BarCamp Texas

Today I am at the BarCamp Texas conference in Bryan, Texas.  In contrast to the standard tech conference that you have attended before, BarCamps are attendee driven.  The attendees decide what sessions they want to present the day of the conference and nothing is decided in advance, other than the starting time and location.  I did not know what to expect, but I have been pleasantly surprised.  The day has gone like this so far:

  • I showed up early so was recruited to help setup tables and chairs, which I didn’t mind.  The entire conference is volunteer led and free to attendees so it felt good to at least put forth some effort to help out.
  • Everyone registers as they get there.  There is a wiki to add your contact information in advance but there is no obligation to sign up or pre-register beforehand.  The registration was accomplished with a few Macbooks running spreadsheets and each attendee simply typed in their information.
  • After the registration, a free t-shirt was given to each attendee, courtesy of the sponsors.
  • Attendees then wrote the topics they wished to present on a whiteboard and signed up for time slots.
  • The first few hours were simply meeting and greeting and ad-hoc conversations.  Most of the attendees seemed to be working for either startups, companies that would work with startup companies, or freelance/independent consultants.
  • Lunch wherever you can find it nearby.
  • Sessions from 1pm – whenever people want to stop.  So far, sessions are scheduled to about 6pm and the organizers made it clear than people are free to go all night if they wish.  Sessions are going two at a time in one large room separated by a temporary barrier.
  • Rooms are available for ad-hoc side discussions.

The sessions I have attended so far have been very good.  They are not nearly as formal as a typical conference and there is much more audience participation.  The one negative aspect of the sessions so far is that the room is divided by a temporary barrier and both speakers are standing on either side of that barrier so they occasionally will drown each other out.

I will post a summary of the sessions that I attended later in the day.

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