Friday, August 23, 2013

In Praise of Bar Camp

I hear that years back Tim O'Reilly or some other rich guy out west started having these rather exclusive get-togethers for only the best people. This is cool. It's his right to spend his time and money as he wants. This get-together was called Foo Camp.

When you draw a circle around the best people--or any circle for that matter--there's going to be a lot more people outside the circle than inside. And some of those people on the outside thought it would be a good idea to have a non-exclusive get-together for all the average Joes like me. And they organized something with the name Bar Camp.

Over time, the phenomenon of Bar Camp made its way to Grand Rapids, MI and five years ago I went to my first Bar Camp. I'm wearing a tee-shirt that Google gave away that year. In subsequent years Google quit sponsoring Bar Camp and other local sponsors have chipped in. The food is better and it's all free.

The way Bar Camp works is that smart people get together and are confronted with a blank piece of paper marked off into cells. The rows represent times and the columns represent rooms. Beside the paper are markers and everyone present is expected to give a presentation, or be ready to.

Last year I gave a very well received talk on How To Publish An EBook. If you click the link you'll get additional links that expand upon each point. If you've got an idea of self-publishing, I hope you'll benefit from it. I'm debating upon reprising the talk this year.

There are rules to Bar Camp, but they're pretty easy. Most important is that everyone is a participant, there are no spectators.

One cool thing about Bar Camp is the scheduling app. If you direct your browser to you'll see it. The delightful Laura Bergells uploaded the video above that explains how the scheduling app works. The guys who put the app together are wizards.

And Jeff DeMaagd always brings amazing lighted plexiglass signs.

I just got back from the Friday night session. The coolest thing about Bar Camp is learning about things that the smart kids are doing. I feel like something of an old man and a troglodyte when I hear a kid who's been in business since 2003 describe how he uses Google advertising in a fashion that's a lot more sophisticated than most Fortune 500 companies. And he's telling BarCamp his secrets! Or another guy who's just conducted an experiment that turns business on and off like a switch.

Every year Bar Camp GR shows me the best aspects of human nature. There are folks I see pretty much once a year and it's a real joy to reconnect with them. Kudos to Ross Hunter, Dave Brondsema, Casey Dubois, Mike Mol, Ben Rousch, and Adam Tauno Williams. High praise to Atomic Object, Calvin College, Collective Idea, Cascade Engineering, CQL, Fusionary, Mutually Human, Open Source Technologies, Universal Mind,, GR Makers, Grr Con, and Software GR. I love you guys.

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