Ali’s Mental Meanderings

wandering, not lost

BarCamp-ing

I’ve had the pleasure of attending both Sydney and Canberra BarCamps over the recent weeks. Sydney BarCamp3 occurred over the weekend of the 5th and 6th of April and was held at the UNSW Roundhouse. Canberra BarCamp1 was held on Saturday the 19th of April in the ANU CSIT Building. Because I’m cheating in a way and posting 2 entries in one I’ve sub-headed my comments from each BarCamp.

Sydney BarCamp3

I’d known about BarCamp for quite some time upon hearing through some friends in late 2007 that I should come to the next one as I’d have a lot of fun there. When the call went out for Unorganisers in late December 2007 I jumped at the chance to become involved in my first BarCamp from an organiser perspective. It was exciting because there were a lot of new faces in the unorganiser camp but despite our inexperience things moved along well. On the morning it was with some trepidation that we all rocked up to the Roundhouse at 8am to set things up and try to anticipate numbers for the day.

People started arriving shortly after 9a and we kicked things off at 10a with a giant circle and 30-second introductions for everybody. The schedule quickly filled with talks and people bustled between the 3 presentation rooms. While on the registrations desk greeting everybody I had noticed some blank looks when I explained to new arrivals to write their names and Twitter handles on their name tags. It seemed that Twitter wasn’t as well recognised as I had thought…. then I had an idea.

I’d always tentatively planned to present at BarCamp, despite my unease at getting up in front of 20+ people and talking about something. The original topic I had in mind individuals and their acceptance of Open Source – a particular passion of mine. But I also love introducing people to technology that may benefit them. So a spur of the moment switch in topics occurred, to a presentation I initially titled ‘what the heck is this Twitter thing about?’. I compiled a collection of slides while sitting at the desk during quiet moments and decided to keep the name as it was. Catchy, attention-grabbing but not offensive or confronting.

Presentation time came and as I’d anticipated I had a major laptop projector fail. Jodie came to the rescue with her EEE and I did some laptop -> phone micro sd card -> usb geekery and transferred the presentation across. Through my nerves I managed to present to approx 30 people and nobody left- BarCamp version of talk success! People were engaged and amazingly enough I had people in the room create Twitter accounts and start to follow me while I was doing the talk. I was impressed.

On Saturday morning an unorganiser, Alex, had the idea to run speed networking/dating sessions in rooms that didn’t have talks scheduled as a means for attendees to talk and get to know each other. These sessions were a massive success and we ended up running quite a number of them across the weekend. Playing Werewolf in the afternoon hours of Saturday was also an unexpected but raging success with thanks to Mike from Atlassian for getting everybody started. These ideas for activities were taken to Canberra and run with similar degrees of success.

People took some amazing photos at Sydney BarCamp3, I’d highly recommend having a look at them. Flickr BarCamp Sydney3 set.

Canberra BarCamp1

We had a few people from Canberra travel up to attend Sydney BarCamp so in exchange we did the right thing and agreed to travel down and go to their first BarCamp. It was such a great day and the Unorganisers really do deserve top credit for pulling it all together so well.

Because I’m hardcore I’d decided to drive down that morning. BarCamp didn’t start until 10 so by planning a 6am Newtown departure time I theorised I’d allowed plenty of driving time and arrive at the scheduled start hour. A few things caused delays and I was half an hour late but quickly got into the swing of things.

There were a few familiar faces, lots of people from the Canberra Twitter community and many more who became known over the course of the day. Canberra BarCamp consisted of three rooms but majority of my time was spent in the main room. There some excellent talks and the focus was slightly different to that of BarCamp Sydney. Following a session in one of the smaller rooms I decided to see whether my laptop would place nice with the projector, turns out it did. Upon the suggestion from the crowd I decided to do my Twitter talk for people. A much smaller group but no less interested or enthusiastic. Lots more discussion took place in this talk and it was far more interactive. Upon the insistence of the unorganisers I uploaded my talk to SlideShare so that interested people could access the talk slides later.

The biggest surprise of the day for me wasn’t the popularity of my talk, or even that I gave it when I wasn’t really planning to talk. It was winning the ticket to WebDirections Government being held on the 19th of May in Canberra. I initially wasn’t sure that I was the right person to have won it, given that I haven’t been to one before. After some hesitation I decided to accept it and plan another trip to our nation’s capital.

Drinks and then dinner followed and it was a great opportunity to talk further with some of the people I’d met earlier in the day. There were some really interesting, inspiring and amusing people that I’m pleased I travelled down to Canberra and wound up meeting. Hours after majority of the dinner guests had left a small band of us had remained still talking about all things geeky and some non-so-geeky.

Pictures from BarCamp Canberra can be found on Flickr. I think the BarCamp pictures capture the passion, fun and intense discussion much better than text can.

Early this week we found that the BarCamp Canberra slideshare.net group has been selected to feature on the front page. 4 slide sets were displayed for a day and mine were among them. I was quiet astonished that the view count of my slides went from 37 to over a 1000 in the space of less than 48hrs. It was really great to get feedback from all corners of the globe (quiet literally) that people had read and enjoyed my slides and felt they were a good primer for people who’d never heard of Twitter before. I also found I’d gained quite a number of new followers.

Unfortunately I won’t be able to attend BarCamp Perth being held on the 10th of May as I’ve already scheduled a trip to Brisbane that weekend but I do know of a Sydney contingent making the trip. I know they’ll have a fantastic time if the other Australian BarCamps of 2008 are any indication. There are whispers of a Brisbane BarCamp being planned for late May, I’ll have to keep my ear to the ground, as any excuse to go and visit my former home town is usually a good one. There are lots of people up there that I know would love to be involved and would gain something from a BarCamp experience.

BarCamps are run all over the world and there is no reason why an enthusiastic group of people can’t make one happen in your local area.

Check out these BarCamp related resources for more details:

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April 26, 2008 - Posted by | BarCamp | , , , ,

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