Saturday 29 March 2008

Is BarCamp for me?

A bunch of geeks I like and respect are pushing BarCamp Sydney as the place to be on the 5th and 6th of April this year. It's an unconference, which is a conference that is created and managed by the participants.

Participation seems to be the name of the game at this event - from speaking to picking up rubbish. They also claim to be there for everyone from IT geeks and engineers to photographers.

No spectators, only participants

This one line is making it very hard to me to try it for the first time. If you know me then you know that participating is not a challenge. What is putting me off attending for the first time is that I still have no clear understanding about what I am supposed to contribute and how that benefits me or others. There are a lot of people with a lot of stuff to say that doesn't interest me in the slightest. Damn, there are a lot of people who couldn't care less what I have to say too... or maybe just five.

Why should I go to a general conference with no structure and a definition that changes every time I ask what it's about?

My answer: It sounds like an interesting idea but if I have to get up and defend Microsoft to a bunch of freetards who ask what I do, then I'm leaving pretty fast. I do believe that it is worth trying everything that sounds fun at least once before judging it. I'll be there on the Saturday and will let you know how it goes.


Unknown said...

I attended my first (and only) barcamp earlier this year in Bryan Texas (usa). I was a little nervous about the whole 'No spectators, only participants' thing but it turned out to be no big deal. There were a lot more people willing to present topics than there was time for presentations and we went till after midnight the first night. I feel like I 'participated' by being a good listener and asking questions (when there was time for them).

I think it's probably pretty normal for first time barcampers to lurk in the crowds and get a feel for the whole thing.

As far as the whole freetards business ... ya, there are a bunch of them. The one I went to was mainly open source and mac people. I've never seen so many macs in one room ever. They were all cool about me being there even though I don't know jack about the open source / linux / mac scene. There were a lot of us Microsoft types in the crowd.

It was a great way for me to talk to a different crowd and get a new perspective. I'd say the biggest group was web devs of one shade or another. I'm a sql guy but I still took away enough to make it the best conference I've ever attended.

I can't wait for the next Barcamp (BarCamp San Antonio Texas BABY!) I'll be there and I'll have a couple powerpoint slides and some sql to talk about - just in case!


Unknown said...

BarCamps are all about the law of two feet. You'll have brilliant sessions and tedious ones in the same proportion as you have brilliant people and tedious people - the thing is, you can and should walk out of tedious sessions and try to find the interesting ones (as well as expect others to treat your sessions the same way - it's nothing personal and is often subjective).

If there aren't any fun sessions, then you could just hang around outside and talk to others who're also hanging around outside for the same reason.

This of course means that BarCamps have a couple of pre-requisites:
1)More than one track at a time (3 parallel tracks seems fair for about 200 participants)
2)An open space where people who find all sessions currently running un-interesting can hang out and talk
TW Bangalore fit the bill really well - BCB 2 which happened in our office is definitely my favourite even today, a half dozen xCamps later.

I've found BarCamps in India to generally be good fun and a place to meet really cool people and learn awesome stuff. I'm pretty much a 'freetard' I guess, but I must admit, C# is the best mainstream language out there today - and I've heard much the same from other 'freetards' at BarCamps. I guess it works out well if everyone is out to learn new shit and have some fun rather than prove a point.

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