BarCampChicago and Physical 'Stuff' at BarCampMilwaukee
BARCampChicago is still in progress as I type this; my experience there and a couple post-camp thoughts point toward the need for cool physical 'stuff' at BarCampMilwaukee in October 2008.
Speaking of BarCampMilwaukee3, the sign-up page is now available!! Register early to make sure you get a place at the best fun, free, interesting tech event in the Midwest. At least the best one I know of so far...
BARCampChicago is scheduled to run until at least 5 PM tonight, and the agenda page for today indicates an AfterParty event for those still standing after 30+ hours of tech fun. Although my Madison traveling companions and I were only able to catch 9 hours of barcamp yesterday, we still met some highly interesting tech enthusiasts, had some great conversations, and participated in worthwhile sessions.
The two 'sessions' I enjoyed the most were BarCompany and TechVenue. The BarCompany was much more than a typical session. It was/is a group effort to build "a company from start to launch by the time BarCamp is over. We'll be polling the crowd, debating decisions among the group, and building something with the purpose of giving back to the Chicago tech community." I sat in on the first hour of BarCompany work and checked back periodically to see how things were progressing, but the lure of other sessions was too strong for me to stay with the BarCompany group all day. If I'd been an integral part of the team that self-assembled to build the company it would have been fun to work on that for the 30 hour session. But I was only going to be at barcamp on Saturday, so I decided to catch a bunch of different sessions since I couldn't see BarCompany through to the end. Here are two links to the project: http://twitter.com/barcompany and http://twitpic.com/tag/barcompany.
The TechVenue session was interesting because they have been working on calendar/event information for tech events for ten years according to the founder, David Flint, who led the session. He gave a good overview of the website/service and answered lots of questions. In spite of how long the site has been around and in spite of the useful info the site has about tech events, there are lots of people passionate about technology who haven't heard of the site or used it to find or list events. At the "Building Tech Communities" session later in the day, someone asked about finding out about tech events, so I mentioned TechVenue. That person had never heard of it but said they'd check it out. At the NEWLUG meeting I was at last week in De Pere, Wisconsin, someone asked, "how come there aren't any good sites that list all the tech events around here?" 4braham is working on building a website that will include, among other information, a tech event calendar. Andy M and I are engaged in a quest to build a community website which includes a tech event calendar. Clearly there is not a universally recognized "tech events" website.
Not sure why TechVenue isn't a more well recognized source of event info for geeks I know. Part of the issue may be that the site's structure is designed more for the event sponsors than for the event participants. Event sponsors are TechVenue's true customers and target market. One result of this focus is that although TechVenue comes up first or near the top for Google searches on general phrases like "tech events calendar", the site isn't even on the first page for a Google on "green bay tech events." Organizations putting on events are much more likely to search for the general term when they want to list their event, but a geek searching for events to go to will probably search first for the local keyword phrase.
Switching gears to a different aspect of barcamps, this morning I happened to watch the video from BARCampChicago 2007. This caused me to remember past barcamp videos I've seen and barcamps in which I've participated, and it caused me to realize how much better a barcamp is made by the presence of cool physical tech 'stuff'. The Seattle MindCamp videos were especially engaging in that respect. At the first BarCampMilwaukee, Jon and Pehr brought their awesome remote-controlled go-karts. Last year's BarCampMilwaukee had Zac's robot, and we made fun LED throwies. At MinneBar one year, William Gurstelle had some impressive crowd-pleasing "Whoosh Boom Splat" toys with him.
Sort of reinforcing my thoughts was an article I read today in the NY Times called, "Digital Designers Rediscover Their Hands." The article talks about how creatively playing with physical objects helps refresh and strengthen the creativity of people who usually only push bits around with a keyboard. Maybe we can get some of the BarCampMilwaukee 'digital designers' to lead a few sessions focused on physical objects. Or maybe we can get Gever Tulley to lead a session for us at barcamp! Hmmm... another ExpertSession, Jonathan!
As a result of these musings about the value of physical objects at a tech unconference, I suggested to Luke that we build a trebuchet to bring to BarCampMilwaukee. Two important questions about this trebuchet:
- Will it be small enough to fit in the car or on top of the car?
- Will pumpkins be ready for flinging by October 3?