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
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
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
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
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
The whole day was fun. I couldn’t wait to get back to Day 2.