[To read this post in Spanish, see the first comment down below! Thanks to Dr. Alberto Elisavetsky]
This year, Cyberweek - the annual conference on Online Dispute Resolution - was held once again on ADRHub, the web portal for the ADR community maintained by the Werner Institute of Creighton University’s School of Law. This is Cyberweek’s 15th anniversary, and the program’s schedule was jam-packed with activity.
Bigger and Better!
As Colin Rule, CEO of Modria.com, put it, “This Cyberweek was the biggest and best ever. The range of presentations, the number of discussion forums, and the sophistication of the exchanges was of a level I've never seen.”
He sure got that right; Cyberweek 2012 surpassed all previous in terms of activities and participants. Dozens of participants took part in 10 live video webinars, and hundreds more have seen the archived versions which remain available on ADRHub.com. In addition to these topical webinars, a dozen ODR platforms and products – some familiar, many new – were presented in webinars or other activities. For those who preferred participating asynchronously, 16 ODR experts facilitated 12 text-based forum conversations on a range of topics in ODR. All of the webinars, activities and discussion forums were archived and can be viewed directly through Cyberweek 2012’s homepage.
That is only half the story, though. The Spanish-language side of Cyberweek, overseen by Dr. Alberto Elisavetsky, included an additional five webinars as well as a dozen text forums. This year also saw Cyberweek’s first-ever Italian-language activities, overseen by Michele Romanelli from University Degli Studi Di Padova. Which language will be next? (Feel free to see that as a challenge!)
All in all, over a thousand participants registered for Cyberweek, and thanks to Google analytics, we know that there were over five hundred unregistered users. These 1500+ participants hailed from 63 countries around the world. Did anybody say “Biggest Cyberweek ever?”
Those, however, are only the participants in activities offered directly through the Cyberweek site. However, the past few years have seen Cyberweek rippling offsite into different types and venues of activity.
One of these activities was a Twitter chat, organized by Jeff Thompson and Jason Dykstra. “What is great about the chat,” says Jeff, “is that it brings ADR people - professionals, volunteers, academics, experts and newbies- from around the world to engage in a discussion in real-time. The 'twist' is that comments are limited to only 140 characters (that's the 'thing' with Twitter). However - this really isn't limiting, but rather allows many people to contribute at the same time and learn from one another. That's the concept of social media and really translates well with the ADR field: contribute and learn at the same time. I hope that next year we can offer a tutorial prior to the chat as an introduction to non-Tweeters, in order to show them just how easy- and fun - Twitter is. It's not just about updating your friends about the ice cream you are eating or letting people know where you are; it is a valuable source to engage others and learn.” With nearly 200 tweets being shared by chat participants over the course of an hour, there’s no doubt that this was a fast and furious learning activity.
In another off-site activity, Pattie Porter hosted Bill Warters and Colin Rule on her Internet radio show in a special Cyberweek episode titled “Tech for Better, not for Worse: ODR in Everyday Lives”
Yet another ripple-activity was a competition in which nearly one hundred participants, supervised by Smartsettle’s Derek Barber tried their hands at the Smartsettle One platform. The settlement rate among completed cases was 89%. This compares well with earlier experiments and even some limited real-life cases. Ernest Thiessen, President of iCan Systems Inc. and Smartsettle inventor says he was pleased to see the high level of energy around Cyberweek 2012 and intense interest in recent advances in Online Dispute Resolution. It is clear, he says, that “A wide range of products and services is now validating this new industry and preparing to change the way the world negotiates and resolves conflict.” The top performers in the Smartsettle One competition have been posted here at the International eNegotiation Exhibition.
Cyberweek 2012 included, once again, the Ethics Competition conducted by the ABA’s Section of Dispute Resolution’s Ethics Committee, organized by Kristen Blankley. A new, exciting competition debuting this year at Cyberweek was the eMediation competition organized by Cornell University’s Scheinman Institute on Conflict Resolution. This competition saw 44 participants from nine different universities across the US, as well as one each in Singapore, Argentina and Georgia, compete in a two round tournament utilizing the Modria platform. “I’ve seen students conduct the same simulation in a face-to-face setting,” says competition organizer Katrina Nobles, “and I was struck by how, in the online environment, some students were quick to apply “in-person” skills to asynchronous communication, while others really struggled with this. In an age with various technologies available, recognition of the various comfort levels with technology should also be acknowledged. This perhaps leads to the question, how do we not only make technology available to everyone, but also, how do create a comfortable and intuitive online environment for everyone?” This point is obviously on many ODR-focused minds right now, as it continually cropped up in the Cyberweek discussion forums and webinars.
First place in the mediation competition went to Becky Riger of Capital University Law School, with Maria Eugenia Solé from Universidad Nacional de Tres de Febrero and Firas Alsalih of Creighton University’s Werner Institute close behind and tied for second place, and Samantha Torres of South Texas College of Law nipping at their heels in third. Students also competed as negotiators and advocates in the competition, and in this category Denise Hedges and Michael Hand of Southern Methodist University each ranked highest in representing their clients.
This year’s activities were officially wrapped up with Werner’s Dr. Bernie Mayer’s webinar on Enduring Conflict and Technology – but its ripples continue to ripple, as the program’s archives are accessed, feedback comes in and plans for next year start to take form.
Cyberweek is growing fast, from year to year, and sometimes it seems that the best thing to announce the dates and then get out of the way as people come together and plan great activities. So much planning and partnership goes into setting Cyberweek up, that it’s hard to look back and say who suggested this, who did that and who improved the other. The energy and enthusiasm put in by so many individuals and organizations makes Cyberweek what it is! Just to mention some of the organizations involved: The National Center for Technology & Dispute Resolution at UMASS Amherst has always been behind Cyberweek, and The Werner Institute led the organization and hosting of the conference. Modria.com, the Dispute Resolution Section of the American Bar Association, the Internet Bar Organization and SmartSettle.com have long been partners in organizing the activities. Many organizations joined in this year, including the American Arbitration Association and Mediate.com, who each demonstrated new ODR–related platforms. Dr. Alberto Elisavetsky and his ODRLatinoAmerica network are to thank for half of what Cyberweek is! There are certainly others, but that’s what we have a program schedule for – check ‘em out. Our thanks and appreciation to them all. Extra-special mention goes to Dr. Bill Warters of Wayne State University for volunteering to organize what can only be called a disproportionate share of the activities. Of course, Bryan Hanson, Assistant Director of the Werner Institute, deserves (as he always does!) special mention for keeping all of Cyberweek 2012’s balls in the air, all of the time, ably assisted by Werner’s Theresa Thurin.
In closing I’ll say that towards the end of the conference I thought to myself that sure, it all sounds very exciting, but you need more than ‘exciting’ to bring 1500-2000 people to a conference (especially one in which swag is not handed out!). What really brings people to Cyberweek?
I did my best to find that out, by asking them. But that’s for a separate post, and I’m out of coffee.