the next day.

Day Two

The second day was more "hands-on" in the broadest sense. There were a few hacking sessions in which participants prototyped tools or modified platforms to address issues that had arisen on the first day; however, most of the sessions centered around continued discussion and planning for future work. These sessions pushed hard on their respective topics and worked toward increasing understanding, if not always achieving consensus or closure.

The second day ended with sharing-out by each of the smaller groups, and a plenary discussion of what we had accomplished together and potential next steps. (A planned final keynote address, meant to be open to a larger audience, had to be cancelled due to the speaker's illness. We can imagine future Speaking in Code events ending with an open keynote or a private, "crowdsourced keynote" of the type we put together.)