Vijay Anand | The Startup Guy.

Posts Tagged ‘barcamp

Update: This post was made on April 7th, much before the recently concluded Barcamp Bangalore 6. Keep that in mind.

Barcamps, they are happening everywhere now. There are debates and raging discussions on as to whether we “interpreted” the format right, but whether or not, its still going on. Delhi, Chennai, Bangalore, Mumbai, Pune, Kerala, Hyderabad and maybe even more have joined that league of extraordinary unconference hosts. Here’s a random and crazy idea to mull over, debate and discuss. I can already sense half my readers getting ready with pitchforks and flame throwers, but as long as it leads to something beneficial, I am all for it. Here goes:

I know that everybody is thinking this but let me say it out loud: I think someone in India got the barcamp format totally wrong. Barcamps, as we do it in India are not conversational. They are very, and very speaker-centric. We kinda figured this out when the team in Chennai started out on this audacious project to write a book on Unconferences. The project, I believe is abandoned – or perhaps just a little dorcile, but we did learn quite a bit of stuff while we were at it, since the project brought together quite a bit of people from across the globe, including a fair bit of heavy weights. So I guess, I could say that I did hear from the source as to where we got the definitions wrong.

Contrary to Popular belief, Unconferences aren’t anything new. They are quite old actually – as old as 1970 actually. Unconferences just went by a different name – “Open Space Conferences”. It essentially meant that all the participants came together to run the conference. Hmm.. sounds quite close to the definition we use for barcamps and its sister camps I would say, wouldn’t you?

It was almost during the time when we realized that barcamps were too speaker centric, and getting diluted in content that the Chennai Team, under the Banner of TKF, decided to run with more focused verticals to drive deep into a topic. Hence, Blogcamp, Wikicamp, Podworks and the likes were born. The credit goes to Kiruba for putting the brains behind the inceptions, and the enormous energy of the team that makes it all happen.

Now that the pleasantries are over, lets get back to the topic.

Siddharth, a fellow blogger/unconference lover/startup entrepreneur and I had a discussion over our trip to Mumbai to attend the barcamp there. Its during that trip that he was discussing how he had attended a workshop on Agile Methodologies in Hyderabad which totally blew his brains out as to how “barcamps are conversational”. I must say that I agree with him. We are not doing something right.

A couple of things we could do to improve things:

1. Get rid of the Projector and the PPT. Stick with whiteboards, and even better, limit the audience of each session to 20 – 30 people max. Smaller groups are more conversational. Larger groups tend to sit back and act “audience”.

2. Small is beautiful. We need to let go of the obcession to get people signed up in the hundreds. The pain to organize an event in such a scale, is simply not worth it. In most cases I see the organizers burnt out before the morning sessions of the first day get over.

3. Focus. Focus. Focus. Pick a theme, topic and go deep into it. Don’t run topics which are as wide as “Politics. Technology. Startups”. One wouldnt know what to do with it. You arent really dealing with an uber smart audience. Most folks are spectators and the rest are there hoping to learn a thing or two.

4. Have some solid deliverables. Ten people in a room, all knowing how to count to three, cannot magically learn how to count to ten just cause they were debating, arguing and in the same room. You need to ensure that there is a mix of people who are willing to share, and people willing to learn, and even better if the sharing types are more. Lately I am getting nothing out of barcamps, apart from meeting people. And I am quite positive that I am not that all-knowing… Yet! 🙂 There is definitely more to learn, with the pace at which platforms and technologies are evolving, and it would be great if that was looked into.

5. Keep everyone within the same room if possible. The law of two feet only works here, otherwise you might need cars and golf carts to carry you around 🙂

6. Keep it simple. Dont complicate it by having it in 17 rooms and three more “outdoorsy” spots included to that. Goes back to point 2.

I am not sure if anyone is listening, but if you are It’d be great to have all, or atleast some of these taken care of in future plannings.

As for the title, a few of us are mulling over a very radical different idea of a barcamp. It is going to incorporate most of the above mentioned points, and most of all will require the least amount of logistical nightmares. In a day when softwares could automate, and processes could be simplified, months of prep work for “barcamps” simply cant be justified. We are hoping to make things simpler, effective, with oodles of new learning, all done in a fun environment. Now, that’s a guarantee!

