A very very very very very long postmortem
The info about the sessions have already been blogged about here, here, here, here, here, here and here I've decided to stay away from that summary style and write a postmortem of it from my perspective : things that went absolutely right, some ok and some skewed and some totally bunks :) Of course, fun shall be had too!
Lessons and the good & bad & the ugly
- The count was at 200 on April 8th morn. We had a rough rule of thumb that at the most only 50% would attend the barcamp and most of our calculations[the ones for grub] were made based on that; and thankfully we were proved wrong. It was really heartening to see close to 180 participants turn up for the camp which takes us to the conclusion: Since barcamp is by voluntary participation only, the 50% hueristic mostly wont work. Expect maximum turnout, 100% or even more due to some last minute participation unless of course the participant numbers are capped as were done by BarcampChennai and BarcampBangalore.
- Hyderabad geek community exists! I doubted its existence till the clock struck 3 on saturday and after that all of the doubts vanished. Its geeks are not a myth and do exist and they rock! So many points raised during the talks of all speakers, ramesh, jay, prof. kamal, prof. vishal does prove this thing. Hence, proved. Case in point, sumeet had to literally rush through his html presentation coz all of the time was eaten up by us campers. Anand from Cordys too had to rush through his'. Same reason cited.
- Having goodies at such an unconference is a very very good idea. My idea of an ideal goody is a T-Shirt. Give a geek a T and he is your brand ambassador for life[lifespan of the T at the very least]. A good T, preferably white with a small logo of your company is your company's best bet for a offline viral marketing strategy. And of course, caps, pens are a good idea too. My preference for goodies:
- T Shirt
- Fancy (plastic)cover, spiral-bound notebooks :D
- Caps [not very preferred imho, makes you look like a dork, what with already the social stigma of being a geek. However, caps in summer is a good idea]
- Good food + Drinks/Liquids is very very important. And having a break for every 2 hours is also important to unzap yourself. And a good coffee break doubles up as a great schmoozing opportunity
- Finalize on your location as soon as possible; because that will in general decide the other logistics of the event – wifi connection, chairs, grub. Our first task on our list of to-do for the barcamp was getting the place for organizing it. And its amazing how easily we approached the IIIT faculty/admin for the space and they readily agreed. All it needed was just one mail. Its things like these that make IIIT da place to be right here, right now.
- Wikis really work and so do blogs. All our planning for barcamp was through the wiki. And the blog and mail blasts helped perk up the interest in the event. Since a barcamp is limited by its budgets, go free/opensource and leverage every possible opportunity available
- We initially started our own wiki, barcamphyderabad.pbwiki.com. Later we realised that we werent getting as many hits as we expected. So we placed the wiki in barcamp.org and then viola! things changed pretty fast. The reason: The barcamp wiki was already tracking the list of barcamps and already has the visibility and not leveraging that advantage wont do us any good.
- Blog furiously about it. Let your blog readers know that there is a barcamp. Because geeks are rare and the ones interested in a particular topic are rarer; use methods which will fall in the eyes of these geeks. Use tags and thou shalt be noticed through del.icio.us, technocrati.
- Emails and mailing lists are a great way to limit the noise and get things done.
- Flame wars are fun. Midway in the presentations we had questions being raisedby M$ guys abot security & live.com and their evangelising atlas which were pretty much trounced by all the other open-source 'fanatics' :D Evangelisation of its product by a company whose image is tarnished and claims suspect in front of a geek meritocracy is dangerous. And of course not to speak of the wars of Y! and Cordys. he he…
- Female geeks is not an urban legend. They exist, atleast 6 of them for sure, as was proved in the barcamp!
- And then we had some demos by folks of Pramati, Cordys,and Y! . While there was a real danger of all the camp turning to be a presentatons on XForms,Y! saved the day by the presentation on Y! UI libraries.Cordys had a very aggressive style of presentation and which had only two reactions: either total dislike or total love. That is what should be the reaction of your customers towards your company/products: love or hate but not the zone of mediocrity. If you are in the middle you are dead.
- Planning for foods, grubs is a very very tricky thing. We solved it quite easily: for snacks it was tea/coffee + samosas/kachoris & pizzas + chilled cold drinks for dinner. I believe junk food is geek food. Having this light dinner worked really well, for one there was no need to have an elaborate buffet organized. However, that removed for us the chance to move around and schmooze. Its a tradeoff. Make your choice.
- Having a single track made it very easy for us to give the presentations in a very organized manner. Two tracks would have been chaos theory in action.
- One idea that we wished should have worked was the joint session between hyd and chennai barcamps. No amount of dry runs on skype with audio/video could prepare us for the eventual failure of it on the d-day. Bandwidth problems and skype server errors really didnt help us in solving the issues. A joint session would have really raised the bar and made the world a bit more flatter [a very obvious reference to The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman, one of the two must reads recommended by jay pullur, the other being Micro-ISV].
- Having a great on-location organizers, in our case on-campus coordinator+organizer(s) : SMR & Tarun Jain is a very big help. It really saves the time for others to shuttle to and fro. And they get things done faster & much more effectively than any off-campus organizers. Leaveit to the chaos to optimise the best solution for you.
- The initial team is very important to get the idea off the ground and building up the momentum. Having Ramesh with his loads of experience, contacts and energy can easily make up for the absence of a big team. Rajan, a true blue blood geek and technoprenuer can really give that geek perspective to it. Rajat, the HR guy & entrepreneur can bring in that zeal to the camp. As again, smr & tarun made all the things on campus easily possible.
- My own set of complaints and rants against BarcampHyderabad
- Should have been longer. Only 5 hours is never sufficient for a great barcamp. But again, the summer made it tough to stay wideawake for more than that.
- A good dinner session after the camp must have been planned.
- Too many barcamps are concentraing on Web 2.0. Not that its non-existent, but almost everyone is just hopping into the bandwagon; as if the hype is sweeping us all. Why were there no non-web2.0 presentations like the one we had at the last: "inside the mind of a shit-scared entrepreneur" – travails of the entrepreneur of dimdim
- Why the hell was the AC not on full blast, on the back rows? Lakes of sweat was found in the back seats. A couple of deaths have been reported too, due to the obvious drowning and lack of swimming skills and absence of life-jackets.
- Your barcamp is as good as the participation. We needed more presentations and more participation. Considering that there were 172 ppl, 10 presentations and about max of the same 20 (+/- 5) ppl putting in questions; do your math, calculate the S:R ratios… So that is definitely not barcampish. There was only one adhoc barcamp talk from Prabodh from Oracle. :(
- Somewhere I felt we were not really looking at how to apply web2.0 to Indian context, not many Indians are net savvy and not many do ecommerce. A good solution might have been good. Prof. Vishal Garg's open journal was a good idea to start with.
- The last product evagelising sessions were polarised: Y! and Cordys on opposite sides. Of course m$ gave up the gauntlet midway. Brrrrrrr…
We should have more barcamps. Next time I want to give a presentation and get trounced.