BarCamp Green Bay 2016, #1: People Working On Interesting Topics

One of my goals for BarCamp Green Bay (BCGB) 2016 is to have 30 target participants who are doing particularly cool research, development or application work for topics of high interest to other BarCampers. This would be somewhat of a twist on a typical BarCamp and would make the event a little closer to the operating model of Foo Camp.

BCGB uses Open Space Technology to create session topics and run the event. That means we don’t have a pre-BarCamp published agenda showing titles, descriptions and times for each session.

The general focus of the event is technology, because BarCamps are technology unconferences. But because the event is a participant-driven, informal event, the agenda will reflect the interests and passions of the participants. If every person who showed up on the morning of BarCamp was a Python coder, many of the sessions would likely be related to a Python topic. But there would probably also be sessions on other coding languages or development platforms.

There would also typically be sessions not focused on coding, but rather on a wide range of other topics which are of high interest to participants. I’ve participated in sessions about ‘hacking coffee,’ photography tips and tricks, photo walks, the design of next-gen public libraries (not the coding variety), technology’s role in education or specific educational applications of technology, how emotional intelligence can help coders be more effective, using gamification in a corporate business setting, etc. Some of these sessions are led by tech people who are passionate about a non-coding or non-tech topic, and some are led by non-tech people who are interested in a specific application of technology to their non-tech world.

At BCGB 2015, I was in a session about collaboration, social entropy and future BarCamps. One person said he’d want to be a participant in future events which he knew would include people doing cool research, development or application work for topics of high interest to him. That comment would apply to pretty much everyone who has been a participant in BarCamps I’ve experienced.

As a result of the discussion in that session around cool work being done in a variety of topics, I’ve decided to focus on:

  • Identifying ten general topic areas of high interest to BarCampers likely to be at BCGB 2016, which is scheduled for November 5, 2016. (Put that event on your 2016 calendar!)
  • Identifying people doing unique work in those identified ten topics, especially people who might want to participate in BCGB 2016.
  • Reaching out to those identified people to make them aware of BCGB 2016 and to invite them to put it on their calendar and participate in the event.

As a start to identifying topic areas of high interest, I’ve developed a list of twenty topics that would be of interest to different BarCampers I know. I’m going to put those in a Google Spreadsheet and share that with BarCampers I know. I’ll ask them to use that spreadsheet to create their Top Ten list, which will be a combination of:

  1. Topics which will be of very high interest to them and other BarCampers.
  2. Topics for which they might be able to help connect to people doing unique or really cool stuff, especially people who might participate in BCGB 2016.

In an ideal world, we could have BarCampers doing awesome work in all twenty topics I’ve come up with. In the real world, there will a limited number of time slots for sessions and a limited amount of the time and energy needed to identify and connect with targeted participants who will commit to participating in BCGB. So my plan is to incorporate BarCampers’ feedback on the Google Spreadsheet to create a BCGB Top Ten topic categories or themes. I’ll then work with friends and acquaintances to develop a list of target participants and invite them to be part of BCGB 2016. My goal is to have three targeted people commit to being BCGB participants on November 5.

My vision is to have each of the target participants lead one session related to their focus area. Not a ‘presentation’ or ‘seminar,’ but a true BarCamp session, with lots of discussion from other participants in the session. If all 30 target participants make it to BCGB 2016, that would be seeding the event with 30 pretty cool sessions.

Of course, we’ll need to have enough additional session slots that people other than target participants will be leading sessions about interesting stuff they’ve been working on. And there won’t be any requirement for a session to relate to the Top Ten themes -- as always, sessions on pretty much any topic of interest to BCGB participants will be welcome, and anyone can lead a session!

I already have a list of ten more posts to write about an ideal BCGB 2016, so check back later if you’re interested in BarCamps. Not every aspect of BCGB 2016 will turn out the way I’d like to see it happen -- but I'm trying to leverage ideas from my Google Doc called “Hacking Your Culture.” At the start of that Gdoc, I’ve got the two quotes below that are relevant to working toward my ideal BarCamp:

Surround yourself with people who do what you want to do, 
and eventually you’ll wake up to find yourself doing the same.

Innovation can’t happen without accepting the risk that it might fail.

If you plan to participate in BCGB 2016 and want to help create the list of Top Ten themes, let me know…


Other recent BarCamp posts:
BarCamp Green Bay 2015: What Happened & What’s Next
BarCamping Civic Hackers: Participants, Not Attendees
Calling All Civic Hackers -- BarCampMilwaukee 10