BarCamp Tokyo 2009

A BarCamp is a day of intentionally free-flowing, intense, themed presentations and discussion, but Wikipedia probably does a better job explaining the ideas behind it than I do. I met up with 94 other internet otaku, nerds, teachers, bloggers, and podcasters to talk about where the Web came from, what it is, and where it’s headed. 

Highlights from the event:

Fumi‘s talk on Japanese geek culture


Mitcho presenting Ubiquity (didn’t actually make the talk, but saw the slideshare presentation)

Karamoon on Security


The above are a small sampling of what was going on. Check out our space in Vimeo for videos of the talks, or Slideshare for the presentations.

I led a talk on “The Transient Web.” We talked about the
implications of relying on third-party services to host embedded
content, and the deceptive permanence of the web institutions we take
for granted. What happens when Flickr or YouTube don’t have the money
to run their servers any more? Suddenly all the blogs linking or
embedding that content, and all the blogs that link to them, are dead
trails of broken hypertext. What happens when TinyURL goes down, and
no one knows where all the shortened URLs in our tweets are supposed
to point?
I guess we could maintain our own backups of all our content, keep it
on the same server as our blogs, and do regular exports, but the
economist in me says that’s inefficient, and I’m just too damn lazy.
Is there a way we can collectively work on web permanence, or are we
expecting everything we create to rot away into a network of dead
links and broken scripts? We didn’t really reach a conclusion, but it
was still a good discussion to have.

Tokyo Barcamp 2009 (B) - 22

Barcamp triumphs / lessons for future events of all types:

1) Required reading, or even better, watching. There was a reading list, and I admit to not making it to every book listed, but even better, there was a video list, filled with awesome people talking about interesting things. It may be tough to get attendees to spend the time and money to make it through four or five books to prepare for an event, but four or five engaging talks caught on tape? No problem, and no excuses. Plus, the more you get people to prepare for something, the more invested they are in it; humans (economists excluded) are irrationally swayed by sunk cost.

2) Demand good participation. When was the last time you heard someone complain about being too challenged at an event they attended. “Oh, that meetup was just too tiring! Too much thinking and discussion!” Challenge creates energy, it doesn’t take it. Hold people at your event to a high standard and they’ll meet it. The best articulation I heard of this was “bring your most excellent self.”

3) Teach, don’t sell. Aim to provide value and make people think. When you try to sell yourself or your product, people never bite, but once you’re the guy who makes ideas and people move, you’ll have customers and fans without even trying.

And some things we could have improved:

1) Inclusivity: the event was limited to 95 people, but that wasn’t the issue. Working within the attendee constraint, we should have streamed everything out to the people unable to come, and also worked to try to build some Japanese/non-Japanese diversity into the attendee mix.

2) People knew in theory that they could take more than one 15-minute
block for their session, but none did, so we had a lot of sessions cut
off before we could really develop the ideas or conversations we
wanted to.

3) Public-facing content: we should organize the streaming more next time, so we can get live participation from the people who weren’t able to be there.

*Other thoughts: *

People were using twitter like crazy, and I don’t know if that’s a
good or bad thing. Yes, it was fun to interact with everyone in that
sort of virtual space, but it’s not like we needed to coordinate who
was doing what where. I guess we could say it was for the benefit of
those that couldn’t attend, but without streaming of the sessions, it
was more like rubbing it in their faces that we were doing cool stuff
without them.

Also, I discovered a new natural law: as a conversation between geeks
progresses (not programmers, because they’re too busy and practical,
but more geek-lite type people), the probability of a comparison of
twitter clients approaches 1. 

Barcamp was about spontaneity, about leaving marketing at the door,
about sharing and learning. It had its ups and downs, but I think it
generally went off really well, and was a good base for future Japan
barcamps. Big ups to Karamoon, Jim, lhupa, and all the other staff for
putting the event together, as well as all our sponsors. Unsubsidized,
I’m sure an all-day conference with food would be outside my student
budget.

*Oh, and my pictures: *