This year EsoZone – the third annual Portland conference dedicated to the occult, fringe science, and other offbeat topics – is forgoing a pre-planned schedule in favor of letting attendees create their own agenda.

On October 9th, participants will arrive at Watershed PDX and collaboratively create the schedule. The event will be free and open to the public, and anyone will be able to propose a session, lead a workshop, or suggest a group activity. The approach is called “unconferencing,” a technique pioneered by tech-industry events.

Portland has played host to a number of unconferences in the past few years, including BarCamp, WordCamp, and CyborgCamp.

Event organizers Klint Finley and Jillian Ordes-Finley were inspired to transform EsoZone into an unconference after attending CyborgCamp in December of 2008.

“I was amazed at how quickly the schedule was put together at CyborgCamp, and how smoothly the event ran. We’d agonized over the EsoZone schedule for months and were still changing things at the last minute. I was really impressed by how the whole unconference model worked,” Finley says.

The pair hope this new approach will help EsoZone better reach its goal: fostering connections between its eclectic and oftentimes outsider audience. Finley says “This should be a better platform for getting people to interact each other, and making sure the event centers around the subject matter the attendees really want to discuss.”

EsoZone will use the same scheduling system used by CyborgCamp and BarCamp. Participants will propose sessions on 8.5 x 11 pieces of sticky paper and place them on a large schedule grid on the wall. The sessions can then be rearranged as necessary as attendees negotiate times and spaces for each session. New sessions can be added to empty slots at any time during the event.

In order to give people an idea of what to expect, the organizers are encouraging likely participants to propose subjects on their online forum in advance of the event. However, nothing will be decided until the actual event.

EsoZone will also be exhibiting esoteric art by a variety of artists. “Watershed is such a cavernous space, we have room for a staggering amount of artwork,” Ordes-Finley says. Although artists will be allowed to hang art the day of the event, they are encouraged to check in ahead of time if they have questions or could have any logistical issues.

More information, and contact details, are available at