I attended my first Barcamp this weekend at the Georgia Tech Advanced Technology Development Center in Atlanta. What is Barcamp, you ask? It's an unconference, where the agenda is decided by the participants. For this reason, all attendees are encouraged to participate by offering a presentation or demo, or at least participating in a discussion. As a barcamp virgin, I wasn't ready to give a presentation this year, but next year I'll be better prepared. I did my best to be engaged in the discussions, ask good questions, and get to know the many others from the Atlanta (and nearby) technology community.
For a free event, I was really impressed with the amenities. The ATDC is a first-class facility, with plenty of conference rooms with whiteboards and projectors. Also, our sponsors really took care of us, providing a barbecue dinner Friday, Flying Biscuit sandwiches for breakfast on Saturday, and pizza for lunch. Also, there was free soda, coffee, and beer. What more could you ask? Nobody went away hungry.
The wide variety of people, in terms of expertise and lines of work, really made this a cool event, covering a wide array of topics. Some of the sessions I attended included:
- Independent Consultants - Pricing your Services
- Genetic Algorithms (OK, I still don't really get what those are)
- Erlang overview and demo
- Starting a website: Framework (Rails, CakePHP, etc.) or CMS (Drupal, Wordpress, etc.)?
- How to generate buzz without being treated like a spammer
- "Push Protesting" - using Microformats to get your minority message out
- Yahoo Pipes demo (Sanjay Parekh's construction of startupgossip.com)
- COPPA - the Child Online Protection and Privacy Act, and how it affects your site
- BeagleBoard demo (what is that? see http://beagleboard.org)
- Web Security resources and tools
- Twitter API
- Open Source roundtable
There were some off-the-wall sessions as well (which, perhaps unfortunately, I didn't attend):
- Freezing different types of food in liquid nitrogen
- "Alternative Funding" - (ahem - it was a poker game)
- Be your own beatbox (making beatbox sounds in a microphone)
- Be your own barista (making coffeehouse coffee in your own home)
Overall, Barcamp is worth attending for just about anyone with an interest in technology, even if it's just a passing interest. You'll come away from it with a new appreciation for technology, the people involved in it, new things you may have never heard about, and a renewed excitement to learn more.