BarCampEarth Toronto – "Post Mortem"

So BarCampEarth Toronto has come and gone (well at least the first half, the BBQ is yet to be rescheduled).

First the thanks…
First off I want to thank everyone who came out and made it a success – for the second last weekend of summer it was great to not only hit our capacity for registrations but also have the vast majority of people actually show up!. A rough count of unclaimed badges at the end of the day puts us at the 50-55 mark in terms of participants.

Thanks also to the rest of the team who made it possible – Maria, Ryan, James, Dave & Dmitry. Bryce Johnson was also a huge resource to us as an organizer of previous BarCamps.

And of course the sponsors – with their support we were able to feed & hydrate everyone for the entire day as well as provide a free T-shirt to all attendees (and also provide food & drinks for the upcoming BBQ):

Bonasource, Clay Tablet Technologies, Navantis, Names at Work, Peter Dawson, Radiant Core,, RMail, Tucows, St. Louis Bar and Grill (Oakville), and Wireless Toronto.

What worked/What didn’t
I’d be very interested to hear people’s feedback on what did and didn’t work for this instalment of BarCamp – the best way is through blogging but you can also email me via my profile or the email posted on the wiki page.

Personally, if I were to do it again, there are a few things I’d tweak:

  1. Scheduling: Having not been to a BarCamp before I’d had “the grid” explained to me but after having gone through the experience now I would have tightened up the time in the morning for populating the grid and tried to get at least one session in before lunch. By doing lunch before hand it just felt like it took too long to get to the sessions. Although I have to say it was surprising when a room full of people who had just all been chatting and networking for 90 minutes flocked into one of the first sessions called “Networking for Introverts” – I think you’re all better at it then you realize.
  2. Session Length: I think an hour was a good length but we needed a mechanism (whistle/bell/timer) to put some kind of a hard stop on the sessions. I felt bad during the day moving about and encouraging the presenters to begin to wrap up but Sacha Chua made a really great point to me while we were all out for drinks and I think it’s actually worth trying to incorporate into the BarCamp body of knowledge. Her view is BarCamp is about starting conversations, not finishing them. It’s a concept I’d be inclined to push quite heavily on the day of to encourage people to take what starts in a session beyond even hallway convo’s to their ongoing relationships outside of BarCamp.
  3. Size/Structure of Organizing Group: I went back and forth on whether or not we had enough chefs, or too many in the kitchen when organizing the event. After this experience I think I would sit in the camp that I wouldn’t want to have a group any bigger then the one we ended up with – even at our size it was almost impossible to get everyone together on a call (the group as a whole exceeded Skype’s free conference limit – which is a consideration). I think it’s also important to identify early on what everyone’s goals are in addition to what effort they can/are willing to put in. We didn’t set those expectations at the beginning and I think it contributed to a bit of wheel spinning as we tentatively tried to feel out what everyone was thinking. Maria found some past BarCamp feedback that suggested the “Decision Owner” owner concept – once that person got decided on (me) it seemed like things started to fall into place and progress really started getting made. People seemed to loosen up and appeared to be less concerned about stepping on other people’s toes etc.
  4. Venue: I personally think the venue worked out really well – as much as a pain in the ass it was to have to scramble to find some security guards they actually worked out well as they handled getting folks in and out of the locked building and office – it meant all the participants/organizers could truly be involved and not have to worry about doors etc. MSN’s receptionist was also fantastic and she went well above many expectations in terms of what she organized with the building security etc.
  5. Tools: I highly recommend that anyone who tries to organize one of these gets up to speed on the various online collaboration tools that are available now. Skype, Writeboard and the BarCamp wiki were invaluable – towards the end we also started using Google Spreadsheets as we could all be on a Skype conference call and everyone could see spreadsheet updates in real time. WildApricot worked great as a registration tool but in retrospect (note for DemoCamp guys…) we should have just added another event to the existing setup that was done for DemoCamp8 rather than setting up a whole new system. That way everyone who had already registered for DemoCamp8 could have just used their existing account rather than registering again.

That’s about it for now – if I get more feedback I’ll update this post.

We’re getting put to shame by Vancouver in terms of Blogging & Flickr Photos from the event. So if you had a good time (or didn’t – good to hear the bad too) please consider blogging about the event or at least publishing your pictures. If you do blog or share pics please tag them “BarCampEarth, Toronto”

I look forward to seeing everyone at the next BarCamp.

– Ryan

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BarCampEarth – Sunday BBQ Postponed…

The weather man isn’t co-operating today so we’ve decided to postpone this afternoon’s BBQ.

A make-up date will be scheduled for a couple of weekends from now. Exact date TBD – we’ll announce it at some point this week.

Thanks to everyone who came out to BarCampEarth Toronto yesterday – it was a great event. I’ll do a proper “post-mortem” post in the next day or so.

– Ryan

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BarCamp Earth: Sunday BBQ – everyone welcome

Just a quick further update to my previous post about BarCamp.

We’ve confirmed Dufferin Grove Park as a location for the Sunday afternoon event. Since it’s a) outdoors and b) a big space there’s no cap for this event. Anyhone interested in meeting more people in the Toronto tech/techie business community is more than welcome to attend (Families too!!!). It’s really just a fun, get to know each other afternoon in the park.

