This weekend Philadelphia was host to its first BarCamp event. For the uninitiated, BarCamp is an international network of user generated conferences â€” open, participatory workshop-events, whose content is provided by participants (wikipedia link here). Barcamp is described as an “unconference”, with the sessions being a lot more casual and more like conversations than presentations. Having been to a bunch of conferences before, I definitely found the organic nature of BarCamp rather refreshing. When I walked in at 8:15-ish in the morning, I had no plans of presenting anything but swept by the energy in the group, I ended up giving not one but two sessions (more on that later).
Working for Comcast, and pretty familiar with how it is most often a subject of blame than praise, the biggest surprise for me was how positively the attendees spoke of Comcast. For example, a session on ROI on social media was dominated by a discussion on the @comcastcares twitter account run by Frank Eliason from Comcast support. Always available a tweet away, Frank has been answering twitter users when they have Comcast related troubles. The conversation around how Comcast “gets it” was definitely new (kudos @comcastcares ). Comcast definitely had a strong showing at Barcamp this year, with a bunch of us attending as well as volunteering for the event. Aaron Held, the director of engineering at Comcast Interactive Media (the division I work for) gave a talk on building Comcast.net, a site that boasts being one of the top 10 portals on the web, to a packed room. Aaron and I also had a round table discussion about innovating within a corportation, and I personally got a lot out of that (I’ll post a blog post on that sometime later this week).
Also, continuing my agenda for a Flash-y world, I gave another talk on using Flash in an AJAX world, where I talked about where Flash had certain advantages over AJAX (besides the richer interfaces it enables). Kevin Fitzpatrick, another fellow Flash dev for CIM gave a talk on sharing your ideas early and leveraging the community to take an idea from concept to a product. Livia, another fellow Cimian (yes thats what we call ourselves now ) from our IA group also gave a talk titled “Jedi Mind Tricks – mediating user, brand, technology & business goals through conversation” which unfortunately I missed as I forgot to check for new sessions on the schedule. Wonder if anyone took notes on that one.
After an intense day of a lot of fun sessions, the day ended at the always fantastic National Mechanics bar, which was made even more geek friendly with a hooked up Rock Band and (gasp!) an open bar! It was amazing.
Oh and btw, one of the things I had to do was animate a wordle that the BarCamp peeps created. This ran on a couple of big screen displays at the conference. I am attaching it here for posterity and the source can be found here.