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Of BarCamps and Tweetups

Posted by RB Kollannur on May 15, 2009


BarCamps started out as “unconferences”  with no formal agenda and schedule with no restrictions on etiquette and protocol. Over time it has evolved a certain level of structure and functionality as its popularity invoked more interest and participation that necessitates a certain level of organization. I came across BarCamps with the presumption that it was a meetup for bloggers talking about their blog and interacting with other bloggers. As a nascent blogger, I was interested and signed up for the first BarCamp that I came across – Bar Camp Chennai 2 (BCC2) in October 2008. I even attended one of their organizers meet, just to have an idea of what BarCamp exactly was.

It was on a Sunday evening in a BPO office in T Nagar. Few organizers had already come and they apparently knew each other from earlier events. There was a vague recollection of the Futurians that I was reading about in Asimov’s autobiography. The discussions started in the lines of organizing the resources, roping in more sponsors and the sessions registered for the event.

On the whole, BarCamp seemed to be exactly what I had expected it to be – A group of bloggers talking about blogging and related stuff, networking and building contacts and the works. But it catered to a rather niche set of bloggers, a set that I was not part of – the techie kind. By the time the organizers started brainstorming about new session topics, I was already lost in the syntax.  I did contribute though, making a mention of plagiarism of bloggers by newspapers, though that spiraled into a completely different, but hotly contested debate. It was fun to listen to the discussions, though my techie knowledge still remained in the fringes of their world.

Despite the lack of interesting topics (For me), I was still interested in taking part in the event, just out of curiosity (Also because I am not the type who likes to miss out on networking opportunities). But as it turned out, I had to give it a miss due to a delayed postponement of my college reunion to the BCC2 weekend.

Coincidentally, the next opportunity wasn’t that far off. I was in the process of shifting from Chennai to back home in Kerala in December 2008, when the third edition of Bar Camp Kerala was announced. Unlike the city based BarCamps that I’ve came across elsewhere, Kerala had a more state oriented view. It made sense to have a state wide location since, at least for me, Kerala is more like a widespread city, than an actual state.

BarCamp Kerala 3 (BCK3) was hosted in the CUSAT college grounds in the city of Kochi. I reached an hour late having traveled from my hometown 70 kms away from the city. The first session was already on the way and not surprisingly it was something techie – About ASP.NET (Hmm, my NIIT days predated .NET).  The next session fortunately was not that techie and I did have couple of queries to ask. A non techie blogger left some interesting live commentary of his experience in the tech driven event, which on the whole was a pretty interesting experience. I met up with the organizers and chatted with some of the participants later on. I stayed on for couple more of sessions and left for a short visit to the city of Kochi post lunch.

BarCamp Kerala 4 (BCK4) followed BCK3 pretty quickly at the IIMK campus in the city of Kozhikode. It was conducted during Backwaters, an annual B School competition at IIMK, though the participants of the event were mostly the techies from the earlier event and some of the IIMK students. The event turned out to be a disappointment, since it came with corporate involvement. Combine a corporate event and MBA students and you can pretty much predict how the event will end up.

The focus was on innovation and brainstorming and ideation seemed to be the buzzwords. The sessions came and went, though the underlying nature of a corporate event in B School stayed put. I had prepared a slide for the event, which in the end I chose not to present, since I felt it didn’t fit the innovative theme of the event (The slide was on the Second Punic War). Besides, I had old friends to meet. I left by tea to catch up with couple of high school friends in the college canteen (They were in the senior year at IIMK).  Incidentally, we had a brainstorming session there as well, which turned out be a lot more creative and fun.

Tweetups are the latest trend of the social media universe. People on Twitter meeting up for coffee. Informal chat. I doubt there are any regular tweeps (slang for twitter users) who tweet regularly from my hometown. So, I went to Kochi for their second edition of Kochi Tweetup on April 18 2009, referred to as #coktup (“#”, commonly referred to as hashtags, are used to tag tweets to a particular topic, the topic here being Cochin Tweetup, abbreviated for brevity as coktup). It was in a coffee place in Ernankulam and almost a score of Kochi Tweeps had turned up.

Varying topics were discussed ranging from the recent verdict against PirateBay to the IPL match playing on TV in the background. It was nice catching up with people who you converse online every day and good to meet few more. There were attempts to live tweet the event, though the only people managed to were via mobile (No wonder it is one of the main users of twitter). There was a net connection, but there were some technical issues that needed to be sorted out before live tweeting via computer could be made possible. They were still sorting out the issues when I left, having to leave early to get back home.

BarCamps and Tweetups give opportunities to meet new people, to understand them and like all geek groups before them, even Asimov’s Futurians from the 1930s or Dilbert’s Programmers & Aerobic Instructors Community, these also seem to be mostly male dominated in attendance.

BarCamp Kerala 5 occurred on May 3, 2009. But I missed out on that one, as I was traveling with my college buddies from Masingudi to Bengaluru to Chennai. Fear not. Plans for BarCamp Kerala 6 seemed to be already underway and a BlogCamp Kerala as well, which I hope will be not that tech oriented. But it remains to be seen whether I’ll be in Kerala during the time of the events.

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