It takes some time to digest a BarCamp. For me, it was about 3 to 5 presentations and discussions, peppered with 10–20 great conversations, sprinkled with a half a dozen reunions and many other new introductions. It also had a couple surprises: some of the sessions I thought were going to take place were cancelled (usually at the decision of the presenters/attendees), but on the other hand, some that I hadn’t known about were announced in the morning. David Saslav’s remote session regarding Chorus America’s study on the effects of Choral Singing on Schoolchildren and Adults did take place, and came off very well, despite the fact that he was presenting from his home in San Francisco via Skype video. I attended two different design workshops. In one, I collaborated with a group (1 among several others) in a ‘Design Charrette’ to work on the problem of traffic accidents along the stretch of East Hastings as it cuts through the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. I also participated in J. Karen Parker’s session on Paper prototyping, where I noticed a preponderance of touchscreen solutions to everyday gadgets, appliances and obstacles (like digital cameras, microwave ovens, and skytrain ticket dispensers). What the iPhone hath wrought! While I think our UI suggestions to improve the ticket dispensing problems was pretty good, I really loved another group’s solution to a microwave: make the whole oven front a large touchscreen, with a large circular slider/indicator, through which you can see your food cooking. As Karen noted, in this day and age where the competitive advantages of good design can sometimes get you ahead in the marketplace, a really snazzy microwave touch-screen control might be something they should look at!
I also got to a session on Day Trading using a combination of computer software, twitter, and some knowledge about how people behave. I can’t say that I’ll be doing much of that soon, but it was really intriguing to hear how some are doing it these days. Another session involved a more common topic: Happiness. Here, Internet Marketer Ray Kanani asked some provoking questions about what makes us happy, and how advertisers try to subvert and direct our desires. Far from being a loose and vague session, it ended up being an intense discussion about what each of us is looking for in life, and whether we could benefit from being hopeful, satisfied, cynical or none of the above. We could have easily taken twice the session to examine the subject, and I almost think there should be a HappinessCamp about all of the various facets of the subject (attended by, wait for it…Happy Campers!)
Finally, a session near the middle of the day was one of the ones I was in fact waiting for; an update and conversation, led by Boris Mann (one of Vancouver’s most well-connected and influential techies), about the various new venues and offered resources in town that are jumping in to fill the void left by the demise of WorkSpace. Roland Tanglao, recorded the session, so I was able to listen to it once more to make sure I got all of the 45 minutes of subjects and places mentioned by the large gathering of concerned people.
I’m happy to say that for me, at least, the day seemed to go smoothly, the schedule and pacing seemed to work well, lunch was tasty (and there was enough food and coffee), the Discovery Parks venue was excellent, and there was a noticeable ‘good vibe’ about the day. I believe that the many ‘first time’ BarCamp attendees probably got a good introduction to this very special meeting of minds. I’m now proud to say I consider myself a veteran of BarCamp, and I’m even more proud to have been able to work with such a great group of volunteers this year. They helped plan, run and manage the event, which was a success in many ways.
Update: Check out this awesome BarCamp comic, created from photos taken that day.