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BarCampBlock in review

After two days of meeting new friends, catching up with others, a blitz of demos, piles of sessions, food, and drink, I'm pretty beat. As Tara put it in closing session, "Tired, but content." If I had to pick one idea out of the entire conference, it would be that raw, published content is better than no published content. This is why I am scanning in my notes for the sake of having the data out there. Where there is data, knowledge and information can be gathered. This idea resonated throughout the conference. Open standards, interoperability, and even open source, all help to turn raw content/data into useful information.

Put the data out there, and someone else might take your idea/data/project and run with it. The community is a wonderful thing, and community is exactly what makes BarCamp.

This was my 4th BarCamp. Every camp I've been to has been organized and attended by a different group of people, and as a result have had a different experience at each camp. This camp had 600ish attendees - way beyond my expectations. The map I was given when I signed in was invaluable given the locations and walking involved. This map also had a good introduction to the barcamp idea, important websites, and the massive list of sponsors. Another great idea was on the badges; the badges were professionally printed and had URLs for the backchannel, wiki, and other webpages right on them.

I have 12 pages of notes on various experiences and sessions during this event. I spent much of tonight going over my notes and found myself wondering what the goal of my reporting should be: Should I summarize or just dump my notes online? I'd rather provide documentation than typical reporting. To that end, I'll be scanning my notes and posting them online. Most of the pages are covering sessions, so I won't duplicate that data here.

BarCamp as an organism is something quite spectacular. It may begin as an event being organized by a small group of people (an amazing feat by itself), but it becomes organic begins to evolve as soon as the event starts. The openness of the event means anything goes - small sessions, large sessions, discussions, presentations, product demos, theoretical, practical, etc. Information exchanges rapidly and freely.

It's not only an event for geeks. Non-technical topics such as legal, marketing, venture capital, social theory, and many others are pretty common from my experiences at these camps. This technical/non-technical diversity is actually a very nice attribute of BarCamp.

BarCamp is also one of the few "tech" events I attend where I rarely use my laptop because there's lots of incentive to stay offline to socialize and attend sessions.

BarCampBlock itself had some impressive diversity, too - women, men, ethnicities, geographics, and age groups. What properties of BarCamps attract so much diversity? Whatever it is, it's a good thing.

So, about the camp specifically in no particular order.

BarCamp Kids
How do you ensure all people can attend? Implement features that increase accessibility. BarCamp Kids was a daycare set up so parents could easily attend. Volunteers attended to the kids to make sure they were entertained and safe. Comments from the parents who took advantage of this indicated that both the parents and kids were very happy with this feature.
It was actually a block-wide event.
This map shows the venues involved. Huge thanks to all the companies who donated their workspaces, furniture, and other resources for we BarCampers.
Wifi worked!
Any event where network connectivity is a must has the simple opportunity for wifi to perform poorly, or not at all. While each venue typically had a different wireless configuration, I found that any time I needed to get online I had no trouble doing so. Great job!
Easy parking? In Palo Alto?! Yes!
Both days, I parked less than 50 feet from the SocialText offices (the main area). My experience with parking in Palo Alto is that it is an unpleasant experience. Turns out that, on weekends, the city is quite vacant and parking is plentiful. Awesome.
Plenty of food and drink
From what I saw, we never were lacking snacks and drinks. However, I did find myself having to search hard for diet drinks (I happen to like diet coke for taste). Another group (JS-Kit?) had brought 3 kegs of beer for consumption. The party, sponsored by mindscience.org and Facebook, eventually rolled into an open bar party because there were an excess of drink tickets.
DemoCamp
DemoCamp was a 2-hour event consisting of many 5-minute lightning talks. The execution was pretty good, but the bar was a bit too loud. My feeling is that the location was good - good size and good projector/sound setup. The Blue Chalk bar was a great place to demo, because after a long day of barcamp sessions, people want to hang out and have a drink. Hang out, have a drink, and watch demos? Sounds cool to me. Turns out the reality was that there was more side chatter which made it hard to hear many of the demo presenters.
What didn't I like? The content of DemoCamp. Many of the demos during DemoCamp were confusing or just bad marketing, unfortunate for those groups presenting. I found that some of the presenters clearly had no idea what their product was and spoke only in abstract. One demo played a very confusing video showing people (programmers?) poking another person who had a "bug" sign on him. Others didn't effectively present the goals of their product. One group demoed something (a plugin? I really have no idea) related to iTunes, but all I saw was a demo of someone using iTunes showing standard features of iTunes. A lightning talk is a great opportunity to put out free marketing for your new product or startup, and it seems like perhaps that opportunity was wasted by many of the groups. Maybe I was in a minority who felt more confused than informed on most of the demos - but random polling showed that my confusion was a majority feeling.

Next DemoCamp could benefit from having a "DemoCamp dry run" where a small attendance could offer to review the demos and provide instant feedback about the presentation style and content so the real DemoCamp would give more benefit the participants, both demonstrators and viewers. If there's another DemoCamp in the bay area, I'll volunteer to prescreen. Bad demos don't help anyone.

For more information on the event, head on over to the BarCampBlock wiki to view the schedule of talks, event details, participant list, and session notes.

Before I close, I want to thank everyone who came. Attendees, volunteers, organizers, and sponsors - without any of which we would not have BarCamp.

Also, check out my BarCampBlock photos or perhaps all BarCampBlock photos.