Boris Mann

Open Source. Community. Decentralized Web. Building dev tools at Fission. Cooks & eats.


BarCamp Vancouver 2009 wrapped

So, that's a wrap: BarCamp Vancouver 2009 is "in the can". I really enjoyed this year's event -- I even went to and gave some sessions! (yes, that's worthy of note - as an organizer, it can be hard to relax and get into the flow)

I attended a great talk by Dustin Sacks on the 10 principles of Burning Man and how they compare / contrast with BarCamp. It was great, and made me think about a ton of things.

One thing that stood out for me is that I think that BarCamp has "moved on" from its original core focus on making code -- in part because of the principle of "radical inclusion". We kept making it more inclusive until lots of people that weren't at the same "level" started coming (in tech, in background, etc. etc.). It's not a problem, per se, it's just evolution.

I used the phrase "Know when to fork" in a later session: and a bunch of local tech "makers" have done just that, with BazCamp Vancouver. Looks like it will be in early November - I'm looking forward to it, and I'm definitely going to have to follow up on the @MakerBot angle (blog post asking for "expressions of interest" forthcoming).

In any case, thanks to Dustin for leading this - I know we could have spent more time diving into these topics in even more depth. I definitely want to explore / focus / highlight some of these principles in future events. Gifting, civic responsibility, radical self-reliance -- all seem to resonate highly.

Passion and Frustration

I was further moved when Mark Busse pulled me into running a session with him on Balancing Frustration and Passion. The session took a lot out of me, as it is a line that I walk *all the time*. We ended up in all sorts of interesting places - many of which were themselves frustrating! :P Mark is an incredible person, and I really enjoyed tossing discussion points back and forth with him and other participants.

I think passion and frustration are two sides of the same coin. It's funny, but I've often told people - I bitch because I care. If I send you 18 usability issues with your website (frustration) it means that I care (passion). If I didn't care, I wouldn't bother writing up the email and sending it to you.

My main recommendation for tackling any project - that is, actually deciding that you will work on it - is that you ideally need to recruit a total of three people. Yourself, plus two others. With only two, each person needs to be aware of all the details in case the other person needs to take a break / gets run over by a bus / whatever. With three, the load is spread a bit more easily. Of course, if you're high on passion, you'll just go ahead all by yourself, but it's something to keep in mind for longer term / larger projects.

Co Working

Right after the "Passion" session was the co-working session. It ended up being mainly an information sharing and level set session, but judging from the amount of different initiatives we heard about, it was a necessary first step.

I started by talking a bit about WorkSpace closing down - the exact details aren't clear, but ultimately it wasn't financially sustainable as a for profit business. Then I covered the planning / idea stage that the Bootup Entrepreneurial Society is at - we'd love to solve the pain of flexible space for software startups, and to provide a core gathering space for entrepreneurs in the downtown core.

I had just met @NickMolnar the week before and compared a few notes, and invited him to participate as well. He is looking into building a commercial hack/maker/builder space. Nick wrote up a post on what he's thinking / planning. I think some of the existing Vancouver Hack Space folks got a bit miffed by Nick being new to the scene / misappropriating the term "hackerspace". I believe Nick's focus is perhaps similar to Tech Shop - which has a strong commercial component. Of course, VHS is growing as well, so this could concievably be something that existed "next door" to each other.

Next, we heard from Irwin a bit about the W2 Community Media Arts organization / space that is going into the Woodwards complex. If you want to volunteer, there is a Volunteer Meet and Greet tomorrow.

I would really liked to have gotten into some more needs and wants of individuals of potential spaces, but we ran out of time - hopefully we'll get to some of that in further face to face meetings, as well as via survey as described below.

The two main next steps are:

1) re-factoring and extending the notes on the wiki (thanks to Raul for liveblogging).

In particular, I'd like to see each initiative listed there with mission, capacity, cost, and current needs. For example, Irwin of W2 will have incubator space targeted at social enterprise - his example was getting an aboriginal film festival off the ground. This would need to be captured as part of the mission / goal of each space. The needs section is also supremely important. For example, the Bootup Society currently needs space and funding. The Network Hub is currently full, so their needs might also include "more space". If we can get a good overview of shared goals and needs, then we know where we can work together, and where we need to apply the principle of "know when to fork".

This might be a useful jumping off point for also listing spaces that are available for community meetups of various kinds - both James of Kontent Creative and Mark of Industrial Brand spoke up, offering space for ~30 people. The Society has a Vancouver Venues page / Google Spreadsheet that might be extended.

2) run a survey gathering information from people interested in co-working / shared office space / community space / incubator space etc. etc.

This is the main action item that I am taking on. I have a draft survey, which I will post to the BarCamp wiki. I would like to get everyone's input on what questions need to be included, and then we can ideally send this survey out once, to the broadest number of people, to get lots of useful information and feedback to help guide everyone's decision making process.

(Turns out Roland recorded the session, too)

Next Steps

The rest of the day is a bit of a blur. There are lots of sessions that overlapped and I'm sorry to have missed (esp. the Design Charette by @awesome). Lunch was good (we even had snacks in the morning, when all I thought we had was coffee). I think the space worked great, and I hope that Discovery Parks Vancouver gets a bunch of inquiries out of it (here's a direct link to the commercialization centre PDF). Vancouver Open Data was great. Clean up was quick. Yes, I'm fading here in the middle of the night. Go look here and there and you'll find more wrap ups a plenty.

What's next? Well, the organizers will send a wrapup email - please add links to upcoming events, much as we discussed verbally in the wrap up session. We'll also be meeting to debrief about the event. After the debrief, we'll be doing a "call for 2010 organizers".

If you haven't already, please continuing blogging, tweeting, uploading, tagging, wiki-ing and otherwise documenting the event. There is a long list of links right on the front page of talks with lots of links, so please continue to flesh them out. As well, if you have a blog post about the event you want to highlight, please start a new section on the front page - something like "Related Blog Posts".

Most importantly: take action. Documenting and sharing the knowledge is one thing, but the next is to take actions. I know I have a ton of follow ups to do, and I hope you all do as well.

Thanks to everyone for attending - and most importantly, participating. And a final note: be excellent to each other.