Friday, April 27, 2007


Last night: not the last Portland BarCamp meetup

Some notes about last night's BarCamp meetup at Jive Software.

First, despite expectations to the contrary, Dawn Foster announced that because of the usefulness and interest in these monthly meetups, that they would continue at least for the rest of the year. This is a good thing: too often the various tech groups around Portland become insular and inbred, unaware that there are other people in the area who are doing interesting things. (I remember how the PLUG meetings used to fill this kind of need, but since the tech downturn five or seven eyars ago, it has lost some of this ability.)

Both Dawn and Raven Zachary were excited that this BarCamp would be the first to offer "bubble tea". I'm still not sure what this is, but experiencing this alone might be worth attending this free event.

Raven showed some slides about the BarCamp next month, and explained some things about DemoCamp, which will be held in the same place at the same time: DemoCamp will be a form of "speed-geeking", short presentations about companies or new products -- but where PowerPoint presentations will be forbidden.

After this, the floor was turned over to Tara Hunt and Chris Messina of The Citizen Agency, who discussed the origins and culture of BarCamp. These gatherings were created in response to the invitation-only "FooCamp" that Tim O'Reilly held each year in Sevastopol, California: Chris, and three other guys vented that they had not been invited during a car trip together, offended over feeling excluded from this event. However, instead of getting mad, they talked about starting their own fork of FooCamp, called "BarCamp", and a week later, when it still sounded like a good idea, made it happen.

They explained that idea of a BarCamp is to create an open, respectful place where individuals can share their passion for their own technology-related activites. By "technology-related", they meant not simply programming or doing neat things with hardware: some of the most popular sessions were about activities that support technology development such as how to promote blogs or other online communities. This put me in mind of a topic I thought about discussing at this year's Recent Changes Camp -- "About bringing a knife to a snowball fight." I didn't do it then because I couldn't think of what to say about this metaphor except that it is sometimes a useful metaphor to describe conflicts in online communities. With six program tracks in need of material, I might suggest it at the Portland BarCamp.

Tara and Chris provided a number of interesting cases of how BarCamps have successfully connected people not only inside the geek community, but also to people outside of it. Listening to these examples, I can't help but be excited about this coming event in May.


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These sound a lot like Dorkbot - "people doing strange things with electricity".
Yes, a BarCamp is very much the same thing -- only different.

Bubble tea is a kind of tea with these squishy jelly balls down the bottom, and a really wide straw (which the balls can fit through). Be careful not drink too quickly, or you might choke on the balls! It's nice though.
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