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Barcamps over the world: BCB3/Minnebar

I think I am kinda special. Not quite like Paris Hilton special, but getting a  chance to attend two Barcamps separated by 8000 miles in a span of 3 weeks has got to be some kind of special stuff. I think the big guy above is smiling at me. Invest in my equity.

This is an article outlining some of the interesting differences I saw between the barcamps in Bangalore (BCB3, 31 March -April 1, 2007 ) and Minnesota(Minnebar 2007, 21 April). This is not an article intended to compare or pass a judgement. Just throwing up some observations, fwiw.

I am not offering explanations, I am not a socio-anthropology by training. Some of these do not require a degree to arrive at the reason of causation, but I want to keep this blog close to what I saw, not what I think. At most, some "could-be"s.

Both the barcamps have a local flavour and preservation of local flavour to me, is inherently good.  Consider food, for example.  A predominantly South Indian buffet spread for lunch at BCB3 and Pizzas/soda cans/deli at Minnebar. (I missed the beer party at the end, I had to drive back). Haha ! What can I say. but this glutton loves both !

 

Pre-Event Mixer

Minnebar had one, Bangalore did not. I could not attend the one in Minnebar, but I am guessing this gives the people a chance to meet each other and establish a network before the show (face-to-face).

 

Population distribution

Lots of college students at BCB3, few in Minnebar, although the UoM has a huge campus nearby.  I was pleasantly surprised to see the number of people above 45 at Minnebar. I could spot at least 10 people who (by looks) are above 60 (though at heart I am sure they are coasting at 23). The crowd in Bangalore caps out at 35, mostly. The difference in the age group was stark.

 

Hands on

Quite a few sessions were hands-on. Particularly the one by Jesse/Scott  from Refactr was cool. Jesse took us through the creation of a Groovy/Grails app in about 50 minutes. The steps were scripted before hand, but the presentation had a flair of spontaneity.

 

The two-feet rule

"If you do not like the session, vote with your feet" -- that's the two feet rule. Happened at lot at BCB3, rarely at Minnebar. I was talking to some of the folks here at Minnebar and they agreed; it would be very unMidWest politeness to up and leave from the first row.  

 

50-min slots

BCB3 had 30 min slots, Minnebar had 50 mins with 10 minute breaks. This was nice because of a few reasons.

a) the presenter had more time to delve into the material and have time to take questions

b) the 10 min breaks let people breathe and not have to run from one session to another

c) the Q&A could continue while the next speaker was setting up.

d) Sticking to time was good. I do not recall a session where the speaker overshot.

 

Crosstalk

Minnebar had two floors of "rooms", some of them essential open lobby spaces with chairs thrown in. while other enclosed spaces with chairs thrown in, without any door (that could be closed). This lead to too much of background noise and interference from the other talks. Was a bit of a distraction.

BCB3 had formal classrooms/galleries (well/pit) at IIMB. The problem was that it threw too much spotlight on the speaker and participating became difficult at times.

 

Way too many Macs

Looking at Minnebar, you could mistake it for an Apple Conference. I did spot a Dell XPS and a Toshiba Mini, as if it were some rare animal, but it was Macbooks and iBooks all the way.

 

BCB had its share of Macs, but clearly Windows/Linux laptops were in larger proportions.

 

Pre-arranged schedule

The schedule of talks were pre-arranged, so the participants knew what to expect and where. One nice touch was a A4 printout of a synopsis on each of the talks scheduled to be held in front of the appropriate room. So you could always go and get a quick preview of what you would be getting, were you to go inside the room.

 

BCB3 was more spontaneous with people coming in and sticking up index cards on a softboard as they came in. Talks could be rearranged to meet certain constraints.

 

Geekspread

Nice term, I coined it 7 seconds back. It alludes to the spectrum breadth of geeky things happening, with Internet/CS/Web 2.0 as the median.  I found both to have a high geekspread, but in different directions.

Minnebar had more demos/talks on things that edged on other geekisms, such as how to make a potatogun and scout robots.

BCB3 focussed on socialtech issues such as eGovernance and organisational psychology. BCB3 also had a lot of application technologies, with companies coming up and showing how they were using Web 2.0 / Mobile and a lot of interested (and interesting) entrepreneurs.

 

To sum it up, I like the differences. And I hope I can be at the next editions of both. Nothing like too many barcamps, say what ?

Comments

  1. Shourya,

    Thanks for this write up. My wife and I went to MinneBar (with our MacBook/PowerBooks in hand) and were amazed that Minneapolis... not a big tech city was 2nd to Bangalore one of the largest tech cities.

    How crowded did it feel in BCB3? I was a bit annoyed at the space issues, but I imagine it's just growing pains for MinneBar.

    Interesting to hear the differences, next year we might just be in Bangalore so it'll be cool to attend that.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Great writeup. I was also there (http://www.iconnectdots.com/ctd/2007/04/barcamp_minneba.html) and am one of the +45'ers with the beating heart of 23 year old.

    Here's what I think would be really cool: how about we figure out how to stream each of the barcamps? What might it take to hold one session that both camps could view?

    uStream.tv, local Minnesota startup Yugma.com, and other methods (IRC backchannel) could be setup to connect the two. Just a thought. Tons of issues with time, bandwidth, latency and so on.

    ReplyDelete
  3. dd,


    I guess one way of explaining would be that out of a large population it is not difficult to find a group of 200 people with a BarCamp mentality or at least some degree of campish curiousity. And with Barcamps not really going gung-ho on pre-event publicity (which is good), a small city does not suffer a disadvantage.

    It did not really feel very cramped at BCB3 because we did it at IIMB and the classrooms were huge and there was quite some walking to be done actually if you wanted to climb the stairs to go to the second floor. Some people cribbed abt both :)

    It will be great to see you at a future edition of Barcamp Bangalore

    ReplyDelete
  4. steve,

    I read your blog earlier today :)
    Streaming was an issue at BCB3 because we were doing it at an educational institution and we had some clamps.

    But I would be really eager to work with you and see if we can make this a reality at BCB4 around June/July. It's another way of building bridges in this world !
    ("Engineers build bridges, which fall down -- David Hanson on why 37signals do not have software engineers ;-))

    You can always email me at shourya.sarcar@gmail.com

    ReplyDelete
  5. Barcamp is like the McDonalds of geek fests :)

    "If you do not like the session, vote with your feet."

    Thanks a lot for clarifying that. Some moron was propagating a bastardised version of that statement: "Two Legs Theory: If you don't like something, use your two legs." Ugh!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Glad you liked MinneBar. I'm one of the guys who (had I been there) would have looked "over 60" to ya.

    An observation -- part of the reason that crowd is older is because this town has been a geek center for longer than Bangalore (stretching all the way back to Univac, Control Data and Honeywell computer days in the '60's). Your age-spread will widen with time -- the folks who are coming to Bangalore now will be that grey-haired gang in 20-30 years -- and it will be *your* job to help the young ones. :-)

    ReplyDelete

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