For the uninitiated, Barcamp is an "unconference" which means its a place where people meet, but all the usual rules of a conference do not apply (hence the 'un'). The best part about any conference is usually the hallway crowds where people say hi and end up engaging in some of the most passionate discussions. Imagine if a conference had only hallway discussions as an agenda - You want to discuss something? Great, go write the topic on a post-it and stick it on the wall in the available time slots. That's what Barcamp is.
Barcamp actually started off as a response to the FOOcamp i.e. Friends of O'Reilly Camp to which only the crème de la crème were invited and others had to stay out. So people like Tantek and Messina got together and decided to make a new "for the people, by the people" format which was the exact opposite of FOOcamp. And since programming has had "foo" and "bar" as standard variable names in examples, they called it "barcamp". That's right, it's got nothing to do with alcohol. Now, Barcamps have become a worldwide phenomenon.
Day 1 of Barcamp Bangalore #6 (Apr 19 Sat) started with an introduction session where everyone stands up and explains what sessions they'll be initiating at which room or "dari" and at what time. This itself was an indicator of how the next 2 days were going to be.
Since we techies are traditionally not used to getting up early on time, the sessions started half an hour late. In any case, the whole crowd started mingling.
The first actual session I attended was Kaashif demonstrating self-defence. Seriously. He explained that he has had unsavoury experiences at places like Marathahalli at night and its important to know how to defend yourself, not that you should go looking for trouble. He explained things well right from what are your opponents weak points regardless of their size to the three basic steps - do the defend action, do the 'shout/cry' that happens when you hit with force, and then run.
For step 3, people had to come to our running discussion. That went better than I would have expected.
The rest of the day was of two parts for me - fleeting in and out of discussions and meeting people.
One thing about Barcamp is the no-holds-barred discussions. Diplomacy has no place here, let's talk what you are really thinking. For example, there are many startups showcasing their products and taking feedback. One such startup that I witnessed was LifeInLines. The crowd, sorry to say this, literally murdered them. They were like "This is just twitter minus rss plus privacy controls. Is there anything else?" and the guys had a hard time convincing them of the value in their website. It reminded me of the recent discussion on Aren’t There Real Problems To Solve? Any way, I think this is the perfect reason why startups should showcase at Barcamp - you're not going to get more brutal and more honest feedback than here.
Then I met a lot of interesting people. For example, Anand Bora who has an interesting passion called "mathematical art". Wow, I didn't even know such stuff existed. While we were talking, he scribbled something on a box and showed me, it was my name 'Swaroop'. Then he turned the box around, it still read 'Swaroop'! Wow again. Apparently, they're called ambigrams and he's done many of these. We had a long discussion about life and thoughts and where we'll be in 5 years. And a few hours before that, I didn't even know him.
Then bumped into people like Vid Ayer, Arun and a guy from Cisco, and they asked me about my 'startup' experiences. This topic was a story by itself, so I'll write about it separately. What was interesting, was putting faces to names. I've seen the name 'Vid Ayer' on mailing lists and blogs, but now I get to actually meet the person. This trend continued in the twitter meetup as well.
I think the 'dari' idea was awesome - just a bunch of carpets where people can sit and gather around. The discussions varied from "The Great Dating Session" to "Lessons from Kamasutra, not that kind" to writing Mozilla applications. Heck, even the sessions varied from raising awareness of the girl child issue to asynchronous i/o.
The only problem is that sometimes there were no topics of interest to me and sometimes there were 3 things happening in parallel and I wanted to attend all of them. But, yeah, that's a problem that can't be solved.
The whole day was fun. I couldn't wait to get back to Day 2.