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The BarCampBlock experience!

I'd been hearing about BarCamp for a while, and decided it'd be really cool to go and check one out. A big one (BarCampBlock) was taking place a couple of minutes from where I live, so I registered last week and drove back early from the Sacramento suburbs last night to check one out. You've got to love the idea, as I did when I first heard about it! Basically, its a conference "of the people, by the people, for the people." There isn't a fixed agenda or known speakers. People show up, sign up on a big open board for sessions they'd like to lead or help out with, other people show up to listen em and a discussions/presentations take place. The agenda can be tweaked through the day and sessions can be just a few people chatting or larger lectures. It works really well and the topics are wide-ranging: from geeky to super-geeky to wannabe-geeky. The same applies to the participants.:)

I really enjoyed my first BarCamp and I might actually head back tomorrow for the second day; something that I hadn't planned yesterday. Of the dozens of sessions on offer, I attended six half-hour sessions: on Widgets, story-telling using Metaverse/Virtual Worlds/Web 2.0, the Software Ecosystem and Microsoft, Data Grid implementation options, Rights in the digital music and Electronic Prototyping. Some sessions were decent, others were great. I got something even out of the ones that seemed like they could end badly (either because of a lack of structure or preparation by the presenter, or in one case over-preparation by the presenter.) I left even those sessions happy because someone else in the session took control and taught everyone else something or said something that gave me food for thought. Sometimes the person sitting next to me would just tell me about a cool technology he/she was working on or an opinion they had, which would be just as interesting. I ended up running into a couple of old friends as well!

So all in all a good day! I should mention that I got the most out of the small lecture (just 7 people) by Tom Conrad, the CTO of Pandora on digital music rights. I got the
least out of....well, never mind.:)

The free food and soft drinks were much appreciated too, and after b-school conferences where business casual was the bare minimum required and suits were not out of place (and often mandatory), it was fun to show up in shorts and sandals and still feel overdressed. (Hey, they're nice sandals!)

A couple of other things I learned today:
  • Techies can network just as aggressively as MBAs, but again there are those who do it well and those who do it badly. I'm not sure which my conference strategy (just kinda hanging out in the hope of having good conversations and learning stuff) really is.
  • I really need to get business cards.
  • I really, really need to carry my business cards with me this time (unlike in b-school where I just left them home!)
  • Mentioning you're just out of business school and chilling before work (which I did the first few times) will cause the person talking to you to suddenly lose interest in continuing the perfectly decent conversation you were having.
  • Mentioning that you're starting at Google on Monday (because the person asked explicitly to try to continue the conversation) will either cause the person
    • to suddenly re-gain interest
    • or make him/her decide you're completely evil and move on!:)
Thanks guys for putting this together! I had a really good time, and next time I think I attend I think I have a topic or two I'd like to lead.


Andrew said…
I was wondering about these... thanks for the report. seems that the last one in the boston area was in march.
Satyajeet said…
You should definitely go. You'll definitely enjoy it. Great audience to introduce start-ups to, as well.

Oh. Unintentional comedy of the day; also sad testament to the way things work. I was talking to a fresh-faced kid sitting next to me who was working on an musicy startup idea. Another fresher-faced, slightly better dressed kid walks up and sits next to us. He listens for a while to this kid about an idea that he was about to launch sometime "next-year around the time I graduate" and then hands over his card to this kid to seemed taken back.

With the gravitas one would expect, he goes, "I'm a Venture Capitalist. Sounds interesting. Talk to me later."

Sigh. Are you allowed to say you're a VC when you're an associate?

Isn't that like saying you're a CEO, because you work in a company? What exactly are the rules for that?
Tom Conrad said…
Delighted to hear that you enjoyed the Music Rights conversation... that conversation really embodies the spirit on barcamp for me. Just folks sharing what they know in the hopes that others will build great things. Great meeting you.

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