It’s been a while since I’ve written here, so trying to get caught up seems counter-productive. Nevertheless, 2 weddings and 3 plane journeys through the US, a couple of picnics and parties later, we find ourselves facing the end of August, and hence, the end of the near paradise that Summer brings to Vancouver.
Yesterday, however I did something that felt very ‘Winter Vancouver’ (i,e. the more intellectual and indoor-centric side of the city that arrives soon), despite the continued ‘Summer Personality’ that the city still is inhabiting. I attended BarCamp Vancouver, which is:
…an ad-hoc un-conference born from the desire for people to share and learn in an open environment. It is an intense event with discussions, demos and interaction from attendees. All attendees must give a demo, a session, or help with one. All presentions are scheduled the day they happen. Prepare in advance, but come early to get a slot on the wall. Presenters are responsible for making sure that notes/slides/audio/video of their presentations are published on the web for the benefit of all and those who canâ€™t be present. Anyone with something to contribute or with the desire to learn is welcome and invited to join.
The way I’d describe it was taking a day-long soak in Smartness. As Robert Scales, the President of RainCity Studios put it during the first 30-minute session of the day: “Everyone is an expert in something.” He was talking about how there’s a rich tech ecosystem within the local area that he can take advantage of, both as an employer and a referrer for work. This credo also worked well to describe the day: 30 minutes at a time with an expert in topics that ranged from:
- Open Source Business Development (essentially, what happens when a software/web company that works with free software decides to be completely transparent to their clients and everyone else about how much they earn and what they spend money on)
- Prediction Markets and how you can use them
- Django (a Python-based web application framework)
- Ajax on Rails (really a more elaborate and exciting Ruby on Rails demo — which is an incredibly powerful system for creating interactive web sites quickly)
- Movie or Videogame, a discussion of the cross-influences between these two mediums and how the element of Montage is being attacked by the digital video revolution)
- Brain Optimizing, or recent scientific discoveries about how our brains work best
- Presentation, Style and Audience (which offered 7 brilliant points for putting together a good presentation)
- The CBC and it’s Mandate for Canada (as well has what more we wanted from it as we chatted with Podcaster and CBC insider Tod Maffin)
- Music Social Networks, which showed how the Project Opus web site morphed into a set of services for people to share popular music
If you’re like me, and often check the links on the Social Tagging and Bookmarking network Del.icio.us, this was like a set of these links (interesting things that often appeal to geeks like me) turned into live presentations by people who cared deeply about them. The result was an intense (and eventually exhausting), whirlwind of presentations, demos and discussions, from 9 to 5 on a beautiful Summer day, fortunately in a great place with a view (WorkPlace, a brilliantly designed and executed cross between a cafÃ© and rentable office space) in Gastown facing the water and the mountains. As ferries, helicopters and seaplanes traversed the panorama in the back windows of the room, we took part in lively discussions of technology, trends, business ideas and new directions and experiments in the arts. In a way, it reminded me a lot of Northern Voice, a blogging conference I attended in February of this year. While I did not present anything this time, I can foresee a day when I’ll be able to lead a session in something next time. I’ll aspire to the level of most of these presenters, all who indeed were experts, or at least knew a ton more than I did of the topics they covered. Incidentally, the topics I caught were only a fraction of what got attention. Here’s a full list of topics on the BarCamp wiki.
It’s now Sunday, and I’m still digesting all of the information of the past 24 hours or so. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to transcribe the 20 or so pages of notes I took in my Moleskine before some of the information these notes are based on begins to fade.