Monday, April 21, 2008

BarCamp Canberra 2008

'Twas a chilly Saturday in April when the tech enthusiasts and advocates of the capital region gathered for the first local BarCamp Canberra this past weekend. Part conference, part hangout, BarCamps are a low-key way for all flavous of geeks to get together and talk about things they're working on, challenges, ideas, get some experience in presenting to live audiences and generally network with working-level peers.

Strictly speaking, there shouldn't be any passive attendees at a Barcamp; everyone's meant to pitch in somehow but not being a developer, savvy web/UI/UX designer, or photographer with a massive lens, I didn't really know what I could contribute so I just got into the discussions. I threw in a few comments during Nathanael's FreeCanberraWireless / Meraki presentation on my experience thus far and protecting yourself from legal liability using the site blocking function of Open DNS, and during the Firefox Extensions You Can't Live Without, but most other sessions were too technical for me. I suppose I could have recorded everything to minidisc and edited it down to podcast, but they had that covered.

There were some really interesting presentations:

The presentations by the two Stephens offered a refreshing dose of perspective. I think a lot of tech presentations talk too much to the converted; Stephen Collins said it explicitly and Stephen Dann had the stats showing the lag between early adopters (I'd say most attendees) and mass uptake (non tech students).

I have to say I found Stephen Dann's presentation on the non-tech students a bit surprising, not for the students lack of web use but for the audience reaction, their shock born from a startling lack of perspective that others might not be gadget and tech freaks and might just want appliances that work intuitively and support them doing what they want to do, whatever that is.

I think if Stephen Dann approaches those marketing students by starting with what they know and exposing them to other web tech through that, the road might be a little easier for all involved. Start with Facebook and then show 'em Twitter for status updates, Blogger for notes, Flickr for photos, / Youtube and Miro for video.


I got serious gear-envy. There was a abundance of laptops (many Macs), quite a few big DSLRs, a wee video camera, some audio gear and at least one iPhone (I know I've preferred the Nokia N95 for a while now, but damn Apple and their slick designs – that iPhone is just drool-worthy). I also got blog shame (lets face it, this place really needs a cleanup or redesign or something).

I walked away with one of the door prizes, a book on information management Keeping Found Things Found (sponsored by Maadmob), a twitter account and resolved to keep attending WSG and IA meetings.

Over the conference dinner I had a good chat with Janine Cahill about her presentation on augmented reality games (it reminded me of the artist in William Gibson's Spook Country, which she hadn't read) and managed to make a couple of people emotional recounting how T-bone & Cheese used Facebook during her illness, how her last status message invited us to the hospice and how it became a platform for grieving with so many photo albums, status messages and profile pictures featuring her.

I'm looking forward to the next BarCamp. I've got an idea for a FOSS system for community broadcasting, but that's in a very very embryonic pre-alpha stage but I wanted to document it before putting call for help / challenge to the BarCamp crowd; maybe the next one will be the place to get some feedback on the idea.

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Posted by Dean @ 4/21/2008 07:02:00 pm

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Well you've got at least 10 month till the next BarCamp - so plenty of prep time! Thanks for the post.

Posted by Blogger Nathanael Boehm @ Monday, May 05, 2008 10:26:00 am #

Thanks for the write up. I didn't realise that you won one of the books - how cool! It was great to meet you on the day plus IA Cocktail Hour. Hopefully we'll keep seeing you at WSG, IA Cocktail Hour, CTUB etc.... and yes, there's ample time to present at next year's bar camp....

Posted by Anonymous Anonymous @ Monday, May 05, 2008 9:46:00 pm #

I have to admit, I thought I was starting with what they know when I set up an assessment item consisting of blogging for a semester.

That's when the wheels fell off - I'd assumed blogging was commonplace, and that gmail was the default standard of non-university addresses.

The principles are spot on though, it's just that I was reading the high tide marker as the low tide marker.

Posted by Blogger Dr Stephen Dann @ Tuesday, May 13, 2008 10:36:00 am #
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