We’ve got a few sponsors and will be trying to feed and hydrate as many folks as possible and contributions (food or drink) are more than welcome.

If you’re interested please stop by and scroll down to the Sunday event information – there’s a “Sunday Only” signup form there. Drop me an email if you need some help with the Wiki.

There’s also some room left in the BarCamp Earth Saturday – so if you’re interested please sign up for that too!

– Ryan

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BarCamp Earth – Toronto

Next weekend marks the first anniversary of the series of “unconferences” called BarCamp. The concept originally started as a complimentary event to Tim O’Reilly ultra-exclusive CampFoo, his annual gathering of a hundred or so people who he’s identified as the top “thought-leaders” etc. in various, typically tech-oriented, industries.

As part of the anniversary the plan was hatched to do “BarCamp Earth” to coincide with the anniversary. BarCamp Earth will be a weekend where simultaneous (or as close as possible) BarCamps will be held all over the world. From the first BarCamp in San Francisco last year the event has spread like wildfire and, at last count, there will be BarCamps happening in no less than 19 locations, many in North America but some in Europe, as well India. There’s even a virtual BarCamp happening online.

BarCamp is called an “unconference” as it operates a little different then any typical conference you might go to There’s no big corporate sponsors (sponsorship is limited to $250/organization or person), no keynotes and, until the morning of, no set schedule except for a start & end time, and some breaks throughout the day. Everyone who attends is expected to “participate”. Participation takes a few forms but typically it’s either delivering a presentation, leading a session/panel or assisting with the previous two options. At the start of the morning the proposed sessions are brought forward and scheduled on the fly based on the amount of interest in each topic and the “unconference” begins. Did I mention it’s generally free to boot?

So far it’s been a pretty good success – as you can probably see just by the scale of BarCamp Earth one year later. It’s also spawned a series of other events such as DemoCamp (a Toronto creation), which is how I came to learn about BarCamp.

In a moment of weakness about 3 weeks ago I volunteered to help organize the Toronto version of this event. (Because between a start-up business and a 22 month old the one thing I have too much of is free time :) ). Myself, James Woods, Ryan McKegney, Dmitry Buterin, Bryce Johnson, Maria Smirnova and Dave Forde have been working at putting the event together since that point and everything is starting to fall into place.

The event is going to be held next Saturday, August 26 and Sunday, August 27 and Microsoft Canada has kindly agreed to let us use their downtown MSN Canada office as the venue for this event. The registration form went up yesterday and we’ll be posting some more information on format and timelines today. If you’re interested in helping build up Toronto’s tech community, meeting a great network of people and willing to jump right in and participate please consider signing up.

New for this BarCamp (this is the third Toronto BarCamp) we’ll be adding a bit of a “BarCamp Newbie Orientation” first thing in the morning where anyone who hasn’t been before can wade in and ask all the questions they want to calm any fears about looking foolish (hard to do – it’s a friendly bunch), not knowing what’s going on or understanding what is expected of you as a participant. (Heck – I’m a first time BarCamper myself)

Drop me a comment or email (in profile) if you’re planning on attending so I can be sure to meet you on the day. I’m personally going to try to put together a session on translation & localization, what developers need to be aware of as they wade into these areas and the importance of considering them when developing applications.

– Ryan

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Last 100 visits

An interesting feature of the Site Meter stats package I use on the site is it provides a world view map of the general location of (up to) the last 100 visitors to the site. This is a screencap of the most recent map from the blog:

Considering the industry I’m in now and my extensive web background I’m still amazed when I see those dots at the furthest tips of each continent (except Antarctica for some reason – Penguins don’t appear to be big on Translation).

It’s also a really good reminder about the reality of the web today. This is a blog I write in my spare time (which I’m sure has become evident is a space of time getting seemingly smaller each day), I don’t “market” it, it’s not heavily linked to nor does it have a massive volume of traffic. Yet a good third to half of the last 100 visitors have come form outside North America and a full 90% of the traffic is from outside of what you would consider my local region (i.e. Greater Toronto Area).

Just English visitors from all over?
However, at the same time it’s also interesting to note that most of the visitors come from Search engine referrals. Interesting because even though a good portion of the traffic comes from regions that don’t have English as a primary language, all the searches/keywords that lead people here are in English.

As I mentioned in my previous post about Google’s Translation Tools a major barrier in the search engine space is language. (i.e. A search for Replace chain on my bicyclewill return a completely different results set than “Remplacer la chaîne sur ma bicyclette“.). It makes sense that I would only get hits from English searches because, well, my site is in English – but what is causing these people to do their searches in English other than their native language? (Better Results? Different Results? English-centric topic? etc.) or is it just a bunch of English speakers that have been scattered to the wind around the world?

Let Me Know
If you’re one of those visitors, from a region with a primary language other than English, who ends up here by a search result using English words I’d love it if you could leave a comment or send an email (in my profile). I’d be really keen to understand whether you’re a native English speaker or, if not, why you were searching in English other than your native tongue?

Either way though, thanks for visiting!

– Ryan

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