BarCampPhilly2008

BarCamp noun
A non-conference where the the participants are also the presenters.

This weekend was Philly’s first BarCamp.  Before going I had heard so much hype by other (barcamp) virgins, so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect.  It all kicked off at 8am on Saturday and continued on till 6pm, in-between was where the magic happened.  The day’s schedule was full of sessions posted by the attendees themselves via hand written postcards thumb-tacked to the boards.  All this low-fi goodness was complemented by a Twitter account with official hash tags for those wanting to tweeting about the event and the full schedule being transposed into a iPhone friendly format.

I attended a number of sessions through out the day, some hosted by fellow CIMians (people that work at CIM).  The first session for me was Aaron (@iamaaronheld) explaining what went into bringing the current Comcast.net to life and all the back-end magic that goes into serving it’s 40 million users.  Followed by a round table on User Experience.  Here there seemed to be a general consensus that if you’re audience is the general public, UI elements should follow the established standards leaving the more experimental functionality to be vetted via Beta and a more selective/targeted user base. Closing out the morning sessions was a session on group blogging co-hosted by Mavisn McClellan and Scott McNulty with the entertaining title “Group blogging is like group sex…”.

My afternoon kicked off with a round table discussion around innovation within a corporate environment, which had many of the attendees voicing their thoughts on the subject. To set off the discussion was the dichotomy between developer and management, as demonstrated by CIMians Arpit (@arpit) and Aaron respectively. Arpit then discussed some of the reasons for using Flash over AJAX beyond it’s command of animation and video. One important strength was data handling and the raw processing power of Flash. The last of the CIM hosted sessions I went to was a round table talking about the importance of sharing your ideas and how sharing helps bring your idea to the next level, hosted by Kevin (@kfitzpatrick).  Alex (@alexknowshtml) stated the core concept of the session “there are a minimal number of negative reasons to not share, but there is an unlimited number of positive possibilities when you share” (not word for word).

These weren’t the only sessions available, just the ones I made it to, some of the others include: “the Internet sux,” a legal guide for small/independent businesses, staying creative under stress, Information Architecture (“the Jedi Mind Tick” by Livia, @livlab), Jango, jQuery and plenty of others.  Overall there was something for just about everyone attending and if there wasn’t you could have hosted a session yourself to fill that void.

The open social vibe continued after the official gathering ended with an after party. Held down in Old City at the techie favorite, National Mechanics (@nationalmechanics). I would say a good time was had by all, for both the conference and the post-conference RockBand with libations.  Great concept and actually worked well in reality.  This wouldn’t have been possible if it wasn’t for the enthusiasm of everyone attending, of course the volunteers and the two that led the organization of it all, Roz Duffy and JP Toto (@stellargirl and @jtoto respectively).

Links:
BarCampPhilly.org
@iamaaronheld
@arpit
@kfitzpatrick
@alexknowshtml
@livlab
@nationalmechanics
@stellargirl
@jtoto

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