Thursday, June 08, 2006

BarCamp Boston - the future of conferences

A good conference is one that lingers on with us after we are back to our routine lives.

I attended BarCamp Boston weekend June 9th and partof 10th.

I went with the curiosity to experience an unconference, full of excitement about what to expect, how can anything be organized in real-time with all variables changing, and everyone is a participant ...

Entering the Maynard buildings of Monster Worldwide headquarters was nostalgic, bringin back memories of DEC and the several hundreds of DEC startups in the early days of the web.

Everything was in order, thanks to the smiling faces of the Monster staff walking in their bright orange T-shirts. There were directions everywhere, free parking, all communication clear, even for last minute attendees like me on the BarCamp Boston Wiki and the mailing list.

We got our badges and were ushered into a lively cafeteria of about 130 people. We were given a stack of large size sticky notepads where we could writeup a topic we want to present and stick on a wall showing the available rooms and time slots. We could put a sticky on a nearny section about topics we would like to hear if any expert in that topic is willing to share.

Only one topic was pre-organized by Ryan Sarver, on "Raising Venture Capital for Web 2.0 Companies". I'll write about this panel specifically later.

I presented a topic "Concept to Business - Technology Commercialization" at 11am. Thanks to Chris Penn of Financial Aid Podcast for the podcast of this talk. I enjoyed the audience and followups and was amazed at the number of entrepreneurs who attended BarCamp.

The topics ranged a wide variety and the ones I attended were - 30 Perl modules in 15 minutes, Building Scalable Web Services", JSON, Guerrilla Marketing and Your Podcast , Creating Content Networks with Chris Brogan (I loved this one), Bootstrapping, Amazon Web Services and microformats.

I am writing about Bootstrapping , Ray Deck's talk in my Startup Advisor Blog (, it was great.

Amazon Web Services was a talk about using Amazon APIs and mashups. It was out of this world.

Some 12+ people camped for the night. The Monster Lab folks provided an enterprenerial backdrop to it all, which made it more amazing and wishing it could continue more days.
We'll be back for BarCamp at Monster next year, I guess.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Excitement of unconferences - see you at Barcamp

I have spoken about various Internet topics in conferences since Internet World in 95 in Boston including several brand name conferences and recently speak at select conferences in select topics after checking out the quality of audiences.

So, when I heard about unconferences , I was not surprised that smart people want to create something distruptive to challenge the quality of conferences which mostly start with some speakers slotted by sponsoring companies followed by some good and bad speakers, many pitching their products, out of which some are arresting speakers and many pushing powerpoints insensitive to the intelligence of the audience.

I am writing about it here as I am excited that unconferences are possible because of the current state of digital space coupled with (call it web 2.0 or not) the maturing of online communities.

I was part of Boston Computer Society, a 30 yr old body in 95 and started their Web Group. This was my blessing to get me to experience the fervor of geeky grassroot communities in America and the power of what they can achieve. We spun-off as Web-Net Group after BCS closed with monthly meetings at MIT Sloan and so many volunteer driven group activities and online sites.

Apart from the concept that all participants are speakers and the community rates and allows presentation purely on merit, what excites me about unconferences is that they are spontaneeous with an entrepreneurial spirit which helped the web take off in the 90s.

The falling costs of hosting, open source softwares, wikis as registration tools all make it all the more easy for unconferences to flourish and produce quality interactions, learnings and seed new ideas for more innovation.

I'll write more after attending this weekends' barcamp Boston. Whats cool about barcamp is that its evolved into another participatory self-regulated community with its own offsprings organized worldwide.