Sydney is one of those cities that carries its own perfume, one you get a whiff of from open bus windows, moments stuck in traffic jams, or just walking down the street. It is the unmistakeable scent of gum trees, the eucalypt sweet-citrus that is as much a part of the city as the Harbour Bridge or the Opera House.
I thought about this as I got my coffee with @neilphillips the morning of barCamp Sydney 4, hosted at the Roundhouse, University of New South Wales, my partner’s alma mater, and wondered how I got to this place, something I regularly do since migrating here only a few weeks ago.
I already noted, I’m sure, how friendly and open I find this city, and it was very evident at BarCamp, where even passionate and aggressive debate was accompanied by true camaraderie and mutual respect. This was my first barCamp, 160 people concentrated in a strangely cat-litter scented music/meeting venue, and I am definitely going to the next one, and definitely presenting something having gotten over my initial shyness and wariness.
For those not in the know, barCamp is a unique type of dedicated conference focussing on web applications, open source platforms and next generation web environments, roughly speaking. I was attracted to it as it is a real User Generated Content (UGC) environment, where you show up and add your topic of interest, what you want to lead a discussion or presentation on, to a schedule board first thing in the morning, or even hijack a rebuttal space later in the day, as happened in the Roll your own / Don’t roll your own CMS debate I thoroughly enjoyed. It’s open to whomever adds their name to the wiki roll call, fantastically dynamic, and thoroughly free to boot! There is some sponsorship but corporate presentations are not permitted and, it is a participatory, not spectator environment.
I enjoyed the entire day, but had to mention some highlights. (great pictures by JJ Halans available on flickr) There are hashtags feeds at #bcs4 and #barcampsydney for those interested in the copious chatter.
The speed networking was very helpful to this new soul trying to meet like-minded people in my industry, everyone friendly and open and engaged. Then the “Why it make sense to create your own CMS” session from Tom Voirol (as well as the impassioned rebuttal from Plone and Drupal experts) and Mick Liubinskas from Pollenizer talking about focus was gratifying to hear. Journo Katherine Small’s talk on how to get media attention (hope she distributes her presentation online!) and Scott Drummond’s discussion, “WTF is a Community Manager” were well presented, inspiring and enlightening. The passions around Dave Field’s presentation on “HCI failure” showed real insight and cross-platform passion.
And that was all before lunch! (hope to post a picture here once I debug my image upload issues with WordPress). in the meantime check out these two pictures of me: http://www.flickr.com/photos/halans/3030931432/in/set-72157609079396406/ and http://www.flickr.com/photos/halans/3031460988/in/set-72157609079396406/ from JJ Halans. Yes, it is a truly frightful Movember I’m sporting. Also found a pic on ZDNet’s bootstrappr site if you’re interested.
The afternoon session contained a great talk about the OLPC project from Pia Waugh and what is in the damned thing, both hardware and software, as well as availability and upcoming deployments in Australia. Calling it a collaboration and education tool is about right. There was show-stopping mind-hacking session, A.K.A hypnotism, from Melinda Hall @headwellred that, among other things, showed us that it doesn’t have to be digital to be both fascinating and powerful. Nic Hodges led an interesting talk about idea generation and as the late afternoon fast approached, we wound up with an open discussion on how to battle the government’s desire to implement an unworkable, expensive, ill-considered blanket content filter across all Australian ISPs. It sounds like there is now a URL: banthisurl.com and some real activity around it. It was discussed that talking about #nocleanfeed wasn’t helping and we need to speak to non-techie people about it, not the “preaching to the converted” we now have.
So now it’s back to networking and job-hunting, looking for dynamic companies who might be interested in, in conversations about strategy, User centred design, end-to-end iterative project planning and management, future-focussed website creation and good places to have coffee. Hope to see some of you at WordCamp Sydney at the end of the month and please try to remember I am fundraising for Movember, raising awareness about men’s health issues like Prostate cancer and Depression, so your generous donation will be very appreciated and help justify me having to grow this ludicrous ‘tash.
Now off for a cycle round Sydney Park to clear my head and recirculate the blood round these laptop bearing knees.