Thursday, January 25, 2007


The January BarCamp Meeting

(My notes on the November meeting can be found here. This account is a bit rough because I'm writing and posting only a few hours after the fact.)

Tonight was the last meeting for BarCamp before this year's Recent Changes Camp (RCC). I met some more interesting people tonight, not all of whom were at the last meeting: One I'll single out for mention was Souix Fleming whom I later realised gave a presentation at Corporate Software (which has since morphed into Stream) I attended, at the beginning of my IT career. I mentioned this to her later, and she confessed that she thought I looked familiar but could place me. Amazing how you can encounter the same people in Portland.

This time, we followed the schedule a little better, and started on the agenda after an hour of gossiping networking, and this time were done by 8:40. Ray King kicked off with a presentation about last year's Recent Changes Camp, but talked more about this year's, emphasising the idea of Open Space -- a concept that can be duanting to the newcomer. The intent to Opn Space is to let the attendees set the agenda for the meeting, rather than select a group of people to give presentations on preselected subjects. This approach allows people to actually talk about what they want to talk about at a conference -- even if they don't know what it is beforehand, with other attendees. (It allowed me to meet and get to know some interesting people at last year's RCC, so I'm sold on the concept.)

Then Dawn Foster powered up her laptop, and like a proper committe meeting we had slides to read and follow. (Only proper committees don't have presentations entitled "BarCamp Strawman".) She and Raven Zachary had selected 5/6 May as the date for BarCamp, only to have John Secrest mention that there was a wireless technology conference that same meeting. "Anyone have a problem with May 11 and 12?" Hearing no objections, that became the new date.

The general agenda for BarCamp is still simple at this point. First there would be introductions by all of the attendees; Dawn said this worked at one BarCamp, despite the fact they had over 160 attendees ("The facilitator limited the number of words they could say in their introducitons"). The facilitator would provide an overview, then the agenda for BarCamp would be set in a manner similar to the Open Space style at RCC. She mentioned the possibility of an "After Party" at the end -- but the idea of a get-together to consume mass quantities for some strange reason didn't attract much comment from this group.

The theme of the BarCamp is not necessarily to embrace Open Source, but to attract attendees who would be counted on to share, if not present their cool ideas. Raven mentioned the example of a demonstration of robotic tehcnology at the Ausin BarCamp.

Next, Dawn and Raven asked for people to volunteer to be part of a core group who would take responsibility of specific areas. These were (with the volunteers in parentheses after):

Ray noted that RCC handled the challenge of organization by putting a list of needs on their webpage. The top three things needed are emphasized with a request for help.

Raven also mentioned the example of Microsoft as a possible source for sponsoring this BarCamp. He mentioned the example of BarCamp New York which they funded, but did not try to influence the content. (I guess this example could show that they might not have meant to suborn Wikipedia; odder things have been known to happen.)

Bling/swag was mentioned; Raven made the point of saying that any t-shirts should also fit women -- which brought some comments from the women members of the audience. Because RCC will be using Audio Cinema as a location, some wondered if it would work for BarCamp, which led to Ray revealing that RCC will keep Audio Cinema open around the clock during the conference. Dawn suggestd that some of the BarCamp folks should met with the RCC folks a day or two after the end of RCC for a debriefing, find out what works what doesn't work.

Even more important was the issue of connectivity: people wondered about whether MetroFi or Portland Wireless could help with WiFi access. This prompted Dawn to reminesce about last year's OSCON, where the Convention Center's wireless cloud was overloaded during one of the hottest days of the year, forcing people to choose between Internet access outside or air conditioning inside.

One idea mentioned which did not relate to BarCamp was the number of telecommuters living in Portland who worked for companies with no other presence; Raven mentioned that he was constantly surprised to encounter these people and how he discovered more every day. Souix mentioned that this had been covered recently on the Oregon Live website. Audrey Eschright suggested that someone should make an effort to reach out to the telecommuters.



Folks, if you haven't had your website added to this tag "PortlandTech" - please add your website here, or just do the wiki thin:g.
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