Saturday was Startup Lunch in Bangalore and kudos to the guys [Sridhar, Pradeep and Ashish Sinha] who are spearheading the effort there, it went really really really well. There is an account by the organizing team which goes through most of the details. I am quite impressed, and kinda glad to know that there is a positive response for this sort of initiatives. Delhi was the first to go, followed by Pune, followed by Bangalore. Chennai will have its lunch most probably at the last saturday of this month, since Barcamp Bangalore is coming up on the 19th and to avoid any clash of dates.

Like clockwork, the Chennai OpenCoffee club meet happened in Chennai today. I am quite happy with the way this group is heading and everytime we meet, we see quite a bit of new faces which is always quite encouraging. Today’s main discussion was about “How to hire and manage your team”. There was also an after thought discussion on the “personal life” of entrepreneurs, partly picked up by the post I had made on this blog earlier. I must admit that it was a little weird to write about personal emotions on a blog, but it certainly seems like it hit a common chord. That’s definitely something to keep in mind.

I believe I would be in bangalore on Saturday, if the chaos out there should subside, and we are also planning a trip to delhi to finalize on the venue for the upcoming edition of Proto.in, either on Sunday or the weekend following that. I guess the weekend after that is going to have Startup Lunch here in Chennai. Seems like i am already booked for this month, in terms of weekends. *sigh*

I just stepped back into my apartment after a long day in Barcamp Mumbai. I am in a split of a mind trying to figure out how productive the day was. On one hand, I met a lot of people. I had some 20 odd appointments with folks that I wanted to meet and greet and it seemed like a good day to do all that. Meeting Manish Jain, whose blog post I commented on three years ago, Meeting the faces behind Startup Central Snigda (though we’ve been interacting over the phone for quite a while now), meeting Krish Mony – with whom I get to have all the interesting discussions on venturewoods lately, quite a few startup companies and it was nice to touch base with the guys from the Sun Startup Essentials program, and also Vinu who is always quite a pleasant company to have around in unconferences.

While that on one hand, I am not sure if there was anything exciting and mind blowingly new that happened there – except for the talk about using asynchronous IO which actually seemed quite out of place compared to the other topics, especially when these were the kind of talks which actually would make a lot of difference. But in any case…

It was great to catch up with Aditya, and see the passionate exuberance of Arpit, and walking into that hall felt very much like being in one of the BCB meets. The clarity in thinking, the groundwork they had done in making all the preparations reeked of experienced and detailing. Kudos to those guys on that.

The startups, in my opinion were slightly disappointing. But I think they are in the ideal platform. This is essentially the place where one gets feedbacks on their models, the features and if the “cool web app” is any good at all, and I think the audience were true to their spirit of brutal honesty.

Overall, didn’t take away much, but met a lot of people, had some interesting discussions outside the hall with like-minded people, and am going to put this day to an end knowing that even Mumbai has woken up the tide of entrepreneurship rising! There are good, nah, Great days ahead!

Barcamp Mumbai

Mumbai, though a little late, has been turning into the happening scene for techfests and they are organizing the third edition of Barcamp (quite shortly after their second one) on popular demand it seems. Mumbai, after Bangalore, has been one of the few cities to be conducting their MoMo meets quite regularly, whether rain or shine, and there’s definitely credit to those guys for that. The event will be in IIT Mumbai and I am quite excited to see these guys bringing barcamp back in its true spirit of on-the-spot planning.

I will be attending the event, along with Colleague Sid (Chennai Open Coffee Club Fame). If you are in mumbai and would like to touch base, do leave a note.

If you haven’t registered yet, do register soon. The word is that they are close to running full already.

When we first laid down the groundwork for Proto, one of the things that I sincerely wished to see was more initiatives like Proto spring up, so that – for one, we’d strive to deliver more value to the entrepreneurs who need all the support they can, and hopefully we can move on to focus on the next gap that the ecosystem requires attention on.

I am quite happy to see that the same ardent and capable team behind Barcamp Bangalore, working towards putting together Headstart.in.

My kudos to the team, and a happy moment for seeing the startup ecosystem come together with such grace here in India. Most certainly a dream come true.